Cucuzza Gialla Agro Dolce: Sweet and Sour Pumpkin


Fall is in the air and the trees here are turning beautiful shades of gold and red.  While driving through the countryside this weekend I noticed the pumpkins being sold by the local  farmers.  It made me think about featuring my mother’s fantastic recipe for sweet and sour pumpkin (cucuzza) for my next blog post, just in time to make good use of the leftover pumpkins from Halloween or Thanksgiving.  Cucuzza, as we say in Sicilian, or zucca in Italian, is a generic name for squash.  So I stopped on the way home and purchased a small pie pumpkin.

Just a little epicurean history lesson on the name of this dish:  In Palermo, where my father is from, it goes by the name of Fegato ai Sette Cannoli, translated as Liver Sette Cannoli Style.  The name of the dish however, is a misnomer, having no liver in it all.  It refers to the fact that the Setticannoli district was an impoverished community of Palermo, where the people were so poor that squash was substituted for liver.

I wonder why most Americans don’t think about eating pumpkin as a vegetable other than using it in pumpkin pie?  It’s similar in taste to acorn squash, so why not try substituting it in your favorite acorn squash recipe next time.

Sweet and Sour Pumpkin or Cucuzza Gialla Agro Dolce is a simple dish to make with five basic ingredients.  It’s usually made with red wine vinegar but my mom switched to using balsamic vinegar and what a difference it makes!  It’s like pairing chocolate with a rich red wine.  The balsamic vinegar brings out the earthy flavor of the pumpkin, and the sugar counteracts the acidity of the vinegar.  The addition of mint gives it that little extra zing.

Sicilian Sweet and Sour Pumpkin
(Cucuzza Gialla Agro Dolce)

Difficulty Rating: Easy
Makes 4 servings.

1 1/2 to 2 pounds pumpkin, butternut squash, or banana squash
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
1/2 large red onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons fresh mint, chopped

1.  Cut pumpkin in half, discard the seeds, peel the outer rind with a vegetable peeler and cut into 1/4 – inch thick slices.  Heat a thin layer of oil in a large frying pan with lid.  Fry the pumpkin in batches over medium low heat until lightly browned, about 6 minutes on each side, or until tender when pierced with a fork, adding more oil as necessary.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Transfer to a large plate.

2.  Using the same frying pan, sauté the onion over medium low heat, adding additional oil if needed. Add the sugar and cook until onions become translucent and lightly caramelized, about 7 minutes.  Return the pumpkin to the frying pan with the onion.  Reduce heat to low, add the vinegar, water, and mint.  Cover with a lid and cook for one minute, flip the squash over and cook an additional minute.  Transfer to a serving dish.



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