As the holidays wind down, and the extra sweets lying around the house disappear, it’s a great time for me to rethink my vegetable consumption. I need to do more than just make empty resolutions as my body is begging for real food; food that is all-around healthier, less heavy, and much, much, less sugary. Thankfully, I have a backyard full of an easy-to-grow vegetable that ends up in many of my meals. We normally refer to it as pipinola in Hawaii, but it is also known as chayote in other parts of the world.
My garden has been overflowing with the endless bounty of chayote (pipinola) squash since the holidays started, and I turn to them when I need a hearty vegetable in a pinch. I can’t help but let the world know how much I love to use them in my cooking. My last post of 2018 featured a recipe using these versatile squash in a super-yummy apple pie, but today I want to share a savory use for this little gem.
They are somewhat watery, but in a good way, and will stay sturdy if you know how to cook them right. One of my absolute favorite ways to cook them is Chayote Rellenos, a Puerto Rican specialty, which is a squash split in half and filled with veggies, meat, breadcrumbs, and cheese. Deee-lish! It’s also a big hit with kids who might otherwise complain about eating squash. In my house, we happen to have some squash haters, and I need all of the kid-friendly recipes I can get.
This dish is often served with a side of rice and beans in Puerto Rico, but you can swap out the rice for quinoa, or serve it with saffron rice instead. I often include a side salad of slightly bitter greens like arugula or watercress. You may also do a vegetarian version of this recipe by leaving out the ground beef and using tempeh, soy crumbles or pinto beans.
A Puerto Rican-inspired recipe perfect for a fall or winter dinner.
- 3 medium chayote (pipinola) cut in half
- 1 tablespoon coconut oil
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup chopped Maui onion (or other sweet onion)
- 1/2 lb. grass-fed, Big Island ground beef
- 1/4 cup chopped tomatoes
- 1/4 cup chopped green olives
- 1/2 teaspoon each, salt and pepper
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 2 tablespoons fresh oregano, chopped
- 1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
- 1/2 cup shredded cheese (mozzarella, white cheddar, or parmesan)
- In a large pot, add cut chayote squash pieces and enough water to cover, and then boil for about 35-40 minutes. When chayote are done, drain the water, and let cool down until they are easy to handle.
- Meanwhile, on medium heat, sauté the minced garlic cloves and onion in coconut oil until soft. Then, add ground beef and cook until beef is cooked through, about 8-10 minutes.
- Add tomatoes, olives, cumin, salt and pepper, and fresh oregano and cook for two more minutes, then remove from heat. Set aside.
- Carefully scrape the flesh out of the cooled squash halves with a wide spoon, leaving about an half an inch of flesh around the inside. Place scoops of squash in strainer. (Be careful not to puncture the outer skin of the squash
- Press down on scooped squash in strainer and squeeze as much of the water out as you can. Add strained squash back to skillet with ground beef mixture and mix well.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Lay hallowed out squash halves skin-side down on baking sheet and fill with beef/squash mixture. Top with breadcrumbs and sprinkle with cheese.
- Bake for 40-45 minutes, or until cheese has melted and breadcrumbs are golden brown.
*For this recipe, I chose to leave the inner seed intact while boiling. The seed is tasty and healthy, and it does need to be discarded. For a great demonstration on how to scoop out the inside flesh of the chayote squash and to see my original inspiration for this recipe, check out this video from NydiasMiamiKitchen. I hope you will enjoy this dish as much as we do at our house! Mmmmm.