No, it’s not a typo. Culantro is its own thing and is probably the most foundational flavor in traditional Puerto Rican cuisine. It makes this tahini sauce salsa when paired with my favorite food right now, kabocha squash.
These are two foods many people may not be familiar with but let me break it down for you.
Culantro is an herb with a similar taste to cilantro but is about 5x stronger.
Kabocha is a Japanese squash with the most delectable pumpkin-y flesh. High in beta-carotene, it’s super filling and tasty.
This bad boy is so low in carbs and calories, I don’t understand nature sometimes. How is it even possible? When you taste it you’ll know what I mean.
One cup is 30 calories. Thirty calories ladies and gents! So I load myself up with half of one, slather it with my favorite tahini sauce, chock full of culantro and scallions, and dig in.
Culantro is strong. So if you’re not a cilantro fan, you probably won’t like its intense cousin. However, if you love cilantro as much as I do, then discovering culantro will straight up rock yo world.
I lightly steamed the culantro for a couple of seconds with the squash. It takes some of the edge off and preserves the color but it is not necessary.
I love it raw as well, especially in a quick salsa or guacamole. Whenever I eat foods with culantro it takes me back to when my grandmother was alive.
Her name was Aurora. Isn’t that such an old-fashioned name? I always thought so. Her and Sleeping Beauty are the only people I know with that name so it has a special place in my heart.
That woman was a beast in the kitchen and only did things the old school way. Culantro was a must for recaito, Vicks VapoRub cures all, and if not, the green rubbing alcohol with camphor tablets plopped in would!
She would sharpen my pencils for the second grade with a knife and I never felt more prepared for school.
Culantro was one of her many tried-and-true paths to deliciousness.
It’s important to maintain traditional flavors as much as possible but I love blending old ones into new settings.
So that’s what this recipe is. It’s old and new but more importantly, it’s super tasty.
She would definitely give me the side eye with this dish but I also know she’d like it.
Thanks for the flavor lessons!
- • 1 - 2 lb. kabocha squash, deseeded & quartered
- • ⅓ cup tahini (sesame seed paste)
- • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- • ¼ - ½ cup water
- • 2 sprigs culantro
- • 2 scallions, sliced at an angle
- • Salt
- Place the squash skin side down in your steamer and cover for 10-12 minutes or until a knife inserted comes out clean.
- Throw the culantro sprigs into the steamer for about 15 seconds and then remove. Chop finely and set aside.
- Pour the tahini, lemon juice, and salt in a small bowl and stir to combine. Slowly add water until your desired consistency is reached.
- Gently fold in the culantro and scallions and drizzle liberally over the squash.