Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Squash Blossom Soup

Have been revisiting some posts from my initial days of blogging.  Mostly reshooting photos, tweaking recipes here and there, and updating my thoughts on the finished dish.  I cringe at some of my older photos (the lighting, the composition, etc. -- all wrong).  Barely knew how to use my camera back then (other than in automatic mode); a basic photography course was a revelation.  Still have a lot to learn and that's part of the fun.

While writing and storytelling don't come naturally to me, it's slowly becoming easier to put my thoughts into words.  And, most importantly, food blogging has made me a better cook; for the mere fact I've cooked a lot of dishes over the past three years since I created this blog (August 17, 2010) -- 228 posts to date, several others in the queue, and countless others that didn't make the cut.

My very first post -- grilled octopus -- is still one of my all-time favorite things to eat.  But I'll let you in on a little secret, the first time I cooked octopus, I didn't realize you had to boil it first (for a good hour or so, to tenderize it; otherwise, it's very tough).  Rather, I merely tossed the tentacles in olive oil, salt and pepper, and put them straight on the grill.  Needless to say, my jaw was sore the next day -- like chewing rubber bands.  It's all about learning from your mistakes and successes.

Love all sorts of edible flowers, squash blossoms included.  Have seen squash blossoms at the farmers' market the past few weeks, but am always hesitant to buy them since they have such a short shelf life.  You really need to use them within a day or two.  This squash blossom soup was one of my earlier posts.  The only change I've made to the original recipe was to increase the quantity of vegetables; mostly, because I just love summer vegetables -- tomatoes, corn, squash...

Now that I've become reacquainted with squash blossoms for this soup, I really wish I had more.  Am already thinking about squash blossom pizza, a squash blossom frittata, ricotta stuffed blossoms...hopefully they'll still be around next weekend.

Have also learned that the best way to not "lose it" (that is to say, your mind) in the kitchen, is to have all your ingredients organized and prepped ahead of time (mis en place).  Makes cooking a whole lot easier and enjoyable...

I was excited to find wild, domestic heads-on shrimp the other day.  Such a treat.  Don't be afraid to suck the juices from the head -- that's where all the flavor is.  

Squash Blossom Soup
Adapted by Chef Joe Raffa, Restaurant Oyamel
serves 4

There are two main stages to this soup: 1) making the soup base and 2) finishing the soup.  You can make the soup base ahead of time, refrigerate, and save until ready to finish the soup.

Stage 1: Soup Base 
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, medium dice
1 heaping teaspoon chopped garlic
1 small jalapeno, seeded, chopped
2 small tomatoes, diced
1 small bunch of cilantro
Juice of half a lime
2 quarts chicken stock
3 1/2 ounces masa (corn flour)
sea salt to taste (~ 1 1/2 teaspoons)

Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat.  Add the onion and garlic, and saute until tender, about 2 minutes.  Add the jalapneo and tomatoes, and continue cooking until the tomatoes break down, about 3-4 minutes.  Add the cilantro, lime juice, chicken stock, and masa.  Bring to a boil, lower heat, and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Strain and discard the solids.  Taste and season with salt.

Stage 2: Finishing the Soup
6 large squash blossoms, sliced
4 large squash blossoms, whole (1 for each bowl)
1 small poblano
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 scallions, thinly sliced on a bias
6 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 serrano, thinly sliced (sliced in half, seeded, and thinly sliced)
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
1 teaspoon fresh oregano
1/2 cup fresh corn kernels
1/2 cup of zucchini, diced
1/2 cup tomato, diced
Soup base (see above)
chopped cilantro
lime wedges

Cleaning the squash blossoms: Chop off the stems and remove the green sepals at the base of the blossom.  Remove the long pistils in the center of each blossom and discard.  With a sharp knife, cut the blossoms crosswise into about 1/4" strips (reserve 4 whole blossoms for each bowl; stems, sepals, and stamens removed).

Roast the poblano on an open flame (on your gas range or bbq) until charred on all sides.  Place in a paper bag for 10-15 minutes (to help loosen the skins).  Scrape the charred skin, remove the seeds, and dice.

Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat.  Add the scallions, garlic, serrano, thyme, and oregano.  Saute a few minutes, until the scallions turn bright green.  Add the corn, zucchini, tomatoes, poblano, sliced squash blossoms, and soup base.  Continue cooking a few more minutes, until the soup is warmed through.  Ladle into bowls.  Place one whole squash blossom into each bowl.  Top with chopped cilantro and a squeeze of lime.

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