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!


Elliot MacLeod-Michael said...

I loved those books growing up so it only stands to reason I would love this.

ABnot said...

I loved the books too ;) And I saw fresh habaneros at the grocery store yesterday so I'm going to try it again soon with those!