Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Choose Your Own Adventure Soup

Hola! I am back home and starting to settle in after ten fun days in Playa del Carmen, Mexico. Before we left I was looking forward to fish tacos (and had some great ones!), but I was amazed and inspired by the variety and abundance of great food in the area. Besides delicious "local" Mexican food, we were lucky to find wonderful Mayan, Cuban, Argentinean, and even Italian food steps from our hotel. I unfortunately had a sore throat most of the trip, but that gave me an excuse to try something I might not have thought of on a hot day in Mexico: Sopa de Lima. I tasted a few versions, each a little different and all of them delicious! One thing they all included (besides lime juice) was the spicy kick of fresh habanero peppers. This Minnesota girl prides herself on gradually (we're talking years folks!) increasing her "heat" tolerance, but habanero has never been a pepper I have "enjoyed." Well, the riviera maya has forever changed me. I have a new appreciation for the flavor (not just the heat) of habanero - and the combination of fresh habanero and lime is a match made in heaven!

My favorite bowl of soup was served "choose your own adventure" style - a bowl of chicken and freshly chopped veggies in broth alongside a plate of "goodies" including lime wedges. I loved being able to "customize" my own soup and I realized how easy and fun it would be to make at home. Well, today was a warm day (96F) and instead of craving ice cream I craved sopa de lima, so I found a recipe online and changed it up a bit. I made mine vegetarian but as the name implies you could easily change that :)

 I was disappointed that H.E.B. didn't have any fresh habaneros today, but Rotel "hot" seemed to work well in a pinch..... *warning* this soup may make your upper lip sweat and your nose run!

Choose Your Own Adventure Sopa de Lima (serves 4 +)

2 quarts veggie or chicken broth
2 Tbsp virgin coconut oil
3 cups diced veggies (I used 2 cups white potatoes, 1/2 cup carrots, 1/2 cup turnips)
suggestions: celery, zucchini, bell peppers
1 medium yellow or red onion, finely diced and divided in half
3-4 scallions, chopped
6-10 cloves garlic, divided
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice or 8 allspice berries (if you don't mind "fishing" them out later)
2 cinnamon sticks
1/2 tsp cumin
2 small or 1 large avocado
2 cups fresh cilantro, divided: 1 cup chopped and 1 cup whole leaves
20 Mexican key limes or 5 large limes, plus 1/8 tsp lime zest
1 fresh habanero, stem and seeds removed, finely diced (wear gloves!)
15 oz can diced tomatoes (may substitute Rotel "hot" or "extra hot" if not using fresh habanero)
salt to taste

This is the Sopa de Lima "experience" I was trying to recreate. I didn't think to snap a photo until I had already added the ingredients  and started eating - I was a hungry monster ;)

I chose potatoes, carrots, and turnips because that's what came in this week's harvest basket.

1. Heat the coconut oil in a soup pot over medium heat, add half the white/red onion and cook until translucent.

2. Add habanero and garlic, cook for ~1 minute and then add chopped veggies, cooking until tender.
(If "heat" is an issue, you could serve the habanero on the individual "goodie" plates - with a safe handling warning of course)

3. Add diced tomatoes (or Rotel), broth, lime zest, allspice, cinnamon, cumin, and the chopped cilantro. Bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer at least 10 minutes (mine simmered 2 hours since Gerry got called for a contract job at supper time :)

4. While the soup is simmering, prepare individual "goodie" plates each with 2 cloves diced garlic, 1/8-1/4 cup diced yellow/red onion, several lime wedges (at least 5 key limes per person), 1/8 cup scallions, 1/8 cup cilantro leaves

5. Just before serving, slice avocado and add 3-4 slices to each plate.

6. Remove the cinnamon sticks (and allspice berries if used) and serve soup with plates of "goodies." Each person can add whatever they like for a truly "custom" experience. I personally add LOTS of lime, garlic, and cilantro. Gerry squeezed all the limes, dumped the whole rest of the plate in, and asked for more limes ;) We both loved this meal and I hope you do to!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Veggie and Bean Soup goes Tex-Mex

 I actually made this soup last night, but Gerry talked me into going out to eat when he got home (doesn't take much arm-twisting). Luckily, the flavor is supposed to improve after refrigerating and reheating (it even says so in the recipe ;) It was easy, hearty, healthy (minus the chips), and made about 6 servings.

I got the beans/veg dry mix in the bulk section at a certain natural grocery store which my biology professor refers to as "Whole Paycheck." I don't shop there regularly, but we were in the neighborhood last weekend and needed a few things...

Just a note about the cilantro. We've been getting a bunch of it from our CSA every week, but due to the frequency of recalls you may want to mist it with a vinegar wash before rinsing with water just to be extra safe. (I do it with all my fruits and veggies and I've never noticed any residual vinegar taste)

32-Bean & 8-Vegetable Soup (morphed into "tortilla" soup)

1 1/2 cups dry soup mix
*or 1 cup assorted dried beans and sub any mix of fresh veggies
12 cups chicken or veggie stock (I used chicken)
Various chopped fresh veggies (optional)
(I added 2 celery stalks, 6 baby carrots, and 1 cup left-over sweet peas)
1 15 oz can fire-roasted diced tomatoes (or 1-2 med fresh tomatoes, diced)
2 cloves fresh diced or 1 tsp dried flake garlic
1/2 sweet onion, diced
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
3 dried thai chilies (optional)
1/2 Tbsp chili powder
6 mexican key limes (reserve 1 for garnish)
1/4 cup fresh cilantro (reserve a few leaves for garnish)
sour cream
salt and black pepper to taste
1-2 Tbsp virgin coconut oil (or choice for sautéing)

tortilla chips (we prefer the "mexican kitchen" kind made with lard - the seasoning sticks better ;)
chip seasoning mix: paprika, turmeric, chili powder, and cumin to taste
(or substitute "chili-lime" flavor popcorn seasoning)

Sort and rinse bean soup mix.
Add mix and water to pot (1 part dry mix to 8 parts liquid) and bring to a boil.
Boil for 5 minutes.
Heat oil on medium and sauté onions and garlic until soft and translucent
Add onions, garlic, chopped veggies, cumin, turmeric, cayenne, chilies, and chili powder.
Simmer for 2-3 hours and then refrigerate overnight (will improve flavor :)
Next day (or 30 mns before serving):
Reheat soup, then add juice from 5 key limes and chopped cilantro, salt, and pepper.
Simmer for at least 30 mns.
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 300F.

When soup is almost ready spread tortilla chips on baking sheet and warm for ~5 mins (careful not to brown them)
Sprinkle warm chips with seasoning mix.
Serve soup with a dollop of sour cream and cilantro leaves, a few lime wedges and warm chips.

¡Buen Provecho Y'all!