Pumpkin or zucchini flowers cost a bomb in Australia, are relatively hard to find and only keep well for a few hours unless much care is taken. Usually, they end up in high-end restaurants filled with ricotta or seafood and fried, in the classic Italian style. However, the family Cucurbita–the genus of the gourd family that includes pumpkin, zucchini, cucumber and squash–are not native to Italy but to Mexico, so it would be correct to say that the true classic style is stuffed into a tortilla and topped with a fresh salsa. Watching Mariachis tuning up in Mexico City's Plaza Garibaldi, I had my first ever blue-corn tortilla stuffed with this floral preparation. At that moment, I truly fell in love with Mexico.
I'm not sure why I really dig them so much, for the for the sweet, delicate flavour vaguely reminiscent of pine and fennel, or just because eating flowers seems such an inherently romantic act. In any case, living in Oaxaca I can happily pick up a dozen flowers for about 50¢, so I do indeed indulge.
I had a play around with them this week, made a few interesting and beautiful things, with this soup the last and easiest. Very traditional, very quick and very tasty. Since the past few recipes have had more steps than the Eiffel Tower, I thought the simplicity might be a nice change. And remember, you're eating flowers!
Sopa de Flor de Calabaza | serves 4
50g unsalted butter
1/2 small white onion, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, sliced
2 small zucchini, diced
20 zucchini flowers, washed with stamens removed
2 1/2 cups home-made chicken stock
pinch of thyme
1/2 cup crème fraîche (or light sour cream)
- Roughly chop 16 of the flowers, then finely slice the yellow petals of the remainder and reserve for garnish.
- In a wide based saucepan, heat the butter then gently fry the onion, diced zucchini and garlic with a low flame being careful not to let the ingredients colour.
- When softened (5-8 mins), season well with salt, pepper and thyme. Add the roughly chopped blossoms, stir briefly then cover and cook for 5 minutes.
- Add chicken stock and bring to the boil, check seasoning then place in a blender with the sour cream. Blend for 3 minutes or until very smooth*, then quickly reheat and serve garnished with reserved flowers, a little more sour cream and a drizzle of olive oil.
*You may care to pass the soup through a fine strainer for a finer texture, but in Mexico it's pretty rare to do this as it's generally seen as a waste to throw out what doesn't pass through the mesh. Be sure to blend the soup thoroughly while still warm, as this produces the silkiest texture.