Located in a charming, eclectically decorated bungalow with a tiny, lush garden terrace, La Esperanza is one of Havana’s most stylish paladares. In both its menu and décor, this restaurant reflects a Cuban creativity that shines through in spite of economic hardship and food shortages. Hubert, who handles the front of the house, and Manolo, the chef, produce interesting and flavorful dishes like this squash soup, using the best of what is available at the market that day. If there is cream in the larder, the soup will be richer, and if not, it will be lighter, but in either case what comes out of the La Esperanza’s kitchen will be good.
In a large, heavy saucepan, heat the oil over medium-low heat. Add the onion, garlic, cinnamon, and nutmeg and cook slowly until the onion is translucent, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the calabaza and broth. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cover, reduce the heat to low, and simmer until the calabaza is very tender, about 40 minutes.
In a blender or food processor with a steel knife blade, working in two or three batches, puree the calabaza mixture until smooth. Return the puree to the saucepan and stir in the cream. Season with salt and pepper and heat the soup gently, stirring often, until hot.
Ladle the soup into 4 to 6 individual soup bowls, top each serving with a crouton, and sprinkle with parsley.
© 2006 All rights reserved. Published by Abrams Books.