Veggie adventures: Calabaza

While cruising through the grocery store, I ran across a produce item that I didn’t recognize. Jeremy and I of course made inappropriate dirty jokes about it and guessed at what it was. The tag said “Calabasa.” It also said that they were 99 cents each.

Calabasa group...er, bunch? Pile? I'll go with herd.

{Source, because I didn’t have the forethought in a funny moment to snap a picture of the real bin}

I say funny moment because the conversation went like this:

Me: Wow! 99 cents? Throw it in the cart.

Jeremy: Haha. Oh, are you serious? We don’t even know what it is.

Me: That’s why God invented Google. It’ll be fine… It’s a dollar for cryin out loud!

So it came home with us.

Then something funny happened…I couldn’t find anything on Google! Noooooo! There many results but they were all for the California city of Calabasas or some kind of fruit called calabash or pictures of pumpkins and acorn squash. Even Wikipedia said that “calabasa is a term that can be applied to many different types of gourds.” Crap. But I noticed they spelled it with a “z.” Hmmmmm…

Re-googled the term “calabaza” and bam! Success. I found it described as the Caribbean pumpkin and the Japanese pumpkin. I learned it was reminiscent of butternut squash but most like a kabocha, and can be roasted to eat in wedges or pureed to make soup or bread. One blogger explains, “It’s light in calories like a squash, flavorful like pumpkin and hearty like sweet potato.” How does that sound? Sounded great to me.

But I knew exactly what to do when I found a recipe on Epicurious for calabaza soup with corn relish that had 3.8 out of 4 stars and 65 reviews.

It even earned a blue ribbon!

And if you can’t trust the tastes of strangers, who can you trust? 😉 So, I went for it. Luckily, it turned out amazing! So delicious. So, although I would’ve shared the trial either way, I’m happy to be able to share the recipe and experience with you as a positive. One that I encourage you to make, too. Here’s how:

Ingredients

For soup:

All laid out for the soupage.

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro stems
  • 2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
  • 1 (2 1/4-pound) piece calabaza squash or 1 (2 1/2-pound) whole kabocha squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (6 cups)
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 1/4 cups well-stirred canned unsweetened coconut milk (12 ounces)
  • 3 ears of corn (fresh or thawed frozen), kernels cut off and reserved for relish (below) and cobs halved crosswise
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne

For corn relish:

To be relish(ed).

  • 4 1/2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Pinch of sugar
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 cups corn kernels (see above)
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped shallot

I started by prepping. Chopping the onion and cilantro, cutting the kernels off the thawed cobs, and peeling, seeding and cubing the calabaza. This is what it looks like inside:

Can you see the pumpkin relation?

instructions

Make soup:

  • Heat oil in a 4- to 5-quart heavy pot over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking,
  • Sauté onion, stirring occasionally, until beginning to soften and edges are browned, about 4 minutes.
  • Add cilantro stems and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, 3 minutes.
  • Add squash pieces and cook, stirring frequently, 3 minutes.
  • Now we're cookin!

  • Stir in water, coconut milk, corn cobs, salt, and cayenne and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until squash is very tender, about 15 minutes.
  • The good stuff.

Prepare corn relish while soup simmers:

  • Whisk together lime juice, salt, and sugar in a bowl, then add oil and whisk until combined.
  • Cook corn kernels in a saucepan of boiling salted water until just tender, 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Pour corn into a sieve, then rinse under cold water to stop cooking.
  • Drain well, then transfer to dressing along with cilantro and shallot and toss well to coat.
  • Mixed nibblets.

Finish soup:

  • Discard corn cobs.
  •  Purée soup in batches in a blender (use caution when blending hot liquids) until smooth, transferring to a 2-quart measure.
  • Batches are the best way, no question.

  • Divide soup among bowls and gently stir 1/4 cup corn relish into each.
  • I totally had to cheat for the photo and use my spoon to keep all the corn from sinking to the bottom.

  • Find wine pairings, reviews and a printable grocery list on Epicurious!

I decided to follow the brilliant advice I found last time I made soup and pour the extra into ice cube trays to freeze it (since there’s just two of us and this probably makes 4-6 servings for us).

Mess-free and easy to reheat.

So that’s it. It seems labor intensive but I think it took me about an hour total (which included struggling to peel the odd crooked neck shape, stealing glimpses of the Jag game and running out to buy lime juice in the middle).

The only sad news is we suffered an appliance loss. You know where it says above to be careful blending hot liquids? I thought they meant not to burn yourself. I think they may have also meant that if you have an 8-year-old basic blender, hot soup may be the last thing it ever blends. It was already rebelling and I think this was the final straw. Of course, when I say “I think,” I mean liquid came pouring out the bottom of the blender (you can see it starting in the blending in batches picture above). It wasn’t so subtle.

I guess the seal where the blades hook into the bottom of the pitcher had enough abuse and finally gave way. Say a prayer, friends. Also, does anyone have any blender recommendations?

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2 responses to “Veggie adventures: Calabaza

  1. Consumer Reports…best buy is the OSTER BCBG08 (listed as $40 in the Aug.2010 issue)

    Actually, they recommend quite a few:
    Vita-Mix 5200 at the high end ($450)
    and KitchenAid, Waring and West Bend ($130 each)

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