Calabaza Squash looks similar to a Butternut Squash, but has the texture and flavor of a pumpkin or Kabocha Squash. They sell this squash here in Spain and call it “Calabaza”, and the first time I bought it, I mistook it for Butternut Squash thinking that, since calabaza means “pumpkin”, it was just a generic name for squash. Imagine my disappointment when the recipe I was making turned out badly.
So, when I came across a recipe that had this mysterious gourd in it’s title, I had to try it. This recipe got four out of four forks on epicurious.com and rightfully so – the soup is creamy and satisfying and the relish adds a complexity of contrasting flavors. Basically, it’s a party in your mouth.
Start with a base of onion and garlic, and then add cubed Calabaza and chopped Cilantro stems (save the leaves for the corn relish). Water and coconut milk get added to this mix and let it simmer for about 15 minutes. Once the Calabaza is tender, turn off the heat and use an immersion blender to puree until smooth.
The corn relish is marinated in a dressing of lemon juice, salt, a pinch of sugar, Cilantro and olive oil. After serving the soup, add a spoonful of this relish and the tangy flavor of the lemon and cilantro provide a clean, fresh balance to the coconut milk’s creaminess and cayenne’s spice. I had some coconut milk left over so I drizzled a little bit at the end just to make it look awesome.
The recipe, which is below, says you can substitute Kabocha Squash if you can’t get your hands on Calabaza. Also, the relish calls for lime juice, but I can’t always find limes here (same old story) so I used lemon, and just a tad less than the recipe calls for because lemon is more bitter than lime. The spice level is right on in my opinion, spicy but not detracting from the flavors, but if you are more sensitive you could use less. Lastly, my boyfriend is not completely on board with Cilantro, so I used about half of what the recipe called for – still delicious!
OK, here you have it (it’s really easy, so you should definitely try it!)
- 2tbsp olive oil
- 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
- 1/4 cup finely chopped Cilantro stems
- 2 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
- 1 (2 1/4 lb) piece of Calabaza Squash, or 1 (2 and 1/2 lb) piece of Kabocha Squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2 inch cubes (6 cups)
- 4 cups water
- 1 1/4 cup canned unsweetened coconut milk, well-stirred
- 3 ears of corn (fresh or frozen), kernels cut off and reserved for relish
- 2 tsp salt
- 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
- 4 1/2 tbsp lime juice
- 1/4 tsp salt
- pinch of sugar
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 2 cups corn kernels
- 2 tbsp finely chopped Cilantro
- 1 tbsp finely chopped shallot
To make soup: Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat, add onion and saute until lightly browned around the edges, about 4 minutes. Add Cilantro and garlic, cook 3 more minutes. Add Calabaza pieces, cook, stirring frequently, about 3 minutes. Add water and coconut juice, corn cobs, salt and cayenne pepper. Bring to simmer and cook until squash is tender, about 15 minutes.
To make relish: Mix lime juice, salt and sugar in a bowl. Add olive oil and whisk until combined. Cook corn in boiling water until just tender, about 3 minutes, drain and rinse with cold water to stop cooking. Drain completely and add corn, cilantro and shallot and toss well to coat.
To finish the soup, discard the corn cobs and puree with an immersion blender, or in batches in a blender. Serve in bowls and add a spoonful of relish to be gently stirred into soup.