Recipe courtesy of Maricel Presilla

Cream of Caribbean Pumpkin Soup with Cacao Nibs: Crema de Calabaza y Cacao

  • Level: Intermediate
  • Yield: Yield: 6 to 8 servings
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Ingredients

1 ounce cacao nibs

1 chile guajillo

4 plum tomatoes (about 10 ounces), stemmed

1/2 white onion (about 3 1/2 ounces)

4 garlic cloves

1/8 teaspoon allspice

1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon aniseed

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon brown loaf sugar (preferably Colombian panela or Mexican piloncillo), grated or demerara natural brown cane sugar

2 pounds calabaza, (or Caribbean pumpkin, acorn, or hubbard squash) peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes

8 cups well-flavored chicken stock

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 ounce dark chocolate (preferably 58.5 percent or 60 percent cacao content)

For Garnish:

1 cup Mexican cream or creme fraiche

1 cup cubed Manchego cheese

Kekchi Cacao-Chile Balls, recipe follows

Kekchi Cacao-Chile Balls:

3 ounces (about 2/3 cup) cacao nibs

3 ounces (about 1 cup) piquin chiles

1 (1-inch) stick true canela (soft Ceylon cinnamon), coarsely chopped

1/2 teaspoon allspice berries

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon Spanish smoked paprika

Directions

For Garnish:

  1. Heat a griddle, medium-sized cast-iron skillet, or Mexican comal over medium heat. Add the cacao nibs and dry-roast for 2 minutes, until fragrant, turning constantly with a wooden spoon or spatula. Turn out into another container and set aside.
  2. Stem and seed the chile. Place on a hot comal, griddle or iron skillet and roast briefly turning with tongs. Place in a bowl with warm water to soften. Roast the tomatoes, onion, and garlic until blistered on all sides. Peel the onion and garlic. Place in a food processor or blender together with the roasted cacao nibs and the spices and puree.
  3. Heat the oil in medium, heavy-bottomed pot. Add the puree and the brown sugar and saute for 5 minutes. Add the pumpkin and the stock. Correct seasoning. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Lower the heat and cover until the pumpkin is soft, about 15 minutes. Puree in a food processor or blender, in batches. Strain the soup pushing the solids against the strainer with the back of a spoon. Put back in the pot and heat over medium heat. Add the chocolate and stir until dissolved, about 3 minutes.
  4. Serve the soup hot garnished with a dollop of Mexican cream or creme fraiche and a tablespoon or so of the cubed cheese. Pass the Kekchi Cacao-Chile balls around the table with a small cheese grater and invite your guests to grate a pinch of this super-hot condiment on the soup for extra heat and cacao flavor.

Kekchi Cacao-Chile Balls:

  1. Heat a griddle, medium-sized cast-iron skillet, or Mexican comal over medium heat. Add the cacao nibs and dry-roast for 2 minutes, until fragrant, turning constantly with a wooden spoon or spatula. Turn out into another container and set aside.
  2. Add the chiles, cinnamon stick, and allspice berries to the griddle and roast the same way, stirring for 2 minutes. Scrape into an electric spice mill or coffee grinder with the salt and paprika; grind to a fine powder.
  3. Combine the spice mixture and roasted cacao in a mini-food processor and process into a warm, sticky paste, 3 to 4 minutes, stopping to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Scrape out onto a work surface and shape into 12 small balls. Let sit until thoroughly dried. Store in a tightly sealed jar. When ready to use, grate over any dish of your choice.