I first learned about calabaza when researching the Mexican holiday, Day of the Dead or Dia de los Muertos. On Nov. 1 and 2, people gather to celebrate and honor the deceased. They prepare altars that are filled with candles, colorful offerings, photos of the deceased, bright decorated skeletons and food. The food offerings are meant to nourish the traveling souls. Calabaza, or candied pumpkin, is a common dish placed on the alter.
Last week, I was meandering through the produce section of a local market that carries a lot of Mexican food and ingredients, and a pumpkin-like squash near the common acorn variety caught my eye. The small sign nearly buried under a large specimen revealed that they were calabaza. Excited to try it, I brought one home.
Because my life is too busy, I didn’t have the time to for anything fancy. Just cutting and cleaning the squash was a challenge with four little hands in the kitchen getting into everything. I found a simple recipe and altered it slightly to make this soup. If you can’t find calabaza, you can substitute acorn or butternut squash.
As for the spider web, I have seen it on cupcakes and has been wanting to try it on top of soup. I used sour cream but crème fraîche would also be yummy. The key is to make the dairy a little runnier with milk to that it can sit atop the thick soup. My little arachnid is simply a raisin that I squished with my thumb and then snipped with some kitchen shears.
This soup is a bit sweet and is accented with nutmeg. If you prefer more savory, this curried calabaza soup looks good.
Simple calabaza soup with spider web
Makes 4-6 servings
Adapted from VeryBestBaking.com
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 lbs. calabaza (can substitute pumpkin, butternut or acorn squash)
2 medium tomatos, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped red onion
1 can (12 fluid ounces) evaporated milk
2 cups vegetable broth
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground white or black pepper
Sour cream for garnish
Raisins for spiders
1. Seed and peel the calabaza. Cut it into 1-inch chunks. Put the chunks in a sauce pan and cover with water. Boil until tender, about 25 minutes. Drain and set aside.
2. Heat olive oil in large skillet on medium heat. Add tomato and onion, cook until soft. Add mixture to calabaza. Add broth and put the mixture in a blender or food processor in batches and puree until smooth. Add more or less broth for desired consistency.
3. Return puréed soup to saucepan. Stir in evaporated milk, nutmeg, salt, and pepper; mix well. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until just boiling.
4. To make the spider webs, add about 2 tablespoons of milk to 1/3 cup of sour cream. Stir until smooth. If it isn’t runny enough to drizzle over soup, add more milk. Ladle soup into bowls. Spoon circles of cream on top of the soup. Using a knife, drag gently from the center of the soup out to the edge (like spokes of a wheel). Continue around the bowl dragging the knife to create the web. To make spiders, use your thumb to press a raisin flat. Using kitchen shears, cut small triangles out of the sides to give the effect of legs. Place spiders on the webs and serve.