Monday, March 29, 2010

Sopa de Calabaza (Pumpkin Soup)

The "Calabaza" (squash) used in Cuban cooking is the "Caribbean Squash" which is meaty, starchy, and sweet. However since it isn't readily available here where I live I often use Kabucha Squash (a Japanese variety of squash), butternut and Hubbard squash are also great substitutes.

In Cuban cooking we use "Calabaza" in most of our bean stews, steamed on it's own often served with "mojo de ajo" (garlic citrus sauce) spooned over it, and less commonly as a mash or soup, which here in my post I'm presenting it as a soup.

What makes this soup Cuban? Well doesn't use the "mirepoix" typical of creamy soups, instead what I believe sets it apart from other soups is that it sautee's garlic and onions in olive oil and is spiced with cumin, flavors which are very common in Cuban cooking, which in my opinion sets it apart from other cream soups in other cultures.

This is my version and I hope other's enjoy it :)


-about 4 lbs. peeled cubed Calabaza (I used Kabucha Squash, butternut, Hubbard, and Caribbean squash are all good choices)
-1 onion minced
-4 cloves garlic minced
-1/4 cup more or less extra-virgin olive oil
-1 teaspoon of ground cumin
-salt to taste
-chicken stock or water with bouillon enough to cover squash (I used about 2 heaping teaspoonfuls of chicken powder)
-3-4 tablespoons butter (optional)
-heavy whipping cream, or half-half even whole milk to add richness (optional anywhere from 1/2- 1 cup)

(1) Heat olive oil on medium heat, add minced onion and garlic, meanwhile peel and cube your calabaza (depends what you use, peeling a Kabucha squash is a pain in the @$$ for me, I use a potato peeler, cut it in half, scrape out seeds and cut into chunks)

(2) Keep an eye on your onions and garlic, you don't want it to burn, when caramelized and golden and add your ground cumin and stir about 30seconds until fragrant, add your squash, and add enough chicken stock or water or water with bouillon to barely cover the squash, season with salt to taste, raise heat to high and bring to a boil, lower back to medium and cover.
(3) Allow to simmer on medium heat until Calabaza is tender this took me about 20- 25 minutes. When tender, use a hand-blender to make the soup smooth and creamy, or in small batches blend it in the blender or food processor. I used my hand blender my aunt Helen gave me as a gift :)

(4) Bring back to a simmer, cream or half n half or whole milk if using and butter as well is using. Allow to simmer for about 5-10 more minutes.
(5) Enjoy, you can serve this soup to compliment any meal :)