Last week when I published the recipe for my current favorite protein-rich brunch dish, Refried Bean Sauce with Eggs on Top at Kitchen Parade, I teased a little about someone attending the Seasons of My Heart cooking school outside Oaxaca, Mexico. Well, the secret's out: that lucky someone was me! (Remember those little Mexican jumping beans that used to be sold at dime stores? That was me, so excited about this day.)
The school is owned by the lovely Susana Trilling. Readers may know her cookbook, also called Seasons of My Heart and the 1999 PBS series called (menotes a theme here, you too?) Seasons of My Heart.
My brain is madly processing the day at Seasons of My Heart, the whole week really, even while my fingers pore through hundreds of photos, picking and cropping, all to build and frame the story, one plate, one dish at a time. More later ...
In the mean time, the soup, the soup! In the many-course meal at Seasons of My Heart, the soup wasn't the favorite (that, people, involves mounds of mangoes and pillows of cream whose recipe, I promise, will emerge some time soon) but it was the one dish we all imagined making most often. In the dim evening light of the Mexican high desert, the soup's color was a pretty pale green; mine today turned out decidedly more spinach green, which makes me think less spinach is a good idea.
In the grocery line, the woman behind me asked, "What will you make with the chayote?" I pointed to the poblano, "Chayote soup with a kick". She smiled. The chayote soup of her childhood, she remembered, was pale and bland. "How will you make it?" she asked. Here's how.
WHAT IS CHAYOTE? See chayote in the A-Z of Vegetables. It's one of the funniest looking vegetables, ever, think the face of a grumpy toothless old man at best, a fat plumber's crack at worst, sorry for that last but really, it's true.
"Made the soup this afternoon with one of my granddaughters (she's 6) ... It is fantastic (and that's when it's still warm)! " ~ Bobbi
CHAYOTE SOUP with a KICK
Chilling time: 1 - 2 hours
Makes 10 cups
1 - 2 poblano peppers, roasted & skins removed (how to roast peppers in the oven)
1 large white onion, trimmed, peeled and quartered
7 cloves garlic, peeled
1-1/2 pounds chayote (about 3 medium chayote), trimmed, peeled and cut into eighths (see TIPS about handling raw chayote)
1/4 - 1/2 pound fresh spinach, washed well and thick stems removed
4 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade (see how to make Homemade Chicken Stock) or a vegetable stock
3-1/2 cups whole milk
1 cup cream
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Kosher salt to taste (be generous, keep tasting)
Sprinkles of cotija cheese
Sprinkles of nutmeg
In a large pot, combine the onion, garlic, chayote, spinach, chicken stock and poblano pepper flesh as it's prepped and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to maintain a simmer and let simmer for about 30 minutes until the chayote is soft and cooked through. Remove from the heat.
IMPORTANT: We know about hot liquids and blenders, right? If not, please review this blender safety tip. In batches, filling the blender no more than half full each time, puré the cooked ingredients until completely smooth. Return to the stockpot, stir in the milk and cream. Stir in the nutmeg and salt. Chill for 1 - 2 hours.
Garnish soup servings with crumbled cheese and a sprinkle of nutmeg.
ALANNA'S TIPS & KITCHEN NOTES
One pepper, I think would be fine. For this batch, I used two because the flesh was so thin.
Susana recommends wearing plastic gloves to handle the chayote. I forgot and did experience that temporary sensation of 'drying' skin. It wasn't uncomfortable and washed away after an hour or so.
To cut a chayote, just trim off the stem end (the non-goofy looking side) and then peel. Then cut right through the chayote following the goofy-looking line. A chayote has a soft seed inside, you cook it too.
For a prettier, paler green, next time I'll try 1/4 pound of spinach instead of the 1/2 pound called for in the recipe.
At the cooking class, the soup bowls were garnished with grated jicama and chopped roasted peanuts. None of us were so keen on those so here I've substituted the cheese crumbles that seem to top every food dish in Oaxaca, called cotija. Feta would be a substitute, I also like the idea of tiny cubes of avocado or a spoonful of sour cream.
Note to Vegetarians
~ Avocado Dip ~
~ Quick Zucchini Mushroom Hominy Tacos ~
~ Easy Salsa Dressing ~
~ more chayote recipes ~
from A Veggie Venture
~ Chilaquiles ~
~ Quinoa & Black Bean Salad ~
~ Mexican Gashouse Eggs ~
~ more Mexican recipes ~
from Kitchen Parade