Nirvana in a Bowl / Silky Squash Soup with Vanilla

“Nirvana in a Bowl”

One Butternut Squash & a trip to the Yucatan Peninsula are the main ingredients for this soup recipe.

One was left languishing on my kitchen counter after a  photo shoot, the other was where I secreted off to, to do some personal languishing…a geographical place I love for all that it is. No phones, no television, no blogging…nada. Beaches, hammocks on porches, intriguing & delicious New World  food combinations, & quiet, absolute quiet except for the soft swish of palm  trees & waves.

All this Nirvana was punctuated by eating, which for me is nirvana. One night my friend, Terry, and I went to a small beach restaurant, “Tabanos”, in Tulum where we encountered some very sublime culinary combinations. Very-not-touristy dishes using  traditional ingredients in some very surprising ways.

This is their menu board. I wanted to order everything. We tried!

The first sopa/soup on the menu I ordered. Creamy soup with tomatoes & papaya and the very unexpected addition of vanilla extract. Nirvana in a bowl!

Here is my recipe inspired by the above using my re-discovered Butternut Squash &  pure Mexican Vanilla extract.

Silky Squash Soup with Vanilla:

1 Winter Squash, 2 garlic cloves, 1 onion, 3 carrots – peeled & cut into large pieces

2 teaspoons ground cumin, sea salt & black pepper,  olive oil

3 tbsps Kerrygold butter (or any other good quality butter), 1 quart chicken stock

1 cup Lite Coconut Milk, I cup plain Greek  yogurt

2 tablespoons pure Mexican Vanilla Extract

Spread vegetables out on a baking sheet lined with parchment, sprinkle ground cumin, salt & black pepper over all,  drizzle with olive oil & toss. Roast in a 400 degree oven for about 30 minutes until vegs are softened.

Melt butter in a stock pot. Add roasted vegetables & chicken stock. Bring to a boil & simmer 3o minutes. Let cool for 30 minutes.

Put soup into a blender (work in batches if necessary) and blend until silky & smooth. Return to pan. Reheat on low & stir in coconut milk & yogurt until well blended.

Right before serving add a generous splash of pure Vanilla extract. Stir and serve soup hot with some crusty bread.  Pure, high quality Mexican Vanilla extract is not inexpensive, but a little goes a long way. It adds a hint of creamy, spicy & sweet to make this one bueno soup.

Back in Nashville, very wintry & a bit gloomy. I made this soup. Wouter & I had it for a late lunch. Things were much brighter and cozy…the creaminess without cream, the warm vanilla aroma… Nirvana in a bowl.

Both Butternut Squash & Vanilla are New World foods indigenous to Mexico.  If you do not have or cannot find Mexican pure vanilla extract  then use whatever you have. There are good quality Mexican vanilla extracts readily available online from King Arthur Flour  & Williams Sonoma among many other sites.

This is a perfect soup to start off a Thanksgiving dinner.  Leftover soup just gets better.

When in doubt…eat soup.

Travels in the Yucatan – La Flor de Santiago Salsa

 

Yucatan & Quintana Roo 2011
Merida, Cancun, Playa del Carmen, Progreso, Campeche, Muna, Chetemal, Mahuahual, Xpuha….
In the heart of Merida near the Mercado, is one of my favorite restaurants, La Flor de Santiago.
Steaming cups of cafe au lait, freshly made pastries, huevos, frijoles negros, mango, papaya, pina…all make this a favorite of local residents.  Stepping  from the morning already warm street into the darkly cool interior of La Flor de Santiago was the perfect start to what turned out to be a perfect day.
Radish Salsa from La Flor de Santiago

There is always something memorable to eat and this visit was no exception. Along with abundant choices for breakfast there was a really unusual and delicious salsa made with radishes. It was a bit sweet, salty, crunchy with a hint of oranges & limes. I had it with my eggs and went back for more. I keep a little notebook with me when I travel to jot down recipe ideas or recipes that I find and want to try at home. I call my version, “La Flor de Santiago Salsa”.
Ingredients you will need:
12 Radishes, washed and trimmed & diced
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves
Juice from one orange
Juice from one/half lime
1 tsp raw or brown sugar
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
salt & pepper to taste
1. Put orange & lime juice in a mixing bowl. Add diced radishes.
2. Add chopped cilantro, 1 tsp raw sugar & 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar, salt & pepper.
3. Stir ingredients together, cover & chill for at least 1 hour before eating.
Serve as a side for grilled or baked fish or chicken, or eat with crispy tortilla chips.
I coated a piece of fresh tuna with herbs de Provence and pan-seared it in a bit of olive oil, adding some fresh mango slices along with my radish salsa.