Pipian Verde sauce (Pipián Verde), or green pumpkin seed sauce if you will, is one of the great moles of Mexico. It’s traditionally made with pepitas (pumpkin seeds), tomatillo, and jalapeno peppers. In this New Mexico Chile version I’ve replaced the tomatillo and jalapeno with hot New Mexican chilies. I’ve served it here over seared salmon, with roasted sweet potatoes.
Pipian Verde Sauce is Ancient and Pre-Columbian
Careful readers of this blog may be acquainted with the following things about this blog:
- I take a Mediterranean diet style take on just about recipe I develop here–largely for reasons of healthy eating and living.
- Of all of the cuisines of the world, the author of this blog (yours truly) has a favorite: Mexican cuisine. It’s true. I love, love, love Mexican food.
- The author of this blog (still yours truly) has a kind of fascination with the great Columbian exchange as it influences the cuisines of the world. Old World and New World flora and fauna mutually influence Old World and New World cuisines. And in the context of human history, this really hasn’t been happening all that long. I will confess at this time that this is also a means to allow the author of this blog (yours truly) to sneak his favorite cuisine into his Mediterranean style diet. So now you know.
All of that said, pipian verde sauce is a pre-Columbian dish. The people living in what is today called Mexico have been eating pipian verde for centuries or longer.
Pipian Verde sauce is one one of Mexico’s great moles. I’d say mole sauces, but that would be to say sauce sauces, which is, well, silly (the word mole comes from the Nahuatl word mōlli, which means sauce). We typically think of the brown mole Poblano–that super complex and sublime sauce of dried ancho chilies, cinnamon, chocolate, nuts, and miriad other ingredients from Puebla. However, there are also a number of green moles. Pipian Verde is one of them. I understand that guacamole is also technically a green mole–from the words “ āhuacatl (Nahuatl for avocado, corrupted in Spanish as waka, and further corrupted in English as guaca) and mole ( Nahuatl for sauce). But as usual I digress…
About this Pipian Verde Sauce
Many versions of pipian verde are used as a sauce for chicken (which makes it post-Columbian–chickens are not indiginous to North America). The version I’ve made used salmon, which, I understand, is actually more traditional. If you wanted to go vegan and serve it over roasted squash, that would also be very traditional. Check out Isabel Hood’s description (and her traditional recipe) for more.
What’s highly untraditional are the New Mexico chilies I suppose. I had those in my freezer from last autumn’s chili roasts here in Portland. So my version is not a ‘true’ pipian verde. Sue me. It’s ridiculously delicious. Let me say write that again. It’s ridiculously delicious. The warmth of the chilies. The fatty richness of the pumpkin seeds. So good! You gotta try this.
- 1 ½ Cups Pepitas
- 2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- 1 Teaspoon Kosher Salt
- 1 Tablespoon Whole Cumin Seeds
- 1 Tablespoon Freshly Ground Cinnamon
- 4 Cloves Garlic, peeled
- 1 Medium White Onion, peeled and quartered
- 1 Cup of Hot New Mexico Chilies, roasted and peeled with stems and seeds removed
- 2 Cups Chicken Stock
- 1 Cup (Packed) Fresh Cilantro leaves and stems, plus additional for garnish
- 4 Romaine Lettuce Leaves broken into large pieces
- 2 Tablespoons Dark Molasses
- Ground Black Pepper to taste
- 1 Pound of Sockeye Salmon, cut into 4 pieces
- 2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- Kosher salt and pepper to taste
- ½ Teaspoon Lime Zest and the 2 Tablespoons of Lime Juice
- Pinch of Kosher Salt and Black Pepper to Taste
- In a large skillet over medium high heat toast the pepitas in the olive oil until they begin to pop and take on a bit of toasted color.
- Reserve ¼ cup of the toasted pepitas for garnish. Add the remaining pepitas to a blender, together with all of the remaining ingredients. Blend until smooth, adding additional stock as needed. It should be very thick when you’re done.
- Add blended pipian verde mixture to a lidded pot and bring to a simmer on the stovetop. Cover and allow to cook on low heat, barely simmering for 20 minutes.
- Sprinkle the flesh side of the salmon with salt, pepper, lime zest and lime juice. Dry the skin side well with paper towel or butcher paper.
- Add the oil to a skillet and heat over medium high heat until oil is shimmering.
- Add the salmon skin side down and allow to sear until the skin side is browned and crispy. Try not to move the salmon at first, as the skin will adhere to the pan and won’t release until it is browned. You will see flesh side of the salmon become opaque around the edges when its about time to turn.
- Flip over each piece of salmon and continue cooking through. This should only take a few minutes. Take care not to overcook the salmon (it will become very dry if you do).
- Serve the salmon crispy skin side up on top of a ladleful of the pipian verde sauce. Garnish with reserved pepitas and cilantro. If you want a starch to go with the dish, add rice, black beans, or, as I’ve done here, roasted sweet potato.