Sopa de Flor de Calabaza
I don’t usually let myself buy flowers. Frivolous in a million other ways, I become oddly practical when it comes to that. I’ll consider the enormous sunflowers bursting out of their buckets but head straight to the potted basil, lavender, and rosemary plants instead, preferring the kind of pretty you can eat. That’s why I get so excited when squash blossoms arrive at the markets. Since July, I’ve had them stuffed, fried, chopped and sauteed with tomatoes. Now that the summer is melting away and every day feels like Sunday night, each bag of blossoms has become that much more precious – shriveled and golden, bugs and all.
For this last batch, I didn’t want them stuffed in a quesadilla, wrapped in crepes, or dipped in batter. I wanted to see the flowers. Not surprisingly, I found a recipe in Frida’s Fiestas, the book written by Gaudalupe Rivera from the perspective of Frida Kahlo’s kitchen that was just right. Unlike Mexico, where flores de calabaza fill the market place, they’re sold in smaller quantities here so I had to find a recipe where a few cups of flowers wouldn’t be overwhelmed by the other flavors – roasted Poblano chiles, sweet corn, and fresh zucchini. Added at the end and simmered with the other ingredients for just a few minutes, the petals rise to the top where they can float along the surface, at least for a little while longer.
Sopa de Flor de Calabaza/Squash Blossom Soup
Adapted from Frida’s Fiestas: Recipes and Reminiscences of Life with Frida Kahlo by Guadalupe Rivera and Marie-Pierre Colle. I usually find the blossoms in two varieties – male blossoms on the stem and female blossoms attached to a swollen base, like a small zuchinni. Until recently, I thought this had to do with the maturation of the blossoms when they were picked, actually the male blossoms only provide pollen and will not become squash. Because of this, they bloom earlier and are more readily available. Many recipes call for removing the base and the stamen when the blossoms are going to be chopped and sauteéd. I follow Diana’s Kennedy’s suggestion, only removing the stem and the stringy sepals that hold the blossoms in place for added flavor.
1 large white onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely diced
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 ears corn, kernels, scraped off
3 Poblano chiles, roasted, peeled, seeded, and cut in strips*
1 cup zucchini, coarsely chopped
2 cups mushrooms, sliced
4 cups squash blossoms, stems and sepals removed, blossoms coarsely chopped
6 cups chicken broth
5 corn tortillas, cut in small squares and fried*
In a large heavy pot, melt the butter and sauté the garlic and onions until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the corn kerneles, chiles, and zucchini and cook for two more minutes. Stir in the mushrooms and squash blossoms and continue to cook, about 5 minutes. Add chicken broth and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer and additional 10 to 12 minutes. Adjust salt to taste. Serve with a tortilla squares and a spoonful of creme frâiche or heavy cream.
To char the peppers, I placed them directly under the broiler in a baking dish checking on them every couple of minutes and turning them until they were charred and puckered on every side. Watch carefully to make sure that they do not burn through. Once blackened evenly, they should be immediately removed and sealed in a plastic bag for a few minutes to “sweat”. When cool enough to handle, remove and peel off skin. Clean and slice as needed.
Feel free to use store-bought totopos or tortilla chips as a topping. I prefer to fry my own to use leftover corn tortillas. Bring the oil about 375 degrees and fry in small batches a couple of minutes at a time until they turn golden. Remove from the oil and set on a rack lined with paper towels. Sprinkle with sea salt.