Wednesday, August 3, 2011
Squash Flowers, Volume 2: Garlic and Squash Flower Soup
While the blossoming of my overcrowded bucket of zucchini plants seems to have tapered off (actually, the plants don’t look too healthy at all), there were times last month when I could gather about ten flowers a day. There came a point when I had to admit that I could only eat so many fried zucchini blossoms and I had to find another recipe. After some study of a recipe in Mexico One Plate at a Time by Rick Bayless, I decided to try adding my flowers to a soup.
While I got the idea from Bayless, I actually used a recipe for garlic soup from Cooking Light Annual Recipes 2000. I used to make this soup quite a bit, and knew that it was flavorful and satisfying. It calls for drizzling beaten eggs into a garlicky chicken broth that is further seasoned with chipotle chile, paprika and cumin. I kept most of the method and seasonings for my squash flower soup, but I did omit the chipotle chile to accommodate the mild flavor of the squash flowers, which I substituted for the eggs. I also took back some of the smoky flavor lost with the omitted chipotle by using smoked paprika and adding more ground cumin.
The squash flowers are very subtle in flavor and are very delicate in texture. They sort of melt into the soup forming gauzy wisps even lighter than the eggs in the original recipe (or in a Chinese-style egg drop soup). They’re also lighter in calories than eggs, if that happens to be a priority. The broth is smoky and infused with mellow garlic flavor. The light spiciness of the paprika and cumin adds a good punch of flavor to the broth without the kind of tongue-burning heat that could overpower a soup.
The garnishes for this soup are essential, since it’s not much more than a bowl of broth without them. I particularly like crumbled tortilla chips, chopped tomatoes and scallions, and a sprinkling of Monterey Jack cheese. You could simplify your soup experience by using a ready-made pico de gallo or chunky salsa.
Since the zucchini fruits I attempted to nurture to maturity didn’t do so well, I’m going to have to be content with harvesting blossoms. They’re fun and easy to grow and harvest, so I’d highly recommend it, especially since, at least in my experience, fresh squash flowers can be hard to find in a market (farmers’ markets are probably your best bet). You could probably use nasturtiums in this soup as well. They might add a more peppery flavor, and they are also pretty easy to grow. I guess once you get as attached to your apron as I am, it gets hard to think of flowers solely as decorative objects….Just make sure the flowers you’re cooking are actually edible. We don’t want any unpleasant surprises in our soup.
Garlic and Squash Flower Soup
Based on recipes in Mexico One Plate at a Time by Rick Bayless and Cooking Light Annual Recipes 2000
You can use any squash flowers or even nasturtium flowers for this recipe.
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 large or 6 medium garlic cloves, peeled
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon coarse (kosher) salt
6 cups chicken broth or stock (preferably reduced sodium)
about 20 squash flowers
garnishes such as crushed tortilla chips, chopped tomatoes, chopped scallions, chopped cilantro and Monterey Jack or pepper Jack cheese.
1. Clean the squash flowers very well. Remove the stamens and stem end of each blossom. Slice into thin ribbons. Set aside.
2. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or large pot over medium-low heat. Add the whole garlic cloves and cook until very lightly browned. Turn the garlic often to brown on all sides.
3. Remove the garlic from the pan and place it in a small bowl. Add the smoked paprika, cumin and salt. Using a fork, mash the garlic with the spices to form a coarse paste.
4. Add the paste to the cooking pot. Cook over medium-low heat about 30 seconds.
5. Add the chicken broth. Increase the heat and bring to a boil. Reduce to a low boil and cook 10 minutes. Stir in the squash flowers and cook about 1 minute. Add the desired garnishes to each serving.
Makes 4-6 servings.
Other recipes like this one: Fried Squash Flowers with Fresh Sage, Chard Soup with Cilantro and Lime
One year ago: Spicy Eggplant Dip with Basil and Mint