Old New World: Southwest squash blossom soup with blue corn dumplings

squash blossom soup with blue corn dumplings

One of the things I love about living in Oakland is that moment in summer when all the farms at the farmers markets have a ridiculous amount of squash blossoms and the price has gone down from a dollar for a single blossom to a dollar for a giant bunch of ten or fifteen.  Squash is a New World crop and figures in prominently in a lot of pre-colonial food in the Americas, so the timing couldn't be more fortuitous.

squash blossoms

Southwest squash blossom soup

makes 6 servings 

  • 60 squash blossoms, washed and stamens removed if male
  • 1 TBSP sunflower oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped spring or yellow onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 6 cups vegetable broth

Heat the sunflower oil in a pot over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and sauté until the onions are translucent. Reduce heat to low, add salt, pepper and squash blossoms. Sauté 3 minutes, stirring, then add the 6 cups vegetable broth. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and simmer for 10 minutes. Serve hot, topped with blue corn dumplings.

blue corn dumplings

makes about 8

  • 1 cup blue cornmeal
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 TBSP sugar
  • 1 TBSP sunflower oil
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 3 cups vegetable broth

Sift the blue cornmeal, baking powder, salt and sugar together in bowl. Add the oil and 3/4 cup water and mix well to make a stiff but moist batter, adding more cornmeal if necessary. Let rest 10 minutes. 

While the dough is resting, boil the 3 cups vegetable broth in a pot and reduce to a simmer.  After the dough has rested, make the dumplings using two spoons to make an almond shape, dropping each dumpling after forming into the simmering broth and cover the pot. Simmer for 4 minutes and remove from broth.

 

 blue corn dumplings fished from the vegetable broth

 notes

Simmering the blue corn dumplings in a separate pot ensures that should your dumplings explode into a mass of wet cornmeal, your squash soup will still be lovely.

Don't boil the vegetable broth for the dumplings too wildly, otherwise they will not form solid dumplings.

If the idea of eating whole cooked squash blossoms is a little overwhelming, slice them into strips lengthwise before adding to the pot. 

Recipes adapted from Native American Cooking: Foods of the Southwest Indian Nations by Lois Ellen Frank. 

too steamy to photograph very well, but quite tasty 

Old New World: Mayan potato and fresh green bean salad

Mayan potato and fresh green bean salad

When I first encountered this recipe, green beans were nowhere to be found at the farmers markets, but this weekend as I was picking up some late season strawberries I saw a tiny basket of green beans tucked into a corner. I gleefully snatched up a few quick handfuls as I was waiting in line and presented my find to my sweetheart as though I had discovered hidden pirate jewels. This is a traditional and typical Mayan dish that hasn't changed much over time - except these days, many home cooks use food processors instead of molcajetes.

pepitas about to go in the oven

Mayan potato and fresh green bean salad

makes 5-6 servings

  • 1 pound new potatoes, quartered
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 3/4 cups green beans, stemmed and cut into bite-size lengths
  • 1 cup pumpkin or squash seeds
  • 1 to 3 tomatillos, husked
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • pinch of freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 F.

While the oven is preheating, place the potatoes and salt in a pot with enough water to cover. Cook over medium high heat for 12-15 minutes, until the potatoes are fork-tender. Remove the potatoes and reserve the water.  Allow potatoes to cool completely. Return the water to a boil over high heat. Add the green beans and cook just until the water resumes a mild simmer. Remove the green beans and reserve the water. Cool the beans in an ice water bath or on a plate in the refrigerator.

Spread the pumpkin seeds on a baking sheet and place in the oven. Toast for about 10 minutes, until lightly browned. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Place the tomatillos and the garlic in a dry skillet over medium-high heat. Cook, stirring often, for 5 to 7 minutes, until browned and softened.

Place the toasted pumpkin seeds in a molcajete, food processor or blender, and grind to a coarse paste. Add the tomatillos and garlic and process until smooth. Gradually add 2 to 2 1/2 cups of the reserved cooking water to make a dressing thick enough to generously coat the potatoes and beans.

To assemble the salad, place the potatoes and beans in a bowl and sprinkle them with the black pepper. Add the dressing and toss to coat evenly. Serve immediately.

notes 

Tomatillos feel very waxy and sticky under their husks. Don't panic, it turns out that's what they're supposed to feel like. 

If you've refrigerated the potatoes and beans let them stand at room temperature for about 10 minutes before tossing with the dressing to allow the flavors to warm up a bit.

I served this with pinto and rice burgers for a Labor Day picnic, but it would also be nice and more traditional served warm with fresh corn tortillas as an alternative to a room-temperature salad.

Recipe from Foods of the Americas: Native Recipes and Traditions by Smithsonian American Indian  by Fernando Divina and Marlene Divina. 

Mayan potato and fresh green bean salad; pinto and rice burgers

quick note: storing squash blossoms

Inspired by this post by Gayla Trail and stocking up on squash blossoms while they're cheap at the farmers market, I decided to do a quick-and-dirty experiment. I kept one bunch in the refrigerator in a sealed glass jar with no water and another bunch in a jar on the counter with the stems in some water overnight.

squash blossoms: cold stored and countertop

It's kind of a terrible picture since it's taken at night in my kitchen but I think you can tell that the refrigerated blossoms were in much better shape! The countertop blossoms are shriveled and dry - and one has even fallen off its stem while the ones from the refrigerator are still fresh and pliant.  I'll be storing my squash blossoms in the refrigerator from now on.

fresh favas with sugar snap peas and green garlic

fava beans in various stages of prep; it takes about a pound of unshelled beans to make a cup!

Every summer I wait for fava beans. I am nuts for them. Now that I know that my sweetheart isn't allergic to them - how I worried! - we get them every single week when they show up at the farmers market.  They're a bit of work - you have to shell them, boil them, shock them and skin them - and all this before you make a meal of them! On the other hand, once you've done all that, letting the fresh beans shine is pretty easy. I love pairing them with fat English peas, but when the English peas aren't yet fat enough, sugar snap peas are lovely, too. As a bonus, you don't have to shell sugar snaps.

Never prepped fresh favas before? It's not a big deal, but it is time consuming, so don't think of this as a last minute dinner unless you've already done the fava prep ahead of time, and don't do it if your back hurts! I like to do this the morning I'm planning on making a dinner with favas, but you can do them the night before. Do you want music while you shuck and peel? Yes, you do.

 

fresh favas with sugar snap peas and green garlic

makes 4 servings

  • 1½ cups shelled and peeled fava beans (prepped ahead of time from 1½ pounds of unshelled beans)
  • cold water
  • 3 stalks green garlic (white and light green parts only)
  • 2 tbsp toasted and ground almonds
  • ¼ cup olive oil + splash for pan
  • ¼ cup water
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • zest of one lemon
  • ¼ tsp sea salt
  • cracked black pepper
  • 2 cups sugar snap peas, topped and tailed (a couple of big handfuls)
  • pasta (I used two big handfuls of quinoa-corn fusilli)

prepping fava beans

Set a pot of water to boil while you rinse your beans, then shuck them. You can "unzip" them if you are careful; pull on the stems and split them down the seam, then pop the beans, still in their jackets, off. Don't worry about the little caps where they connect to the inner fuzzy pod, you'll take them off after they boil if they don't pop off on their own.

Once the water is boiling, pop the beans in the boiling water and boil for one minute, two if your beans are very large. While the beans are boiling, pour cold water into a large bowl (or make an ice bath), then drain and plunge into the cold water (or ice bath). I chill a bowl of water in the refrigerator because I don't have ice cube trays and it works just fine. Let the beans chill in the cold water for about 5 minutes, then drain.

Set up your peeling station: I like to put a scraps bowl on my left and a mug for the peeled beans on my right, but you can set it up however you like. You'll mess up quite a few the first couple of times and wind up with a bunch of split or mashed favas. With your thumbnail, cut through the proximal end, or the hilium  - where the scar from the little caps where the beans connect is. Break just through, then peel over the radicle (the little sprouting point) and under the curve of the bean. At that point, they'll just pop out, or you can give them a little squeeze at the closed end, just not too hard. Do this about a zillion times! Take breaks if you need them.

green garlic sauce 

Zest your lemon, then juice it. Slice the green garlic into one inch segments, white and light green parts only and discard the very root and the darker tips. Blend, chop or pound the green garlic, ground almonds, cracked black pepper, olive oil, water, sea salt, lemon zest and juice. Set aside in a large bowl.

Set some more water on to boil for your pasta, and prepare it as you like; I like it al dente at about 7 minutes.

While the pasta is boiling, rinse, top and tail your sugar snap peas. Heat your pan and splash some olive oil in it. Sauté the sugar snap peas and favas briefly; they should both be bright, bright green. Drain your pasta then toss in the large bowl with the green garlic sauce. Add in the sautéed favas and peas and toss again. Eat and welcome spring!

notes

This green garlic sauce, only slightly adapted from thekitchn, also makes a lovely, bright replacement for tomato sauce on pizza - just leave out the water and add a little more garlic, one or two stalks, depending on your taste.

 

potage au potiron

musquée de Provence - the fairytale pumpkin

I go nuts for winter squash every year. As of today, there's one butternut in the spice rack, another camping out with the potatoes and two Kabochas in with the avocados. But the most exciting squash this year, for me, is the musquée de Provence. But wait; I should not lie. It was also the most exciting squash for me last year, but I hemmed and hawed over what to do with it and the beautiful slice I had snagged at the farmers market went bad.

This year I was determined to not be so undone! When these fairytale pumpkins popped up this year, my sweetheart picked up a slice for me while I was pawing the pomegranates under the condition that I cook it up tout de suite. "Tonight we feast like French monks!" I exclaimed, and promptly adapted the recipe for Potage au Potiron from Victor-Antoine d'Avila-Latourette's This Good Food.


fairytale pumpkin soup

makes 4-6 servings

  • 4 cups of water
  • 1 slice pumpkin - about 4 cups - cubed
  • 2 potatoes, cubed
  • 1 carrot, sliced
  • 1 onion, halved and thinly sliced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • a pinch of tarragon
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • ¼ cup coconut milk

In a large pot, bring the water to a boil and then add the pumpkin, potatoes and carrot. Stir, then add the onion, garlic, tarragon, salt and pepper. Keep at a low boil for 20 minutes, then reduce heat and simmer for another 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and blend with an immersion blender, upright blender or food processor. Be wary of the steam! Pour the soup back into the pot, stir in the coconut milk and simmer for another 10 minutes.


  potage au potiron - fairytale pumpkin soup, garnished with green onions

potage au potiron - fairytale pumpkin soup, garnished with green onions

notes

This is a remarkably rich soup that honestly doesn't "need" any dairy or oil in the first place, and is very omni friendly. Feel free to leave out the coconut milk entirely, or substitute your favorite non-dairy milk. Garnish as you please; traditionally with a pinch of parsley, though green onions are nice, as are spicy toasted pepitas.

If you get a whole pumpkin or even just a slice with seeds, you can clean and save the seeds to plant. Or so I hear; we haven't gotten to the planting stage yet.