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A jammy squash side dish

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Many countries throughout Latin America honor their ancestors on Día de los Muertos, which is often celebrated Nov. 1 and 2, with dishes such as pan de muerto or this recipe for ayote en miel. Though this dish is enjoyed in many countries, this recipe is from El Salvador by Alicia Maher, the author of Delicious El Salvador (Pacific Apicius Corp., 2013). Ayote is a squash that is native to this region and is similar to cinderella pumpkin or butternut squash in the United States. The squash is braised with panela or piloncillo, water and spices, which cook down until as syrupy as honey.

Serve the jammy pieces in a shallow bowl with spoonfuls of the spiced syrup on top. In some countries, the dish is served with crema, but in Ecuador, the dish is served throughout the year, often accompanied by queso fresco or quesillo, a cheese similar to fresh mozzarella.

Ayote en Miel (Squash with Spiced Syrup)

Recipe from Alicia Maher
Adapted by Christina Morales

Ingredients:

• 1 1/2 pounds (24 ounces) panela (brown sugar cane, such as piloncillo or dulce de atado)

• 4 small cinnamon sticks

• 6 whole allspice seeds

• 5 whole cloves

• 2 1/2 to 3 pounds winter squash (such as cinderella pumpkin or butternut squash), seeded and cut into 3-inch pieces (no need to remove the skin)

Directions:

To a large lidded pot, add the panela, cinnamon, allspice seeds, cloves and 2 cups water. Heat over low and let the panela slowly dissolve, stirring frequently and crumbling occasionally, until mostly dissolved, about 30 minutes.

Add the pumpkin or butternut squash, skin facing up, in an even layer. Increase heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, then cover and cook for 1 hour.

Uncover and simmer for another 1 hour, stirring occasionally, until the pumpkin is tender and the liquid has reduced until it’s as thick as honey. Remove from the heat and let it cool. Serve at room temperature.

Total time: About 2 hours 40 minutes, plus cooling, serves 6-8.

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