Chayote Squash and Tomatillo Gazpacho

Recipe and photo by Tami Ganeles Weiser Yield:  8 servings (9 to 10 cups total)
Prep Time:  15 minutes Cook Time:  35 minutes

Chayote Squash and Tomatillo Gazpacho

Pale green and mild, this soup is a delight in contrasts. It is silky and smooth, yet the garnishes are crisp and crunchy and provide a punch of flavor. Tomatillos are mildly tart and no, they aren’t green tomato—they are a giant gooseberry. That tart underpinning contrasts with the super-mild chayote, a very underrated squash, which happily is now increasingly available at grocery stores. Honestly, this gazpacho recipe is seriously easy and seriously good.

Ingredients

3 chayote squash, unpeeled, pit removed (see Kitchen Tips) and cut into 6 pieces

10 small tomatillos, papery husks removed, cored at the stem end, and cut in half

3 shallots, peeled

4 garlic cloves, cut in half, any green germ discarded

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon ground mild ancho or guajillo chili powder

4 quarts low sodium, mild vegetable stock (see Kitchen Tips)

1 container (8 ounces) crème fraîche, Mexican crema or sour cream (see Kitchen Tips)

Garnishes:

¼ cup shredded baby spinach

1 large bunch flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped

6 celery stalks, including leaves, minced

6 mild small radishes, minced, optional

Instructions

  1. Place the chayote squash pieces, halved tomatillos, shallots, garlic, salt, chili powder, and vegetable stock in a medium saucepot over high heat. Bring to a strong boil and then lower to a simmer, and cook, uncovered for 30 minutes, or until the tomatillos are very soft and the chayote is soft when pierced with the tip of a sharp knife (the skin will feel different than the flesh, but it will feel soft and you can scrape it easily if you try).
  2. Remove from the heat and, using an immersion blender, puree until completely smooth. This can also be done in a blender or food processor with ease. Pour the completely smooth mixture into a container, cover, and refrigerate until completely chilled. This can be done up to a day in advance.
  3. Before serving stir in the crème fraîche, crema, or sour cream. Add any or all of the garnishes, stir well, and serve immediately.

Kitchen Tips

  1. Chayote, also known as mirliton (especially in New Orleans) is a mint green squash of delicate flavor and creamy texture. It has a large flat pit in the center, similar to a mango. To prep it, cut downward on both sides of the pit. The pit is not as hard as a stone-fruit pit and you can quite easily cut through it—but you should then go back with a tiny, sharp paring knife and cut it out.
  2. This soup is designed for the sweet and slightly tart balance of crème fraîche or Mexican  crema. Sour cream is a good substitute. You can use any lower-fat versions of those if you like. Sorry, but yogurt, Greek yogurt, goat’s milk yogurt, soy yogurt or any nut-based yogurt will absolutely not work. They will curdle and/or mar the flavors considerably.
  3. For this recipe, the vegetable stock should be as delicate as possible. It should not be tomato based (check the ingredient list on the pacakge), roasted, or super-strong tasting. If you only have strong stock on hand, use 1 cup of stock and 3 cups water. In a pinch, you could use 1 cup of a top quality all natural-butternut squash puree and 3 cups of water. It will make quite a different soup, but it will still be tasty.

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