Squash vine soup with corn dumplings: Sopa de guias con chochoyones
When we lived in Oaxaca, the vegetable stand on the corner sold all the fresh ingredients for this together in a bag. In that part of the country, it is a rainy season staple and has been since before the Conquest. The only addition after the Spaniards arrived was the lard in the corn dough for the dumplings.
It makes little sense to be a purist to the point of missing out on a good dish instead of making an acceptable substitution. The herb chepil, while sometimes found in farmers' markets in the U.S., is not commonly used outside of Mexico, but has a mild flavor reminiscent of baby spinach, which would be a good substitute. The essential ingredient in the soup is the squash, with each part of the plant being used. People who grow zucchini in their home gardens will be happy to know that here is a recipe that uses the vegetable itself, the flowers, and the vine. The corn masa dumplings go perfectly in this soup, and can be made with either store bought masa harina or fresh masa.
For the soup:
- 4 quarts water or chicken broth
- 3-4 ears of fresh corn, husked and sliced into 2 inch rounds
- 1 medium white onion, thickly sliced
- 1 head garlic, cloves peeled and chopped
- 6 cups tender young leaves and vines of a zucchini plant, stripped and cut up
- 3 cups chepil leaves or baby spinach leaves
- 1 ½ pounds long or round zucchini, cut into 1 inch thick pieces
- 2 ½ cups zucchini squash blossoms, washed, sepals and pistil removed
For the chochoyones (dumplings):
- ½ pound prepared corn masa or 1 cup masa harina
- 1 tablespoon lard
- ½ teaspoon salt
Place the water or broth, the corn, onion and garlic in a stockpot, bring to a boil, lower heat, cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Add the leaves and vines, the chepil, the squash and the blossoms, and continue cooking, covered, for another 30 minutes. Add salt to taste.
To make the chochoyones, mix the prepared masa with the lard and salt. If using masa harina, mix it with 1 cup plus 2 tablespoons water until a soft dough is formed. Cover it with a towel and let it rest for 15 minutes, then mix in the lard and salt.
Roll the dough into ¾ inch diameter balls. Make an indentation in each one with your index finger. Cook the chochoyones in the simmering soup until cooked through and tender.
Serve the soup and dumplings with lime wedges. Serves 8.
Corn, beans and squash: the life cycle of the milpa