Updated: Jan 7
For nostalgia, I usually go for cookies. But when it's not a "cookie day" the next best thing is a steaming hot bowl of soup.
I remember the thrill of my nose pulling me home as a kid. My mother was a phenomenal cook and there was always a delicious smell whirling it's way from her kitchen down all the paths that led home. The anticipation grew within me climbing up our front steps after a long afternoon of freeze-tag with the neighborhood kids. I loved the soft puffy wave of heat that greeted me indoors in the winter. I loved the smell of the smoke that escaped the old iron wood-burning stove when my dad opened the door to feed it another log. It rarely got as cold in the Pacific Northwest as many (most?) other places in the states, but when it did, the best possible way to warm up your frigid bones was with a steaming hot bowl of homemade soup.
This soup is the pinnacle of soul food and will warm you from the inside out. I wanted comfort with an exotic kick, and this is where it led.
“Squash Blossom Soup is a hybrid of a popular Autumn soup from Oaxaca (a southern Mexico state) called Sopa de Guías, and the homemade chicken soup that we all grew up with. It's an arranged marriage of the two worlds that I love most.”
The foundation of any great soup is bone broth. For added nutrition and deliciousness, be sure to use your own homemade bone broth. If you've never made it before, don't worry, it sounds much more intimidating than it is. If you can boil water, you can make bone broth. Recipe here.
“This soup is the perfect mosaic of Fall bounty from the garden."
1 Tbsp cooking oil, + 1 tsp butter
1/2 onion, chopped
1/4 c / 59 ml white wine or dry sherry
2 ltrs poultry bone broth
2 large carrots, peeled and chopped into coins
3 russet potatoes, cubed (I like to leave the peels on)
2 medium or 1 large zucchini, chopped
2 c / about 20 freshly cut squash blossoms, stem, pistil and stamens removed
1 c / 236 ml water
Additional freshly cut squash blossoms for garnish, rinsed well (1 per bowl)
1 small can (drained) or 1/2 c fresh or frozen corn kernels
1/2 c fresh or frozen green beans
1/2 c frozen or fresh peas
2 cloves freshly minced garlic
1 full chicken breast, boiled, shredded, skin and bone removed
1/4 c freshly cut parsley
1/2 c freshly cut cilantro
1 c evaporated milk
3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
2 Tbsp butter
Salt and freshly cracked pepper, to taste
Garnish: whole cleaned squash blossom; queso panela; truffle oil (optional)
In a small, covered saucepan boil the chicken breast in enough water to cover, replenishing water if needed, for about an hour or till it shreds apart easily with a fork and is no longer pink in the middle. This is a great time to prep all your vegetables by washing and chopping them.
In a large heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat, melt the oil and butter together (don't let it get hot enough to smoke or it will give your soup a bitter undertone), and add the chopped onion. Stir occasionally to prevent burning. When transparent and the edges of the onion begin to brown, add the wine or sherry to deglaze the pan and scrape off any stuck onion bits with a wooden spatula. Add the bone broth and bring it to a boil. Add the carrots and potato and cook till almost tender. Add the green beans, corn, peas and minced garlic half-way through.
Meanwhile, take half of your 20 squash blossoms (so 10, or about 1 cup) and chop them into 4ths. Set aside. Boil the other half (don't forget to save a few for garnish) in 1 c. water with half the zucchini, till the zucchini is slightly tender. Blend in a blender. till smooth. Set aside.
Add the remaining zucchini and the chopped squash blossoms to the boiling soup. Add the blended squash blossoms and zucchini and give it all a good stir.
Make a slurry by placing the flour into a mixing bowl and slowly adding, a few Tbsp at a time, the evaporated milk. Avoid lumps by taking it slow and constantly whipping. Once the entire contents of the can of milk are in the bowl, slowly add a ladle of the hot soup to the milk, whisking constantly. Add a bit more soup till your milk mixture is hot. The trick to avoiding lumps of flour is to keep it constantly moving. You can now pour the slurry over a strainer (in case any lumps snuck in) and into the hot soup, (again, stirring constantly).
Add the cooked, drained chicken breast, the cilantro and parsley, and the butter. Bring it to a boil if necessary.
You're almost done! All that's missing is a bit of adjustment in seasoning and thickness.
Add salt and black pepper, to taste. Remember that salt is something you can always add more of, but to fix oversalting isn't easy or ideal. So go lightly, test the flavor after a good stir, and add more if needed. You can use a Boullion base if preferred.
Once boiled, between the flour and the butter, the soup should have thickened up slightly. If you find it too thick, stir some water, bone broth or milk in.
To serve: ladle a bit of soup into a bowl and garnish with a fresh squash blossom, freshly cracked black pepper, and squares of queso panela. For a touch of pizazz: swirl a tiny bit of truffle oil on top.
I highly recommend enjoying this hearty, exotic, rustic soup with a side of freshly baked bread. You'll find many options here.