By Alicia Maher
Squash (Calabazitas) and Cheese filled Pupusas
Pupusas Rellenas con Ayote y Queso
The following is an excerpt from my introduction to the Pupusa recipe in my cookbook, Delicious El Salvador.
The word “pupusa” derives from the Nahuat language and it has two possible meanings, either “stuffed” or “puffy,” perhaps in reference to the fillings and how pupusas puff up after cooked.
In 2005, the Salvadoran government issued legislation designating the Pupusa the national dish of El Salvador. They are simply delicious and showcase the artisan quality of our culinary traditions.
Serves 6 (2 per person)
Squash filling for Pupusas (See recipe below)
2 cups finely shredded Monterey Jack cheese
½ cup of Salvadoran cream (or substitute sour cream
mixed with ½ teaspoon salt)
4 cups instant corn flour masa flour
3½ to 4 cups water
½ cup water to wet hands
Combine the shredded cheese and cream and refrigerate.
Before starting the masa for the Pupusas, bring out the prepared fillings and let them stand at room temperature for about 30 minutes, the fillings should be soft for use.
Preparing the Corn Masa Dough:
Place the corn masa flour in a shallow bowl. Mix in the water, 1 cup at a time, kneading by hand for about 10 minutes until the dough is moist and fluffy. If needed, add more water 1 tablespoon at a time. The dough can be prepared the day before, if covered and refrigerated.
Making the Pupusas – Method 1:
Divide the dough into 12 equal small balls. Divide the fillings equally for the 12 pupusas.
Take the dough ball in the palm of your hand, pushing the center of the ball with your fingers to make a well. Fill each pupusa with the squash and cheese fillings. When done, close the top by pushing and pinching the open space together, so that the end result will be a completely filled and sealed dough ball.
Wet your hands, press and pat each ball between your palms and flatten into a thin dough round that is about 4 inches in diameter and ¼-inch thick. Make sure the edges are nice and thin, but be careful not to press too hard so that the filling does not spill out of the sides.
Making the Pupusas – Method 2:
Divide the dough into 24 equal small balls. Divide the fillings equally for the 12 pupusas.
With wet hands, press and pat each ball between your palms and flatten into thin dough rounds that are about 4 inches in diameter and ⅛-inch thick. Place the flattened rounds on top of plastic wrap, waxed paper, or a damp kitchen towel to prevent them from sticking to any solid surface.
With your fingers or the back of a tablespoon spread the squash and cheese fillings evenly on the 12 flattened rounds. Cover these with the other 12 flattened rounds and seal the edges with your fingertips taking care that the edges are nice and thin.
Cooking the Pupusas:
Heat a non-stick griddle or large heavy skillet over a medium to high flame.
Typically, once the pupusas are formed by hand, using either method, they are placed straight onto the skillet or griddle. If you set them aside before cooking, make sure to wet your hands and gently pick up each pupusa, and pat lightly between the palms of your hands.
Gently place the pupusas on the hot surface and cook for about 5 minutes on each side, frequently turning them over to ensure even cooking. The pupusas are ready when they puff up and turn slightly golden. Serve with Pickled Cabbage, Onions, and Carrots
Squash filling for Pupusas
The key to the preparation of the squash is making sure that it is completely drained of all liquid; otherwise the filling will be watery and mushy.
2 cups shredded squash
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons minced onion
2 tablespoons chopped tomatoes
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Take the shredded squash and place it in a sieve, strainer, or colander over a bowl. Press down on the squash to squeeze the liquid out. You can also use your hands to do get the excess water out.
In a medium saucepan, heat the oil over medium to high heat. Add the onion and tomato, stir and cook for about 1 minute. Add and combine the squash, salt, and pepper. Cook and stir for about 1 minute, remove from the stove, and let it cool completely before using.
Pickled Cabbage, Onions, and Carrots
This recipe is a must when serving Pupusas, Crispy Fried Yuca and Pork, or Empanadas. The sour-pickled flavor of the cabbage, onions, and carrots is a perfect complement to savory foods.
2 cups shredded green cabbage
½ cup shredded carrots
½ cup thinly sliced onion
4 cups white vinegar
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon whole black peppercorns (optional)
1 teaspoon dried chili flakes or 1 Serrano pepper, finely chopped (optional)
Using a large ceramic bowl or glass jar with a lid, combine and stir all the ingredients. Cover tightly with lid or plastic cling wrap; marinate overnight before serving. The Pickled Cabbage, Onions, and Carrots can last up to 5 days in the refrigerator.