Soups

Caldo de Oso

There is no bear in this soup. Nor is the soup named after any bear. In fact, there are zero bears to be found in the state of Chihuahua, where this soup comes from. Yet, I admit Pepe was right, it is a spectacular soup, and it is called caldo de oso (or bear soup).

I met Pepe a few months ago at a Telemundo news interview, while on book tour in Denver. He was the producer. As he walked me out of the building, we got caught up in a long, detailed conversation about soup, even though I was in a hurry to catch a plane. I don’t know what hooked me more in wanting to know every little thing about this soup: its curious name, how much he seemed to adore it, or the fact that I’ve never tried it although I’ve been to Chihuahua many times.

Well, here we go again. Another story, out of hundreds and hundreds of incredible stories and recipes I have learned while traveling the US. It turns out, each and every single Mexican I have met here is as passionate as I am about the Mexican food we grew up with. We are all a bunch of nostalgic food fanatics.

Anyway, back to the soup.

It turns out caldo de oso is insanely popular in Chihuahua. The thing is, it is not to be found in restaurants, but in homes. One reason I may have missed it all the times I visited. And considering how dearly loved it is, it makes the origin of its name even funnier.

Here goes the true story:

Almost a century ago, workers building the La Boquilla Dam, on the Conchos River in Camargo, used to make a fish soup every day with catfish, which were bountiful in that river. After eating it so often, instead of calling it caldo de pescado (or fish soup), they started calling it caldo odioso, which translates to hateful soup.

From saying caldo odioso again and again, the soup got the nickname caldo de oso – from the shortened odi-oso to oso. It is a common Mexican practice to make words smaller and use them in their diminutives or cute nicknames. And the name stuck: caldo de oso! However, other than the workers at the dam who ate it everyday, people in Chihuahua absolutely adore this soup.

So, Pepe gave me some tips, and he told me in detail how his mom makes it. I thoroughly researched it and tested it in my kitchen. And let me tell you, caldo de oso is totally worth the heavy nostalgia for it that Pepe carries around.

Caldo de Oso or Bear Soup recipe by Pati Jinich
Print Recipe
5 from 4 votes

Bear Soup

There is no bear in this soup. Nor is the soup named after any bear. In fact, there are zero bears to be found in the state of Chihuahua, where this soup comes from. Yet, I admit Pepe was right, it is a spectacular soup, and it is called caldo de oso (or bear soup). It turns out caldo de oso is insanely popular in Chihuahua. The thing is, it is not to be found in restaurants, but in homes.
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time40 mins
Course: Soup
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: ancho chiles, carrots, catfish, cilantro, fish broth, lime, onion, pati's mexican table, Pickled Jalapeños, potatoes, Tomatoes
Servings: 6 to 8 servings
Author: Pati Jinich

Ingredients

  • 2 dried ancho chiles stemmed and seeded
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2/3 cup white onion finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic finely chopped
  • 2 pounds ripe Roma tomatoes chopped
  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 8 cups seafood or fish broth or water
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt or to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 whole pickled jalapeño diced
  • 2 tablespoons vinegary sauce from pickled jalapeños
  • 2 cups carrots peeled and diced
  • 2 cups potatoes peeled and diced
  • 2 pounds catfish fillets cut into 2" pieces
  • 2 limes cut into wedges, to serve
  • 1/4 cup cilantro roughly chopped, to serve

Instructions

  • Place the ancho chiles in a bowl, cover with 2 cups boiling water, and let them sit for 10 minutes until they plump up and rehydrate.
  • In a soup pot, heat the butter and oil over medium heat. Once the butter is melted and bubbly, add the onion and cook for 4 to 5 minutes, until softened and the edges begin to brown. Add the garlic, stir and cook for a minute until fragrant. Increase the heat to medium-high and incorporate the chopped tomato, cook for 6 to 7 minutes, until softened. Sprinkle the flour on top of the cooking vegetables, stir well, and let cook for another minute or so, stirring frequently, until the flour starts to brown and smell toasty. Pour in the broth or water and bring to a simmer.
  • Meanwhile, place the ancho chiles along with a cup of their soaking water into a blender, and puree until completely smooth. Add the chile puree, along with the thyme, marjoram, oregano, cumin, bay leaf, salt, pepper, pickled jalapeño and its vinegar to the soup, and mix well. Once it returns to a simmer, reduce the heat to medium, and let it cook for 15 minutes with the lid ajar.
  • Add the carrots, potatoes, and fish pieces and continue to cook for 10 more minutes, until vegetables and fish are completely cooked through.
  • Serve hot, along with lime wedges and chopped cilantro for people to add to their taste. I like it with crusty bread, such as a baguette, on the side.

Notes

Caldo de Oso

Mole de Olla

I don’t think twice about eating a hot stew in the summertime. And, as far as I know, millions of Mexicans feel the same way.

You will see Pozole served in fondas in the middle of June, hot Caldo de Camarón as one of the most popular items on beach restaurant menus, and the famed Mole de Olla being ladled, sizzling hot from the pot, in markets all over the country at peak midday heat.

I’ve read that having something hot in the summer will actually cool you off. It turns out chiles are thought to have the same effect.  All these Mexican stews, quoted above, have rich broths that are usually flavored with one or more kinds of chiles.

I find these kinds of one-pot meals to be the epitome of how practical and creative human beings can be: economical, filling, and so tasty, they have all you need for a meal in a bowl. All cultures have their ways of making stews. In Mexico, Mole de Olla is a dearly loved one, and it is a dish that, unfortunately, hasn’t become popular abroad… yet.

Mole de Olla has little to do with the mole sauce so many people outside of Mexico equate with Mole Poblano. That delicious, super thick sauce made of dried chiles, seeds, nuts, spices, tomatoes, onion, garlic, chocolate, and numerous other ingredients ground together. Mole de Olla, however, (translates as Mole in a pot) is a revered stew.

As with many of the Mexican stews, the first step for a Mole de Olla is making a broth with the meat, along with some onion, garlic, and herbs. I particularly like to add fresh mint to mine. The meat is cooked until it is practically coming apart, and the broth is as flavorful as can be. The simmered herbs and veggies are removed, as by then they will be extremely mushy and most of their flavor transferred to the broth.

The second step is to take that rich-tasting broth to a higher dimension of flavor. A seasoning sauce is made with ancho and pasilla chiles, toasted sesame seeds, and tomatoes. Usually, xoconostles (a very tart and sour fruit of the cactus plant) are used, but since they are quite hard to find in the US, I substitute for tomatillos, which are tart, not as sour as xoconostles, but hey, they do the trick. The meat broth then simmers a second time as it marries with the seasoning sauce, adding so much depth of flavor: a gentle but addicting heat, a lovely acidity, and a whisper of nuttiness.

As a third step, fresh veggies are added. Corn, zucchini, chayote squash, green beans…but this time, the veggies are cooked just until tender and crisp and also full of flavor.

mole de olla

Mole de Olla is a humble dish. A stew made with a piece of meat and fresh veggies that are available year round. Yet, it turns out to be a full blown delicious meal. As anything Mexican, once it is set on the table and everyone gets a share of succulent meat, a lot of deep-tasting broth, and a share of all the veggies, extra garnishes are set on the table to dress it up and enhance the dish even more. You get a chance to squeeze in fresh lime juice to brighten up the stew, and you also get to spoon on crunchy and pungent white onion and cilantro.

This stew is a joy to eat. People eat it almost in a ceremonial fashion. Each person with a set style of their own. Some people eat the corn first, some people leave it for last. Some people first finish the broth and then go for the meat and veggies, or tuck them into tacos.

I eat a bit of everything as I move along. But one thing is definite: once I start, I don’t stop for a second, not even to look around. I sip a little broth, take a spoon with some veggies, some meat, more broth, and with my hands I take some bites of the corn… until there is almost absolutely nothing left in the bowl. At this point, I raise the bowl to finish the last sips of broth.

Then I wish for another go, just to repeat the experience. Though I always realize I am full, content, and feel so at home.

P.S. Fall is around the corner, and guess what, Mole de Olla is also fabulous for cold nights. So don’t store this recipe for the summer, keep it out, all year round.

mole de olla

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4.25 from 4 votes

Beef and Veggie Mole Stew

I find these kinds of one-pot meals to be the epitome of how practical and creative human beings can be: economical, filling, and so tasty, they have all you need for a meal in a bowl. All cultures have their ways of making stews. In Mexico, Mole de Olla is a dearly loved one, and it is a dish that, unfortunately, hasn’t become popular abroad… yet. Mole de Olla has little to do with the mole sauce so many people outside of Mexico equate with Mole Poblano. 
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time1 hr 30 mins
Course: Soup
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: Ancho, beef, chayote, Corn, green beans, lime, mint, onion, pasilla, pati's mexican table, stew, tomatillos, Tomatoes, Zucchini
Servings: 6 to 8 servings
Author: Pati Jinich

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds beef stew meat or beef shank meat cut into 1 1/2-inch to 2-inch chunks and bones added to the pot
  • 1/2 white onion
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon kosher or coarse sea salt or to taste
  • 10 cups water
  • 1 large sprig of fresh mint or between 10 and 12 leaves
  • 3 dried ancho chiles stemmed and seeded
  • 3 dried pasilla chiles stemmed and seeded
  • 1 pound (about 4) ripe tomatoes preferably Roma
  • 1/4 pound (about 1 or 2 depending on size) tomatillos
  • 2 tablespoons sesame seeds lightly toasted
  • 2 chayote squashes peeled and cubed (about 3 cups)
  • 1 large zucchini cubed (about 3 cups)
  • 3/4 pound green beans trimmed and cut into about 1-inch pieces (about 2 cups)
  • 3 ears of fresh corn husked and cut into thirds
  • 3/4 cup finely chopped white onion for garnish
  • 3/4 cup Chopped fresh cilantro for garnish
  • 3-4 limes quartered, for garnish

Instructions

  • In a large heavy-bottomed casserole or pot, place the meat, half onion, garlic cloves, bay leaves, mint and a tablespoon of salt. Cover with 10 cups of water and bring to a rolling boil over medium-high heat. Skim off any foam that rises to the surface, and reduce the heat to low or medium-low heat, cover and simmer for an hour.
  • Meanwhile, place the ancho and pasilla chiles in a medium bowl, cover with boiling water and let them rehydrate for 10 to 15 minutes. Place the tomatoes and tomatillos in baking dish under the broiler, until they are completely charred and mushy, about 10 minutes. In a small skillet set over medium heat, place the sesame seeds and toast, stirring constantly, anywhere from 1 to 2 minutes until they start to become golden brown, but not completely dark brown.
  • In the jar of a blender, place the soaked chiles, along with 1/4 cup of the soaking liquid, the broiled tomatoes and tomatillos, and the toasted sesame seeds, and puree until completely smooth.
  • Remove the lid from the large casserole, remove the cooked onion, mint and garlic cloves (if some remains, it is totally fine) and pour the chile mixture in with the meat. Stir, cover again and cook for another half hour.
  • Remove the lid, raise heat to medium heat, add the cubed chayote squash and the corn, and cook partially covered for 15 minutes. Add the green beans and zucchini, and cook partially covered for another 10 minutes. Taste for salt and add more if need be.
  • Serve in bowls, making sure that each bowl has a serving of meat, corn, chayote, green beans and zucchini. Place white onion, cilantro and halved limes at the table, for people to add as last seasonings and garnishes.
  • Note: Traditionally, this recipe uses xoconostles, which are hard to find in the US. Instead, I use tomatillos, which have a similar tart flavor.

Notes

Mole de Olla

Chipilí­n Soup with Masa and Fresh Cheese Dumplings

I have a thing for soups.

Doesn’t matter what time of day, what season of the year, what place I’m in, if I want tasty comfort my entire self craves a big bowl of soup.

As far as soups go, I have concocted some, I religiously repeat some I grew up eating, and then there are others I’ve become enamored with as I’ve ventured deeper into my home country’s cuisine.

As soon as my feet touch new territory, I search for its signature soup: the one everyone knows; the one everyone loves; the one present at every home kitchen. As easy as it may sound, sometimes those soups stir away from restaurants. Luckily, the first meal we had during our trip to Chiapas included that soup.

Chipilin Soup 1

It was at a touristy restaurant serving a regional specialties buffet. The broth was thick and brimming with Chipilí­n, an herb with a grassy taste (like a mellow version of spinach or a gentle variation of watercress) and a silky delicate bite. The best part of the soup was the corn masa dumplings, dfferent from other I’ve tried, these had queso fresco mixed in the masa or dough, resulting in fluffier balls with a deep soft bite.

A couple days later, I bought a big bowl of Chipilí­n soup at a small fonda in Chamula. I sat on the sidewalk and ate it as I watched the church procession pass by.

The Church of San Juan Chamula is one of Mexico’s most famous: probably the most controversial as well, for its wildly eclectic combination of indigenous, pagan and Catholic rituals. Not to mention it’s particular architecture and decorations.

This second version of the soup was lighter, yet it had much more color, like the doors in the photo above. A bit of tomato spiked the broth and I tasted a bit of green heat. Don’t ask me why it didn’t occur to me to take a photo of the soup. Instead, I took photos of the Señores below.

Chipilin Soup 2

Tzotzil Mayas, which form part of one of the twelve indigenous groups that live in this state, were getting ready to walk in the procession, with their unique attire made with goatskin. Some men wear black, some wear white…and the women make skirts in the same style.

If you have never heard “Tzotzil”, a Maya language, you have missed listening to one of the sweetest sounds. As delicate as those Chipilí­n leaves…

Chipilin Soup 3

Ok, back to the soup. That same day, I tried a third version.

A short ride away we landed in a restaurant with a sumptuous buffet that was different from the first. This one boasted a larger display of typical dishes from the region. Their Chipilí­n soup had a much clearer broth, as if the masa dumplings had been cooked separately from the final soup and incorporated in the end. It had less Chipilí­n leaves in the broth, making it look more elegant and light, and there was queso fresco to add as a garnish, as well as Mexican crema and small pieces of chicharrón.

Chipilin Soup 4

I tried a fourth version in a restaurant near the Palenque ruins (which can take anyone’s breath away and I am just adding more photos of the ruins because I can’t help myself…)

Chipilin Soup 5

…let me indulge… and yes I climbed up so high to look at that view…

Chipilin Soup 6

… here is a close up…

Chipilin Soup 7

Alright, back to the soup. This one had the smallest of masa balls, and different than the soups before, aside from having Chipilí­n in the broth, there was a generous amount of Chipilí­n chopped into the masa balls. It also had extra garnishes of more queso fresco and thick Mexican cream. But no chicharrón.

I did think about other things than trying more versions of the Chipilí­n soup and other foods I had no idea existed (which I will write about in other blog posts). Especially when we had the chance to learn about the insanely gorgeous textiles made in Chiapas…

Chipilin Soup 8

Once at San Cristobal de las Casas, I tried one last version of the soup in one of the restaurants in that busy street below. This soup included corn kernels in the broth. The contrast of that sweet crunch next to the soft masa balls in the flavored broth worked so well!

Chipilin Soup 9

No. I did not take a photo of it, because I didn’t know I was going to write about all the Chipilí­n soups I tried in Chiapas! Of course now I wish I had.

The good thing is that here is a recipe for you to try the soup.

You can find Chipilí­n in the US these days, especially in Latin markets in the Summer and Fall. I just found some at Panam market in DC.

It looks like this. It is so pretty I put a big bunch in a flower vase and admired it as I ate it away and the bunch kept getting thinner.

Chipilin Soup 10

Here is a close up, so you can see just how delicate the leaves are…

Chipilin Soup 11

If you can’t find it, you can substitute it with sliced baby spinach or watercress.

The recipe I am giving you here, was tested in my kitchen until I nailed down all the elements I enjoyed in the different versions: fluffy masa balls flavored with cheese, an abundance of Chipilí­n leaves in the broth but not in the masa balls, sweet crunchy corn seasoned along with the onion that makes the base of the soup, and cooking the masa balls in the soup so that as they cook, they thicken the broth. I find that extra thick broth to be irresisitible. It almost resembles atole or a very light porridge (in a good way).

Just like Chiapas is not so well known outside of Mexico, it’s cuisine remains to be enjoyed abroad. This soup has many of the features I recognized in the different meals I ate there: distinct, with a lot personality, yet at the same time homey, delicate and comforting. Thankfully, many of the ingredients used in Chiapas, are now accessible abroad too.

Chipilin Soup 12

A good soup recipe, I’ve learned, always comes in handy. Especially if it takes you somewhere. This one takes me right back to Chiapas.

Chipilin Soup Main
Print Recipe
4 from 2 votes

Chipilí­n Soup with Masa and Fresh Cheese Dumplings

The recipe I am giving you here, was tested in my kitchen until I nailed down all the elements I enjoyed in the different versions: fluffy masa balls flavored with cheese, an abundance of Chipilí­n leaves in the broth but not in the masa balls, sweet crunchy corn seasoned along with the onion that makes the base of the soup, and cooking the masa balls in the soup so that as they cook, they thicken the broth. I find that extra thick broth to be irresistible. It almost resembles atoleor a very light porridge (in a good way).
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time35 mins
Course: Soup
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: chicken broth, chipilí­n, Corn, masa, mexican crema, onion, queso fresco, Recipe, serrano chiles, soup
Servings: 6 to 8 servings
Author: Pati Jinich

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3/4 cup white onion chopped
  • 1 serrano chile finely chopped, seeding optional, add more or less to taste
  • 3 cups fresh corn kernels or thawed from frozen
  • 8 cups chicken broth
  • 3 cups packed chipilí­n leaves rinsed
  • 2 cups corn masa flour or Maseca
  • 1 3/4 cups water
  • 8 ounces or about 1 cup queso fresco crumbled, may substitute for farmer's cheese or a mild feta
  • 1/2 cup vegetable shortening or lard
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt divided
  • Mexican cream optional to garnish

Instructions

  • Heat oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook for about 4 to 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it has completely softened, the edges have begun to slightly brown and there is a sweet smell stemming from the pot. Add the chile, stir and cook for another couple minutes. Toss in the corn, stir and let it cook for about 3 to 4 minutes. Pour in the chicken broth. While it comes to a simmer, prepare the masa for the dumplings.
  • In a bowl, combine the corn masa flour with the water, the vegetable shortening and a pinch of salt. Combine and knead with your hands until the dough is soft and homogenous, it will take a minute. Add the crumbled queso fresco and knead into the dough.
  • Once the soup comes to a gentle simmer, add the chipilí­n leaves. Once it is heated through, lower the heat to low and start shaping the dumplings. With your hands, make about 1 to 1½" balls, as you make them, gently drop them into the soup. Once you are done with all the balls, let the soup cook for about 20 more minutes. It should be gently simmering. The balls should be cooked through and as they cooked in the soup they should have thickened to the consistency of a thin porridge. But it will be a most delicious one! Serve hot. You may garnish with some fresh cream on top of each individual soup bowl.

Notes

Sopa de Chipilín con Bolitas de Masa y Queso

Cucumber Soup with Mint, Jalapeño and Pomegranate

Last post was about that Cucumber Martini I could drink an entire pitcher of. It feels like a century has passed, and I have so, so, so many stories and recipes to share with you. But only now, after a wildly crazy hectic summer desperately missing this blog, am I able to sit down and write. And guess what? I have no choice but to continue with cucumbers!

This is why: I thought I knew cucumbers, I really did, until I visited Mr. Jose Luis Rodrí­guez Rojas’ cucumber green house in the state of Morelos, a state known as “Mexico’s Spring”. Cucumbers grown there are the slicers, ironically called pepino Americano or pepino común in Mexico. Slicers are the cucumbers mostly used in Mexico’s kitchens. And the ones I use all the time.

Now I know how little I knew about them.

Sure I have peeled, sliced, diced and julienned a gazillion and have used them in so many ways, from salads to sorbets. I know it’s taste: mild, watery, fresh, wanting to be lemony. I know it’s bite: soft yet crisp. I know the coolest trick to help them never be bitter (cut ends and rub the opposing sides before peeling).

But I had never seen their plants in their youngest form, as Miguel, one of the farmers showed me.

Cucumber Soup 1

Nor was I aware, that after just one month of protected care, they grow to have jungle like looks and size.

Cucumber Soup 2

Look at them!

If I could only embed here the moist and clean smell of the plants and the velvety feel of their immense fully grown leaves, I would be so pleased.

Cucumber Soup 3

Much to my surprise, the flowers from where those huge cucumbers grow from are delicate and feminine. Their color a strong yellow that seems to want to fade right before your eyes, just as their petals seem to tell you to please be careful if you dare touch them.

There are male and female cucumber flowers and they are both as pretty. It is the female pollinated flowers, which grow a miniature baby cucumber right behind, covered in tiny-prickly-thin-like thorns that protect it as it grows. So they have ways of telling you not to touch them.

Cucumber Soup 4

The flower holds on, as the cucumber grows. See below?

I marveled.

After a while, I had to make an effort to stop ooooohing and aaaaahing at every site (I have to act more my age, you know…).

Cucumber Soup 5

After they pick the cucumbers, they clean them and pack them up.

Cucumber Soup 6

Mr Jose Luis employs about 300 people a year. Each person I met, seemed proud about their job and meticulous in their care of the green house facilities and mostly, the plants. “No one kneels here to work”, Mr. Jose Luis repeated a couple times, “work here is worthy, dignified”. Truth is, it genuinely felt that way. It seemed that people felt vested in the business. Their faces lit up when I asked any question that popped out of my mouth (if you know me by now you know I have an endless stream of questions…).

Crazy Nacho Guani, who was filming with Cortez Brothers and I (for Season 2, which launches this weekend, yey!) was filming up there like a wild monkey (if you knew Nacho you’d know he climbs anything that has any height… )

Cucumber Soup 7

Mr Jose Luis’ chest seems to burst as he talks about the history of his green house, more so about the vegetables he grows. He drastically changed careers, like I did too. He, also, has never looked back.

After spending the day, Mr Jose Luis, who could not have been more friendly, asked if we were hungry. We were starved. He immediately offered to take us to his favorite place for a late lunch-early dinner. But that’s another story.

Cucumber Soup 8

Lesson learned, yet again: no ingredient, no single one is common. Even if it goes by the name pepino común, or common cucumber. Not even if you have used it a thousand ways and have chopped it a gazillion times.

Getting to know cucumbers, from flower to tops, made me think of so many new ways to use them. In a cold soup? With a bit of a bite from a jalapeño? With the wide echo from some mint? Topped with something sweet and crunchy and tart to make it all go wild in your mouth?

I played with the idea and once that I nailed a take I liked, I can’t stop making it.

Think of it as a Mexican tzatziki or as a white cucumber gazpacho of sorts… Or better yet, indulge me please and just make it. To boot: takes but 2 minutes in the blender.

p.s. Party or Holidays coming soon? Serve it in little mugs or cups for people to drink and munch along.

Cucumber Soup main
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5 from 1 vote

Cucumber Soup with Mint, Jalapeño and Pomegranate

Getting to know cucumbers, from flower to tops, made me think of so many new ways to use them. In a cold soup? With a bit of a bite from a jalapeño? With the wide echo from some mint? Topped with something sweet and crunchy and tart to make it all go wild in your mouth? I played with the idea and once that I nailed a take I liked, I can’t stop making it.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time5 mins
Course: Soup
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: cucumber, jalapeno, lime, mint, onion, pati's mexican table, pomegranate, yogurt
Author: Pati Jinich

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 cups thick Greek yogurt
  • 3 pounds slicer/common cucumbers about 2 1/2
  • 1 tablespoon red onion chopped
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tablespoon jalapeño chopped or more to taste (seeding optional)
  • 15 mint leaves
  • 2 tablespoons fresh squeezed lime juice
  • 1 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt or more to taste
  • 3/4 cup pomegranate seeds or more to taste

Instructions

  • Wash cucumbers, cut the ends and use them to rub the opposing cut ends of the cucumber. Peel and cut lengthwise into 4 long strips and slice off the seeds. Discard the seeds and cut into chunks.
  • In the jar of a blender, place the yogurt, cucumbers, red onion, garlic, jalapeño, mint, lime juice and salt.
  • Puree until smooth. Pour inside a mug or container and store in refrigerator until ready to serve.
  • Serve and sprinkle pomegranate seeds on top.

Notes

Sopa de Pepino con Jalapeño, Menta y Granada

Creamy Poblano Soup

Growing up in Mexico City, I didn’t know a single person who celebrated Cinco de Mayo, except for the people who lived in the state of Puebla. We didn’t even get the day off! Sure we studied it in school–the unprecedented victory of a small Mexican militia against the large French army in 1862–but it was a short-lived victory, as the French won right back.

Fast forward 150 years to 2012: the French and Spanish are gone; Mexicans proudly celebrate Independence Day every September 16; yet, for reasons few of us can explain, Cinco de Mayo has become the greatest, most joyous, colorful celebration–for Mexicans living abroad. As strange as the nostalgia is, the longer I live abroad, the stronger the impact Cinco de Mayo has within my soul. These words fluff up like soft conchas right out of the oven, getting fluffier, sweeter and more comforting as the years go by.

As do so many Mexicans (and, increasingly, non-Mexicans), I celebrate anything that can be celebrated about our Mexicaness: our heritage, resilience, hard-working and accommodating nature, our warmth, hospitality, generosity, the vibrancy and richness of our music, dance and food. Above all, our tendency to tirar la casa por la ventana (to throw out the house through the window) when it comes to throwing a party.

Thankfully, as Cinco de Mayo celebrates its 150th anniversary this year, the spotlight is finally being cast on Puebla, the place where that famous battle took place. At last, the celebration that has become the rage beyond Mexico’s borders is coming back to the place where it originated. It’s about time!

Puebla is a hidden treasure, a colonial jewel with rich history, architecture, arts and culture, coupled with an exquisite overlay of modernity. Most important, its one of Mexico’s main culinary hubs.

Creamy Poblano Soup 1

Some of our most iconic (and most labor intensive) dishes come from Puebla, born in convents where Spanish and Mexican cuisines wedded so beautifully. There’s the classic mole Poblano, with its layers of complex flavors subtly coming together once in your mouth; and there’s the colorful chiles en Nogada whose red, white and green represents the Mexican flag.

Yet Puebla is also home to a bounty of homestyle accessible dishes like the chicken tinga and the corn torte. And it’s home to one of my favorite Mexican ingredients: the chile Poblano. See below? That is how many Poblano chiles I go through a week in my house.

Creamy Poblano Soup 2

This key ingredient has never ceased to charm me, from the moment I get it at the store to the moment I taste its exuberant, fruity flavor. It is, quite simply, sublime. Each time I cook a dish with a Poblano it feels like a celebration, as if I were right there in Puebla, but the party just happens to unfold inside of my home.

If you can’t get to Puebla anytime soon, try this soup for a Cinco de Mayo moment, be it Cinco or not.

Article written for and published by NBC Latino, poblano soup photo by Jack Foley.

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4.5 from 4 votes

Creamy Poblano Soup

This key ingredient has never ceased to charm me, from the moment I get it at the store to the moment I taste its exuberant, fruity flavor. It is, quite simply, sublime. Each time I cook a dish with a Poblano it feels like a celebration, as if I were right there in Puebla, but the party just happens to unfold inside of my home. If you can’t get to Puebla anytime soon, try this soup for a Cinco de Mayo moment, be it Cinco or not.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time25 mins
Course: Soup
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: chicken broth, Corn, milk, onion, poblanos, Recipe, soup
Servings: 4 to 5 servings
Author: Pati Jinich

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 cups chopped white onion
  • 5 to 6 poblano chile peppers (about 1 1/2 pounds total) roasted or charred, sweated, peeled, seeded and diced
  • 2 cups corn kernels shaved from a cooked fresh ear of corn, or cooked from thawed
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt or to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper or to taste
  • 3 cups chicken broth may substitute for vegetable broth
  • 1 cup milk

Instructions

  • Place a large soup pot over medium heat; add oil and butter. Once the butter melts and begins to sizzle, add the onion. Cook the mixture, stirring occasionally, until the onions have completely softened, everything is cooked through and the edges turn slightly brown (about 10 minutes total).
  • Add the poblano chiles, stir and let them cook along with the onion for 3 to 4 minutes.
  • Make some room in the middle of the pot; add the corn and sprinkle the salt and pepper. Let everything cook, stirring occasionally, for another 3 to 4 minutes.
  • Pour in the chicken broth. Let it come to a simmer and cook for 3 to 4 additional minutes so the flavors start to blend. Reduce the heat to low, wait for about a minute, and slowly pour in the milk.
  • Heat the soup thoroughly for about 6 to 8 minutes, without letting it simmer or boil (if you do, it will appear curdled but still taste fine). Serve hot. Makes about 5 cups.

Notes

Crema Poblana

Mushroom-Jalapeño Matzo Ball Soup

My grandfather on my mother’s side, Francisco, whom we called “Yeye,” was wild about chiles. Not very common in his native Bratislava, I guess. He used to say that what he loved the most about his new country was the predictable weather (especially the bright sunny winters), the colorful markets, and most of all, the chiles. All of them.

He was oh so very crazy about them, that my grandmother used to hide them from him. She complained that he had no boundaries, no sense of measure, when eating chiles. He simply would not stop.

But he knew all her tricks, discover all her hiding spots, and when he found the prized chiles, he would stuff them in his pockets. Not only fresh jalapeños or serranos but also wet pickled jalapeños... Those must have been some messy pockets to wash…

My “Lali,” liked to please him though. She had Austrian training in the kitchen and made exquisite and elegant foods. Once in Mexico, she fell in love with the cuisine and learned how to combine the two culinary traditions. She became a master at it.

She created a classic dish out of her Mushroom-Jalapeño Matzo Ball Soup.

Mushroom-Jalapeño Matzo Ball Soup 1

See? Just because you add a chile to something does not mean it becomes Mexican. You have to know how to add it, how much of it, and most importantly, when to not add….not every dish that is Mexican has a chile in it.

Lali made a mushroom base with a traditional Mexican treatment. Gently cooked onion, garlic and chopped jalapeños (with the seeds please) until the edges begging to brown. Then, she added the mushrooms and covered them, so they would steam in the mix. Once their liquids came out, she would open the pot again and let them dry, and begin to brown.

Mushroom-Jalapeño Matzo Ball Soup 2

Of the thousands of ways to use chiles, steaming them with other ingredients brings out their flavor in such a subtle way.

Then she poured her home made chicken broth on top.

Her Matzo balls were fluffy, round and simply seasoned with parsley (which has been growing so happily in my garden).

Mushroom-Jalapeño Matzo Ball Soup 3

Grated nutmeg is also added to the matzo ball mix. No need to add freshly ground black pepper.

Mushroom-Jalapeño Matzo Ball Soup 4

The eggs are the glue that holds the matzo balls together, combined with a bit of oil…

Mushroom-Jalapeño Matzo Ball Soup 5

Then she had a trick to make the matzo balls fluffy. That is, if you like them fluffy. Which most of my family does.

It seems that the main division in the matzo ball world, is between those that like the matzo balls hard and those that like them fluffy. Cooks debate all the time on how to make them fluffy or hard: more egg or less egg, more oil or less oil, matzo meal or matzo mix…

My grandmother’s trick to make them fluffy was to add sparkling water. But just a tablespoon for a full recipe. I always separate a bit of the mix without any, because I am the only one around here that likes the matzo balls hard.

Mushroom-Jalapeño Matzo Ball Soup 6

 

As much as my grandfather begged, my grandmother added little jalapeños. She argued that one needs to taste everything else, which in principle sounds right. But if he were here, I would make him an extra batch, with as many jalapeños I could find in my backyard. And there are oh so many…

Mushroom-Jalapeño Matzo Ball Soup 7

pati jinich mushroom jalapeno matzo ball soup
Print Recipe
5 from 5 votes

Mushroom-Jalapeño Matzo Ball Soup

My “Lali,” liked to please him though. She had Austrian training in the kitchen and made exquisite and elegant foods. Once in Mexico, she fell in love with the cuisine and learned how to combine the two culinary traditions. She became a master at it. She created a classic dish out of her Mushroom-Jalapeño Matzo Ball Soup.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Course: Soup
Cuisine: Jewish, Mexican
Keyword: chicken broth, jalapeno, Jewish Mexican, matzo, Mushroom, nutmeg, parsley, pati's mexican table, Recipe, soup
Servings: 6 to 8 servings
Author: Pati Jinich

Ingredients

  • 1 cup matzo ball mix
  • 2 tablespoons parsley finely chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher or coarse sea salt or to taste
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tablespoon sparkling water optional, to make the matzo balls fluffy
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup white onion finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove finely chopped
  • 2 jalapeño chiles finely chopped, seeded optional, more or less to taste
  • 1/2 pound white mushrooms wiped clean with cloth, sliced
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt or to taste
  • 8-10 cups chicken broth

Instructions

  • In a large mixing bowl, combine the matzo ball mix, parsley, nutmeg, and 1 teaspoon of salt. In another small bowl, lightly beat the eggs with 1/3 cup of vegetable oil. Fold in the beaten eggs to the matzo ball mixture with a spatula. Add the sparkling water if you want the matzo balls fluffy, and mix well until well combine. Cover the mix and refrigerate for at least half an hour.
  • Bring about 12 cups of salted water to a rolling boil in a large soup pot. Bring heat down to medium and keep at a steady simmer. With wet hands, make about 1 inch balls out of the matzo ball mix and gently drop them into the water. Cover and simmer for about 25 to 30 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, heat a couple of tablespoons of oil over medium heat in a large cooking pot. Add the onion, garlic and chiles and sauté for 4 to 5 minutes until they have softened. Incorporate the sliced mushrooms. sprinkle the salt, stir and cover with a lid. Steam the mushrooms for about 6 to 8 minutes.
  • Take off the lid and pour the chicken broth over the mushroom base. Once it is simmering, incorporate the already cooked matzo balls, without their cooking liquid, and serve.

Notes

Sopa de Bolas de Matzo con Hongos y Jalapeño

Pozole: Try It Green!

Red pozole, or Pozole Rojo, Jalisco style, has been my favorite pozole of all time. It is bold and gorgeous in every possible way. I am so attached to it, we even served it at our wedding.

For decades now, I’ve refused to replace it with another… And then, I tried a unique green version, Pozole Verde, Guerrero style. It has not surpassed my Pozole Rojo, but it is attempting to tie with it at my table. And that is a lot to say.

Treasured all around Mexico, pozole has many variations, mainly green, red and white. Each distinct and beautiful, and coincidentally, represent the colors of the Mexican flag. Since September is the month of Mexican independence and The Day of El Grito is just around the corner, there is no excuse not to find an excuse to celebrate! And in my mental Mexican dictionary, pozole equals celebration.

Pozole has been made for centuries, and according to Fray Bernardino de Sahagún, a Spanish missionary, Moctezuma -greatest Aztec Emperor of all times-, would honor the God of the Sun by eating and serving it. I don’t know though, what color it was!

What makes a pozole red or green is the seasoning sauce added to the stew. If there is no sauce, it is a white pozole. Though there are many kinds of green pozole, they all use green ingredients, and this one has: tomatillosepazote (or cilantro if you can’t find it), pumpkin seeds and jalapeños.

greeningre.jpg
Making that green seasoning sauce is simple. Tomatillos, garlic and chile simmer in water until the color of the tomatillos changes from bright, happy and loud to a mellow green. The texture goes from firm, to very mushy, but not coming apart.

The toasted pumpkin seeds are ground, they are pureed with that cooked tomatillo mix and white onion. The pumpkin seeds give the sauce a nutty, velvety base. Then the sauce is taken a step further and simmered until it is seasoned, thickened and its flavors have concentrated. It must be powerful, as it will dilute in the pozole. See? The spoon on the left has the green sauce before it is seasoned.

sauce.jpg

 What is common about any pozole is not only the many garnishes that dress it at the end, but also the very large corn known here as hominy, and in Mexico as maí­z cacahuacintle, also known as maí­z mote and giant corn. It gives pozole its signature mealy bite.

Cooking hominy is simple, but takes a while, so it is available already cooked in cans or refrigerated bags if you do not feel like preparing it. This is how it looks when you buy it at the stores before cooking.

hominyingredients.jpg

But I love to cook it at home. It is as simple as throwing it in a pot, covering it in water and waiting for it to “bloom”.  Literally, when it opens up at the top, you know it’s ready.

cookedhominy.jpg
Just like when cooking beans, add salt after they are cooked, or they will toughen up.Then in a big pot, combine the cooked hominy, the shredded chicken that was simmered in a simple broth (complete recipe below) as much green pozole sauce as you want, and a leafy stem of epazote, which will have anywhere from 5 to 10 leaves. If you don’t find epazote, add like 5 sprigs of cilantro. I personally add all the sauce. Then, you want to let all the ingredients cook together for about 20 minutes.

Once it is ready: dress it up! Radishes, lettuce, white onion, ground dried chile, oregano and quartered limes to squeeze juice on top, are placed at the table for you to choose. Tostadas to be munched on the side. And, in particular for the green pozole, Mexican avocado and chicharrones (crispy pork rind), are often too, which gives it an extra crunch. If you find some, add it on!
Whatever you choose, do squeeze fresh lime juice onto it.
Pozole is so popular in Mexico that there are pozolerí­as, restaurants that only serve pozole. That would be like a restaurant in the US that only served chicken noodle soup! How is that possible? Take a bite into this one-stop meal. You’ll see.
soup2.jpg
P.S. Pozole tastes even better reheated. Great excuse for making the soup ahead of time. Also, watch out for this recipe: It serves a hungry party of 12.
green pozole or pozole verde
Print Recipe
4.6 from 5 votes

Green Pozole

Red pozole, or Pozole Rojo, Jalisco style, has been my favorite pozole of all time. It is bold and gorgeous in every possible way. I am so attached to it, we even served it at our wedding. For decades now, I’ve refused to replace it with another… And then, I tried a unique green version, Pozole Verde, Guerrero style. It has not surpassed my Pozole Rojo, but it is attempting to tie with it at my table. And that is a lot to say.
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time3 hrs 30 mins
Course: Soup
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: chicken, chile, cilantro, epazote, hominy, jalapeno, lime, piquí­n chiles, pumpkin seeds, radish, Recipe, soup, tomatillos, tortilla chips
Servings: 12 to 15 servings
Author: Pati Jinich

Ingredients

For the white pozole:

  • 1 pound dried hominy rinsed, the same as giant white corn or maiz mote pelado
  • 1 head garlic
  • 2 whole chickens or about 6 pounds, cut up in serving pieces, rinsed (combine with pork butt or shoulder if desired)
  • 1 onion
  • Couple fresh cilantro sprigs
  • 1 tablespoon kosher or course sea salt or to taste

For the green pozole sauce:

  • 1/2 cup pumpkin seeds lightly toasted
  • 1 pound tomatillos husks removed, rinsed
  • 1 to 2 jalapeños stemmed
  • 1 fresh large leafy stem of epazote or 5 sprigs cilantro
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1/3 cup onion coarsely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt or to taste
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil

For the garnishes:

  • 5 to 6 limes cut in half
  • 10 radishes rinsed, halved and thinly sliced
  • 1 head of romaine lettuce rinsed, drained and thinly sliced
  • 4 tablespoons onion finely chopped
  • 1 Mexican avocado halved, pitted, meat scooped out and dried
  • Piquí­n chile or a Mexican mix of dried chiles, ground
  • dried oregano crumbled
  • Tostadas or totopos

Instructions

  • Place the hominy in a large soup pot with cold water at least 3 inches on top. Take off the dried skin layers from the head of garlic and add it into the pot. Do not add salt, because the hominy will toughen. Bring to a boil, then gently simmer over low medium heat uncovered for 3 hours or until hominy is tender and has begun to "bloom" or open up. Alternatively, you can buy precooked hominy and continue from this point.
  • In the meantime, place chicken in a large soup pot and cover with at least 1 inch of water above. Add white onion, cilantro and a tablespoon of salt and bring to boil. Simmer uncovered until chicken is cooked and tender, about 30 minutes. Drain and reserve the cooking liquid. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, remove the skin and the bones, and shred the meat into bite size pieces.
  • Meanwhile, make the green pozole sauce. Place tomatillos, garlic and chile in a medium 3-quart saucepan. Cover with water and set over medium-high heat. Bring to a simmer; cook until the tomatillos have changed color from a bright to a dull green and are soft but not breaking apart, about 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and reserve 1/2 cup of the cooking liquid. Drain the cooked vegetables and set aside.
  • In a blender, add toasted pumpkin seeds and chop until finely ground. Then add the cooked tomatillos, jalapeños and garlic, onion, salt and reserved liquid. Puree until smooth. Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium high heat until hot. Add the tomatillo sauce from the blender. Bring to a boil and simmer 15 to 18 minutes, stirring occasionally, so it will thicken, season and deepen its color.
  • When the hominy is ready, incorporate the shredded chicken and its cooking broth. Add the green pozole sauce and the epazote or cilantro. Let it cook for 30 minutes more. Check for seasoning - at this point I always add more salt - and serve.
  • You may present the Pozole in a big soup pot and place the garnishes in smaller bowls on the side. Each person can serve Pozole in their individual soup bowls, and then add as many garnishes to their soup as they would like. I do, however, recommend that some fresh lime juice be squeezed into it! Tostadas or totopos are eaten on the side.

Notes

Pozole Verde

Where to Find Caldo de Camarón? Make Your Own…

When I was in high school in Mexico City, Tecamacharlie’s was one of the most popular meeting spots. The name came from Tecamachalco, the neighborhood where it sits tucked away in a corner, and the chain of Restaurants it belongs to, Anderson’s Carlos & Charlies. There, my friends and I would meet some Friday afternoons after school, to have a late and long lunch or comida and embrace the weekend.

Even before school started those Friday mornings, there would be one thing in my mind: Tecamacharlie’s top notch Caldo de Camarón. A rich and thick soupy broth made with dried and salted shrimp, and seasoned with a base of Guajillo chile sauce.

A soup so flavorful and filling, it was served as a courtesy as soon as you finally sat down in that incredibly busy and loud place. The waiters brought it out of the kitchen still simmering, served in a little caballito, the little glass shots used to serve Tequila.

There were plump limes already quartered at the table, waiting to be squeezed into the soup before you drank it in one gulp. If you were lucky, the bottom of the shot had a shrimp, and maybe a couple pieces of potato and carrot. Then you could stick your fork or finger in there, to eat those little treasures that tasted like adventures at the sea port. Far away from the City.

Caldo de Camaron 1

 

That was 20 years ago and I haven’t been back to that Restaurant since those teen years. So I can’t vouch for how good it is these days… Plus, nostalgia has its way of overpowering memories sometimes too.

But one can find that Caldo de Camarón, with slight variations in many restaurants in Mexico city, and it is even more popular throughout the long Mexican coasts.

The latest one I’ve tried and I think even a better one, regardless of the power of nostalgia, is at one of the Guadiana Restaurants, which I always visit each time I go to the city.

Caldo de Camaron 2
As much as I have looked, there is no Caldo de Camarón to be found around DC. But one can find the handful of ingredients that the soup calls for. Although they are just a handful, they have enough personality to power a rock band.

The dried shrimp, of course, pictured above. Which need to be soaked for 5 to 10 minutes, as they have been salted not only to concentrate their flavor but also to preserve them, so the salt is, truly, intense.  Then the shrimp are rinsed and cooked in water, creating a broth which provides the main and matchless flavoring of the soup.

Then, the Guajillo chiles, with their mild heat and crowd pleasing taste. After they are quickly stemmed, seeded and toasted…

…beautifully toasted, really, look at the color…

Caldo de Camaron 3
They are then simmered with one of Mexico’s workhorse combinations: onion, garlic and tomato. Some people add parsley to the mix. Some add Bay Leaf, like me.

Caldo de Camaron 4
That goes into the blender, and then strained into a pot with some hot oil waiting to season the mix.

Caldo de Camaron 5
Once seasoned, in goes that deep amber colored dried shrimp broth.

Caldo de Camaron 6
The traditional cubed potatoes and carrots…

I like to add more than the usual recipes call for, so that neither me nor my guests have to be hunting those little soft chunks in the soup bowl.

Caldo de Camaron 7
When the shrimp have cooled, remove their heads, tails, and legs. Most cooks keep the shells on. They are a salty and crunchy addition in the soup. However, you can remove the shells if you feel like it. For a softer feel. Then cook for 10 more minutes so all of the flavors can come together.

Caldo de Camaron 8
Do serve the soup really hot. And always, always, always, have fresh limes ready to be squeezed in the soup.

Caldo de Camaron 9
That fresh squeezed lime juice is what makes all of the flavors in the soup, truly shine.

Print Recipe
4.75 from 4 votes

Dried Shrimp Soup

A rich and thick soupy broth made with dried and salted shrimp, and seasoned with a base of Guajillo chile sauce. A soup so flavorful and filling, it was served as a courtesy as soon as you finally sat down in that incredibly busy and loud place. The waiters brought it out of the kitchen still simmering, served in a little caballito, the little glass shots used to serve Tequila.
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time45 mins
Course: Soup
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: achiote paste, garlic, guajillo chiles, lime, onion, potatoes, Recipe, seafood, Shrimp, soup, Tomatoes
Servings: 6 to 8 servings
Author: Pati Jinich

Ingredients

  • 1 pound Mexican dried shrimp
  • 3 ounces guajillo chiles about 8-10 chiles
  • 1/4 pound ripe tomatoes
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 large slice of onion or about 3 tablespoons, roughly chopped
  • 1 pound potatoes rinsed, peeled and cubed
  • 1/2 pound carrots rinsed, peeled and cubed
  • 3 to 4 limes
  • 2 tablespoons oil

Instructions

  • Cover the shrimp with cold water and let sit for 15 minutes. Drain the shrimp, rinse them and place them in a medium pot. Cover the shrimp with 10 cups of water and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Once at a simmer, lower the medium heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Strain the broth, reserving both the broth and the shrimp. Allow everything to cool.
  • Once the shrimp have cooled, remove the heads, tails and legs from the shrimp. Be sure to keep the shells on the shrimp if you want them to add some crunch to the soup.
  • Remove the stems and seeds from the chiles and place them on a hot comal. Toast until their color changes to opaque, for about 10 to 15 seconds and flip to the other side.
  • Place the chiles, tomatoes, garlic, bay leaves, and onion into a saucepan and cover with water. Simmer for 10 minutes over medium heat, then puree until smooth.
  • Over medium heat, add two tablespoons of oil to a large soup pot. Strain the puree over the oil and then simmer for 8 to 10 minutes over medium-high heat, allowing the puree to season and thicken.
  • Add the shrimp broth, potatoes, carrots, and shrimp to the puree and simmer for 10 minutes over medium-high heat.
  • Serve the soup with fresh lime to drizzle over the top.

Notes

Caldo de Camarón

Fava Bean Soup: Time to go Mainstream!

When I think about my mother, I think about her fava bean soup (fine, and a couple other things too…). That’s how strong an impact that soup has had on me.

But not many people are wild about favas, habas in Spanish. Different from pasta or potatoes, Favas haven’t gone mainstream.

Okay. I can see why.

First, the fact that they come in many forms can be confusing (fresh in their pod, fresh out of the pod, dried with their skin on, or dried and peeled). Also, the ways to cook them in their different forms haven’t been widely publicized. On top of that, favas have a strong flavor that can be overpowering, and to some, hard to bear.

Now, bear with me here. If you know what form of favas to get for which kind of dish, the confusion is almost gone. With the right recipe, the confusion evaporates further and their overpowering flavor is tamed. Thus… beloved cooks, favas become what they must: filling, rich, wholesome and deliciously intense.

dried and peeled favas

Since we are almost in the middle of winter, and I started talking about my mother’s soup, let’s consider dried favas which can be found year round and store forever in your pantry (fresh ones are found from Spring to Summer).

You can find them with shells on, like these on top. They are pretty, but you need to soak them, cook them and peel them. Quoting my mother: “Ay no Pati, eso de pelar una por una es una monserga” (translates to something like: peeling them one by one is a pain).

If you are looking for a relaxing therapy that will take hours, that’s fine. If you are not, go for the already peeled dried favas, like the ones below. They don’t look as pretty, but have more personality.

dried favas skin on
To cook: Soak them in cold water anywhere from 2 to 12 hours. If you forgot to soak them, they will take a bit longer to cook, that’s all.

soaking favas
Now, drain them and place them in a pot with chicken broth and let them simmer, with the cover ajar, for about 50 to 55 minutes. They will be soft, thoroughly cooked and coming apart. That’s what you want.

See the broth? Its thick and lightly hay colored. Soothing looking already…

cooked fava beans
Next step, seasoning base: tomatoes, onion and garlic. My mom makes a rustic kind of soup. She chops the tomatoes, onion and garlic, cooks them with a little oil for 5 minutes and adds it to the cooked fava beans and broth.

I prefer a more smooth version of the soup because:
a) It lets me trick my monsters into eating the beans.
b) It looks more fancy if I want to serve it to guests.
c) With this cold, I find it much more comforting.
d) I like creamy things, so let me indulge myself.

So, I puree the fava beans with the broth once they are ready.

pureed fava beans
As for the seasoning base, with the blender in working mode, I puree the tomatoes with the onion and the garlic too….

tomatoes garlic onion
Cook that nice and thick puree over medium high heat for 5 or 6 minutes, until it thickens and darkens its color. Which means that the ingredients have seasoned and transformed from having a raw flavor to a cooked one.

tomato puree
Pour the fava bean and chicken broth puree right on top of that seasoned tomato base. Add salt, pepper, a pinch of cumin and let it all come together and season for about 10 more minutes.

Meanwhile, slice some bolillos, teleras or baguettes.

slicing baguette
Brush them with a light coat of olive oil, on both sides, if you must. Toast them until tanned and crispy.

brushing baguette
With the soup seasoned and thickened, you are ready to pour it into a bowl.

serving soup
Lay a piece of toast right on top…

place bread on soup
Crown it with some Pasilla chile crisps if you want an extra layer of flavorful crunch (see recipe below).

garnish with pasilla crisps
And jump in.

fava bean soup
Just watch as that piece of toast jumps in along with me.

fava bean soup
And if this blog had sound you would have heard the toast crack in the midst of that fava bean bath…

fava bean soup
And yes it is fabulous! What are you waiting for?

Print Recipe
5 from 1 vote

Fava Bean Soup with Crunch Toasts and Pasilla Crisps

When I think about my mother, I think about her fava bean soup (fine, and a couple other things too…). That’s how strong an impact that soup has had on me. But not many people are wild about favas, habas in SpanishDifferent from pasta or potatoes, Favas haven’t gone mainstream.
Prep Time2 hrs
Cook Time1 hr
Course: Soup
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: bolillo, chicken broth, cumin, fava beans, garlic, onion, pasilla, pati's mexican table, Tomatoes
Servings: 6 servings
Author: Pati Jinich

Ingredients

  • 1 pound fava beans peeled and dried
  • 12 cups chicken broth
  • 1 pound ripe Roma tomatoes quartered
  • 1/2 cup white onion roughly chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves peeled
  • 3 tablespoons safflower oil corn or vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • Pinch of cumin
  • 2 pasilla chiles stemmed, seeded, and cut into small strips and quickly fried
  • 6 diagonal slices of bolillo telera or baguette, lightly brushed with oil and toasted
  • Olive oil to brush over the toast

Instructions

  • In a bowl, cover the fava beans with cold water and let them soak anywhere from 2 hours to overnight. Drain. Place the lima beans and chicken broth in a large soup pot set over medium heat. Let it come to a medium simmer with the lid ajar and cook until the beans are thoroughly cooked and tender, about 50 to 55 minutes. Turn off the heat and let them cool a little bit. Puree in batches in the blender. Place in a container or a large bowl.
  • Meanwhile, puree the tomatoes along with the onion and garlic until smooth. In a large soup pot, heat 3 tablespoons oil over medium-high heat. Once it is hot, but not smoking, pour in the tomato puree. Let it cook, stirring occasionally, until it deepens in color and thickens, about 5 to 6 minutes. Pour in the lime bean puree. Sprinkle the salt and black pepper, and continue cooking for about 8 to 10 minutes, until all of the flavors have combined.
  • Ladle the soup in individual bowls. Garnish with a piece of toast, brushed with olive oil, and sprinkle some crunchy chile strips on top.
  • Note: To make the chile crisps, quickly fry the chile pieces in a saute pan with 1/4" oil set over medium heat. Once oil is hot but not smoking, quickly fry the crisps, literally 2 seconds, remove and place on a plate covered with paper towel.

Notes

Sopa de Habas con Pan Tostado y Chile Pasilla

On a Soup and a Book

It is partly because of a soup like this, that I want to write a cookbook.

A soup that makes me feel all warm inside when I spoon it into my mouth.

A soup that has the earthiness and simplicity that grounds me.

A soup that, aside from having a comforting base, has layers of surprising life and color and crunch.

A soup that makes me want to eat nothing else for an entire week.

A soup that speaks of centennial traditions and is passed down through generations recipes.

A soup that is a pleasure to think about, to write about, to talk about, to prepare and to savor.

It is mostly because I want to share a soup like this with you, dear friends, that I am jumping to write this cookbook.

So with great news to share: I will be working with the delightful Rux Martin, editor at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, to make this cookbook come to life.

In this book, I will write about -and tell you how to make- all of those foods that make me want to scream out of joy, along with the stories that revolve around them.

for tomato and bean soup-thumb-510x342-1527

So here you go, for this Fall season, which has already galloped in front of me as I was barely putting away my monsters’ bathing suits: The Sopa Tarasca. One of my favorite soups in the whole entire world.

As with many Mexican dishes, it has a base of tomato, onion and a bit of garlic.

Tarascan Soup 2
But it also has the addition of the prune like, exuberant flavor of the Ancho chile.

After those ingredients are cooked, pureed and seasoned, they are mixed with a bean puree

Tarascan Soup 3
and chicken broth…

Queso Fresco A1-thumb-510x342-1933
As if that earth shattering base wasn’t enough, this soup is garnished, to your liking with Queso Fresco

Tarascan Soup 5
Tortilla crisps.

Tarascan Soup 6
Ripe Mexican avocado chunks…

Tarascan Soup 7
And the tangy and salty notes from Mexican cream

Of course you can toss in some Chile crisps in there too…

Tarascan Soup 8
From the Purépechas -also known as Tarascos- who inhabit the mountainous regions of the soulful state of Michoacán, and after whom this soup was named in its colonial capital of Morelia where I have eaten it one too many times, to the city of Washington DC in the United States of America, where I make it regularly for my Mexican American family: and hopefully it will find a place at your table too.

I lost my breath in that sentence…

Enjoy!

p.s. If you have any Mexican food craving, just name the dish, I will try to make a page for it in that cookbook.

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5 from 2 votes

Tarascan Bean and Tomato Soup

So here you go, for this Fall season, which has already galloped in front of me as I was barely putting away my monsters’ bathing suits: The Sopa Tarasca. One of my favorite soups in the whole entire world. As with many Mexican dishes, it has a base of tomato, onion and a bit of garlic.
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Course: Soup
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: ancho chiles, beans, chile, corn tortillas, cotija cheese, garlic, mexican crema, onion, pati's mexican table, queso fresco, Recipe, refried beans, soup, Tomatoes, Vegetarian
Servings: 6 to 8 servings
Author: Pati Jinich

Ingredients

For the soup:

  • 6 cups of bean puree
  • 1 pound ripe plum or roma tomatoes
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 ancho chile steam and seeds removed
  • 1/2 cup white onion roughly chopped
  • 2 tablespoons safflower or corn oil
  • 3 cups chicken broth vegetable broth or water

For the garnishes:

  • 4 Corn tortillas cut in half and into strips, fried until lightly golden or toasted
  • 1/2 cup cotija or queso fresco cheese crumbled (farmers cheese, ricotta salata, mild feta or shredded mozzarella cheese may be substituted)
  • 1/2 cup fresh Mexican cream heavy cream or cream fraiche may by substituted
  • 1 ancho chile stem and seeds removed, cut into thin strips, flash fried (optional)
  • 1 Mexican avocado peeled, seeded, flesh scooped out and diced

Instructions

  • Place the tomatoes, garlic, and the seeded and stemmed ancho chile in a saucepan, cover with water and simmer over medium-high heat for 10 to 12 minutes or until tomatoes are completely cooked through. Once the tomato mix cools down, place it in a blender or food processor with a cup of the cooking liquid, the raw white onion and a teaspoon of the salt; puree until smooth.
  • Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the tomato puree and cook for 5 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it darkens in color and thickens in consistency. Reduce the heat to medium and stir in the bean puree and broth or water, simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the soup has seasoned and has a creamy consistency. Taste for salt and add more if needed. Turn off the heat as it thickens quickly.
  • The soup without the added garnishes may be cooled and stored in a closed container and refrigerated for up to 4 days. Since it thickens a bit as it cools, you may need to add some chicken broth or water to thin it out when you reheat it.
  • Ladle the soup into bowls and drizzle on top a tablespoon each of cream and cheese, a handful of tortilla strips, a few fried chile strips and some diced avocado. You can also place garnishes in bowls on the table to let your guests garnish to their liking.

Notes

Sopa Tarasca

Avocado Soup with Queso Fresco

Though there are many kinds of avocado soups, this is my favorite. I tried it at the Mexican Ambassador’s residence a couple months ago. As Doña Rosita, the cook,  heard me mmm, and mmm, and mmmmmmm all over again, she came out of the kitchen with a pen and a piece of paper ready to dictate her recipe.

What a surprise for such a tasty soup: just a handful of ingredients! Seems that what matters, again, is how you use them.

Doña Rosita told me she has tweaked her recipe through time. Also, she sometimes tops it with tortilla crisps, and sometimes with fresh croutons. Depends on the mood. But she always serves it with crumbled Queso Fresco. There you go! Another thing you can do with that Mexican Fresh Cheese, aside from a Green Salad and Enfrijoladas.

It is easy, tasty and sounds oh… so… fancy. Plus, it is wholesome. The only thing I added to Doña Rosita’s recipe, is some fresh lime juice. I couldn’t help it. So check it out, this is how it goes:

Chop a cupful of onion and add it to the already melted butter and hot oil. Cook the onion over low heat, for 12 to 15 minutes, or until it has gone from white, to translucent, to starting to brown around the edges. See the onion down here, it is rendering and deepening its flavors…

Avocado Soup 2

Add some fresh cilantro. Or if you are one of those people that can’t stand cilantro, add another green herb of your choice: parsley, chives, tarragon or a combination, time to play!

Cook the cilantro just until it has begun to wilt. It will be under a minute, just a stir here and there. We don’t want it to brown. 

Then, scoop the fresh Mexican avocado meat out. A main tip to making this recipe be as delicious as it can be, is to use ripe, meaty avocados. So if that avocado is not giving in to your hold as you gently squeeze, it is not ready for you. Let it ripen some more. Make the soup another day.

If you have ripe avocados, cut in half, remove the seed, scoop the meat out and push it into the blender. You could add a bit of Chile too, Jalapeño, or Serrano. Though Doña Rosita doesn’t.Avocado Soup 5

Now go ahead and add all that almost sweetened and browned onion, along with the wilted cilantro into the blender. Yep, along with whatever oil and butter remains too…

Avocado Soup 6
Pour in some chicken broth. Home made or store bought. You can substitute for vegetable broth as well… Though I always go for the former. 

Avocado Soup 7

For my spin, take out your lime squeezer and add some fresh lime juice right in there too. You can try it without as well and then you get Doña Rosita’s take on the soup.

Avocado Soup 8

Sprinkle some Kosher or Sea salt… and puree it all.

If you want the soup “al tiempo”, or lukewarm, pour it right into your bowls. If you want to serve it cold, cover and refrigerate for a couple hours. Now, if you want it hot, you can as well! Just puree it with some hot chicken broth in the prior step… Talk about an accommodating soup.

Avocado Soup 9Sprinkle a few, or a ton, corn tortilla crisps.

Avocado Soup 10I guess I went for a ton.

Sprinkle some tangy and salty Queso Fresco…and why not? You can decorate it with a slice of creamy and ripe avocado right on top.

 If you do, sprinkle a bit of salt on it… Fresh avocado always seems to beg for a little salt…

Avocado Soup 11

There you go… A smooth, fresh, wholesome and tasty soup, with some crunchy tortilla crisps and a tangy bite from the Queso Fresco in every bite.

Avocado Soup 12I already had some…

Avocado Soup 13

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3.67 from 3 votes

Avocado Soup

Though there are many kinds of avocado soups, this is my favorite. I tried it at the Mexican Ambassador’s residence a couple months ago. As Doña Rosita, the cook,  heard me mmm, and mmm, and mmmmmmm all over again, she came out of the kitchen with a pen and a piece of paper ready to dictate her recipe. What a surprise for such a tasty soup: just a handful of ingredients! Seems that what matters, again, is how you use them.
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time15 mins
Course: Soup
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: Avocado, chicken broth, cilantro, feta, jalapeno, lime, onion, queso fresco, tortilla chips
Servings: 4 to 6 servings
Author: Pati Jinich

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon corn or safflower oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cup white onion roughly chopped
  • 1 cup cilantro leaves rinsed and loosely packed
  • 1 jalapeno chile sliced in half, seeding optional if less heat is desired
  • 3 large ripe Mexican avocados cut in half, seed removed, flesh spooned out, about 3 cups ripe avocado flesh
  • 6 cups chicken broth can substitute vegetable broth
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt more or less to taste
  • 1 1/2 cups tortilla crisps
  • 1 cup queso fresco crumbled, may substitute farmers cheese or a mild feta

Instructions

  • In a medium skillet, set over medium-low heat and add the butter and oil. Once the butter dissolves, stir in the onion and jalapeno. Let them cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion has softened. Its color will become translucent and the edges will begin to turn light brown, about 12 to 15 minutes. Incorporate the cilantro leaves and mix them in with the onions and jalapeno. Once the cilantro has wilted, 30 seconds to a minute later, turn off the heat.
  • Place the peeled and seeded avocados in the blender or food processor along with the cooked onion, jalapeno, cilantro, chicken broth, lime or lima juice and salt. Puree until smooth, taste for salt and add more if need be.
  • You may serve bowls garnished with tortilla crisps and cheese, or let your guests garnish to their liking.

Notes

Sopa de Aguacate

Romancing The Avocado

Avocados are, to me, amongst the most sensuous, luscious and luxurious of ingredients. Add how delicious, soft and subtly flavored they are, and you get a clear winner for Valentine’s Day. Despite the many pounds of avocados we go through at home each week, regardless of the infinite number of cases I use for events at Washington, DC’s Mexican Cultural Institute, and  notwithstanding that my sisters and I used them for hair and face treatments as we were growing up (all those nurturing natural oils and vitamins), I still find avocados to be wow-inducing.

If there’s an avocado dish on a restaurant menu, it lands on my table.

So if I am planning a menu, especially with a hint of romance, avocados will be there…

I am not unique thinking that avocados are something special. To the Aztecs, who ate avocados in Mexico for centuries before the Spaniards arrived, they were revered fruit considered to have strong fertility and aphrodisiac powers. Indeed, the Spanish word aguacate comes from the Nahuatl ahuacatl, or “testicles,” presumbly in reference to their shape. The avocado was warmly welcomed in the countries where it was introduced. And thanks in part to its accomodating nature – its meat can be smashed, diced, pureed, stuffed or sliced, or it can be part of a filling or a centerpiece – it has been creatively adopted in many cuisines.

It is true that many people think of guacamole when they hear “avocado.” And there must be more than a thousand reasons to love guacamole. Fast and easy to make, and so fun to eat, it screams out fiesta with each bite. My favorite way to make guacamole is to mix diced avocado with chopped onion and cilantro, squeeze fresh lime juice on top, sprinkle with sea salt and top it off with chopped chipotle chilis in adobo.

Guacamole, though, is just the tip of the avocado iceberg, both inside and outside Mexican cuisine.

Think about eel-and-avocado sushi, a French salad with layers of avocado sprinkled with Roquefort cheese, or an Italian salad with layers of ripe avocado and ash-coated goat cheese, olive oil, coarse salt and basil leaves. It’s hard to imagine a vegetarian sandwich without avocados.

I have tried eight varieties of avocados, and though I like most of them, the one I prefer is the Hass variety. It is available year-round, and is creamy and rich rather than fibrous like other kinds, such as El Fuerte.

Avocados are a fruit that ripen off the tree, so they are often sold unripe. If you are in a hurry to use an avocado, you can hasten the ripening process by wrapping it in newspapers or keeping it in a paper bag in a warm area of the kitchen. If you can wait, it will ripen at a nice pace uncovered in the kitchen.

When ripe, the Hass, with the pebbly skin completely blackened, will give a bit with a gentle squeeze of your hand. If it doesn’t, then it needs a bit more time to mature. You can keep a ripe avocado in the refrigerator for up to a week. It is apparently a myth that keeping the seed in a cut avocado keeps it from darkening. What does seem to help is to squeeze fresh lime juice on top.Here are four of my favorite takes on avocado: an elegant-looking appetizer, a retro mousse, an exotic-sounding soup and a hearty sandwich. Regardless of which way you use it, including avocado in your romantic dinner – as long as it’s not in a hair or skin treatment –  will show your Valentine that you really care.

Article written for and published by National Public Radio’s Kitchen Window.
stuffed avocados
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5 from 3 votes

Stuffed Avocados with Hearts of Palm and Artichoke Salad

When I was growing up, my mother often served stuffed avocados for an elegant dinner. They were such a statement of a well-planned menu. There were many variations: stuffed with sauteed shrimp with chilies, crab salad or red snapper ceviche (a seafood cocktail "cooked" in citrus juice and other spices). The version I make most often, though, mixes artichoke hearts and hearts of palm. I think these ingredients just love to be together and make a smashing combination with the smooth avocado.
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time0 mins
Total Time20 mins
Course: Appetizer
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: agucate, Alcachofa, artichoke, Avocado, hearts of palm, Palmitos, rellenos, stuffed
Servings: 6 servings
Author: Pati Jinich

Ingredients

  • 14 ounces (1 1/3 cups) hearts of palm drained, rinsed and sliced
  • 14 ounces (1 1/2 cups) artichoke hearts drained, rinsed and sliced
  • 2 tablespoons chopped red onion
  • 4 tablespoons chopped red bell pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley
  • 1 tablespoon tarragon vinegar
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt or more to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon sugar or more to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper or more to taste
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons safflower or vegetable oil
  • 3 ripe Mexican avocados halved and seeded just before stuffing

Instructions

  • In a bowl, mix the hearts of palm, artichoke hearts, red onion, red bell pepper and parsley.
  • To prepare the vinaigrette, pour the tarragon vinegar in a small bowl and mix it with the salt, sugar and black pepper. Pour the oils in a slow stream, whisking with a whisk or fork to emulsify. Pour it over the vegetables. Toss well to cover.
  • You may prepare the hearts of palm and artichoke salad ahead of time, cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days.
  • When ready to eat, halve and seed the avocados. Scoop the hearts of palm and artichoke salad on top and serve.

Notes

Aguacates Rellenos de Palmitos y Corazón de Alcachofa
stuffed avocados
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5 from 1 vote

Avocado, Pistachio and Watercress Mousse

As I was describing this dish to a dear friend, she explained that the word I was looking for to describe it was "retro." Though I have tasted many avocado mousses, this one seems to be whimsical and addicting. Make this mousse ahead of time for a party or brunch and serve it with pieces of toast, crackers, smoked salmon or shrimp, and you will have an ongoing conversation piece as it disappears.
Prep Time30 mins
Chilling Time3 hrs
Total Time3 hrs 30 mins
Course: Appetizer, Dip, Spread
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: aguacate, Avocado, Berros, gelatin, Pistache, pistachios, watercress
Servings: 14 servings
Author: Pati Jinich

Ingredients

  • 3 (about 2 1/4 pounds) ripe Mexican avocados halved and seeded
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 8 ounces cream cheese
  • 1 bunch (about 1 cup) watercress leaves and top parts of stems chopped
  • 2 tablespoons (about 6) sliced scallions white and light green parts only
  • 1 8-ounce can (2/3 cup) water chestnuts drained and roughly chopped
  • 2/3 cup pistachios shelled and roughly chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper or more to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper or more to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons kosher or sea salt or more to taste
  • 2/3 cup cold water
  • 3 1/4 ounces (1 envelope) unflavored gelatin
  • 1/3 cup boiling water
  • Olive oil to grease the mold
  • Toasted bread or crackers optional
  • Smoked salmon optional

Instructions

  • Scoop out meat from avocados and mash it in a bowl with a fork. Pour in lime juice and combine well with a spatula. Incorporate the cream cheese, mixing it thoroughly with the avocados. Add the watercress, scallions, water chestnuts, pistachios, cayenne, black pepper, Worcestershire sauce and salt. Mix well.
  • Measure 2/3 cup cold water in a cup. Stir in the gelatin, mix and let it rehydrate for a minute or two. Add 1/3 cup boiling water and stir until it dissolves. Pour gelatin into the avocado mix, incorporating it with a spatula.
  • Lightly grease a ring mold with olive oil. Pour the avocado mix into the mold. Shake the mold softly a couple of times to level the mix. Cover it well and place it in the refrigerator until it is set, for at least 3 hours. You can leave it overnight or until you are ready to unmold. The avocado mousse will last beautifully in the refrigerator for 2 days. When ready to unmold, remove from the refrigerator, run the tip of a knife along the edges and flip onto a plate. You may need to shake the mold a couple of times, holding onto the plate as you do so.
  • You may serve it on a platter, retro style, with some watercress leaves in the center of the ring or on top. Or serve it already sliced with a side of smoked salmon and pieces of toast.

Notes

Mousse de Aguacate, Pistache y Berros
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3.67 from 3 votes

Avocado Soup

Though there are many kinds of avocado soups, this is my favorite. I tried it at the Mexican Ambassador’s residence a couple months ago. As Doña Rosita, the cook,  heard me mmm, and mmm, and mmmmmmm all over again, she came out of the kitchen with a pen and a piece of paper ready to dictate her recipe. What a surprise for such a tasty soup: just a handful of ingredients! Seems that what matters, again, is how you use them.
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time15 mins
Course: Soup
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: Avocado, chicken broth, cilantro, feta, jalapeno, lime, onion, queso fresco, tortilla chips
Servings: 4 to 6 servings
Author: Pati Jinich

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon corn or safflower oil
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 1 1/2 cup white onion roughly chopped
  • 1 cup cilantro leaves rinsed and loosely packed
  • 1 jalapeno chile sliced in half, seeding optional if less heat is desired
  • 3 large ripe Mexican avocados cut in half, seed removed, flesh spooned out, about 3 cups ripe avocado flesh
  • 6 cups chicken broth can substitute vegetable broth
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt more or less to taste
  • 1 1/2 cups tortilla crisps
  • 1 cup queso fresco crumbled, may substitute farmers cheese or a mild feta

Instructions

  • In a medium skillet, set over medium-low heat and add the butter and oil. Once the butter dissolves, stir in the onion and jalapeno. Let them cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion has softened. Its color will become translucent and the edges will begin to turn light brown, about 12 to 15 minutes. Incorporate the cilantro leaves and mix them in with the onions and jalapeno. Once the cilantro has wilted, 30 seconds to a minute later, turn off the heat.
  • Place the peeled and seeded avocados in the blender or food processor along with the cooked onion, jalapeno, cilantro, chicken broth, lime or lima juice and salt. Puree until smooth, taste for salt and add more if need be.
  • You may serve bowls garnished with tortilla crisps and cheese, or let your guests garnish to their liking.

Notes

Sopa de Aguacate
stuffed avocados
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4.67 from 3 votes

Tortilla Crisps

How to make homemade tortilla crisps, either by frying or baking.
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time20 mins
Total Time25 mins
Course: Garnish
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: Baked, corn tortillas, crisps, crunchy, fried, tortilla chips, traditional
Author: Pati Jinich

Ingredients

  • 5 corn tortillas (5- to 6-inches wide)
  • Safflower or corn oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt more or less to taste

Instructions

  • On a chopping board, slice tortillas in half and then vertically in half again. Then slice across in strips of 1/4 to 1/2 inch, depending on how thick you like them.

Traditional (fried):

  • In a medium skillet, add 1/4 inch oil and place over medium-high heat. Once it is hot, anywhere from 4 to 6 minutes, add tortilla pieces. When you add a tortilla to the oil, it should immediately start to bubble. Fry, stirring and flipping occasionally, until they achieve a golden tan and slightly brown color and are hard and crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon and place on a plate covered with paper towel. Sprinkle with salt to taste.

Baked:

  • Preheat oven to 350°F. Spray or gently brush a baking sheet with corn or safflower oil. Place tortilla pieces on top and spray or gently brush a light layer of oil. Judiciously sprinkle with salt to taste. Place in oven and bake for about 20 minutes, stirring and flipping once or twice until they achieve a golden tan and slightly brown color and appear hard and crisp.Remove from oven, let them cool and place in a bowl or container.

Notes

Tiritas de Tortilla
stuffed avocados
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5 from 1 vote

Chopped Egg and Avocado Sandwich

My grandmother, who came from Poland but was raised in Mexico, used to make chopped egg salad and chopped seasoned avocados as table starters for special occasions. Then one day she decided to mix up the two, altered the spices a bit, and created a family hit. I have adapted her recipe by adding the Dijon and dill, and scooping a ton of it into a sandwich. The cheese is a caprice that I couldn't help adding, and I love how it tastes, but feel free to try it without it.
Prep Time20 mins
Cook Time0 mins
Course: Antojos, Main Course
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: aguacate, Avocado, egg salad, Eggs, huevo, Recipe, salad, Sandwich
Servings: 3 to 4 servings
Author: Pati Jinich

Ingredients

  • 3 large hard-boiled eggs peeled and chopped
  • 3 tablespoons chopped white onion
  • 2 tablespoons chopped parsley leaves
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh dill or 1/4 teaspoon dry dill
  • 1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard
  • 2 teaspoons mayonnaise
  • 1 (about 3/4 pound) large ripe Mexican avocado halved, seeded, meat scooped out and diced
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher or coarse salt or to taste
  • Ground black pepper to taste
  • 6 to 8 slices brioche or challah or any bread of your choice, lightly toasted
  • 4 slices Muenster Mexican manchego, or chihuahua, or Monetery Jack cheese (optional)

Instructions

  • In a bowl, mix the eggs, onion, parsley, dill, Dijon and mayonnaise together. Toss in the avocado, sprinkle with salt and pepper and gently mix well.
  • Lightly toast the bread slices. Scoop a generous amount of the chopped egg and avocado on a slice of bread, add a slice of cheese and top with another slice of bread.

Notes

Sandwich de Huevo y Aguacate

Foods of Michoacan are Forever

You know how some people become attached to a certain dish? They try it somewhere once and then want to go back to eat it again and again, or they make it at home repeatedly in an until-death-do-us-part kind of vow? Well, I am one of those people, and I have made that vow with quite a few dishes from the Mexican state of Michoacan.It surprises me how Michoacan’s cuisine has remained such a well-kept secret. It has a defined personality and a complex layering of delicious flavors like the more popular cuisines from Oaxaca and Puebla, but its dishes seem to be a bit more comforting and use fewer ingredients.

What’s more, some of Michoacan’s basic ingredients, such as pasilla chiles, tomatillos, cotija cheese and fruit pastes, have become readily available in stores outside of Mexico.

My love for Michoacan is inevitably tied to its food, but it goes well beyond its kitchens. The first time I went to Michoacan as a little girl, it had such an impact on me that whenever our family planned a trip, I begged my parents to return there. It wasn’t only the enchanting cobbled streets, the immense wooden doors framed in cantera stone, the aromas of freshly made breads and ground mountain coffee, or the town squares filled with dozens of home-style ice cream carts and sweets stands, all surrounded with colorful balloons and birdseed sellers. There was something more.

I returned a couple of decades later, as a production assistant for a traveling cooking show. It was breathtaking. As we researched for and filmed foods prepared for Day of the Dead — a Mexican holiday celebrated this week — we traveled from town to town, sampling delicate and simple dishes in the markets filled with fresh ingredients and goodies that women brought in baskets and set down on mats on the floor.

In the cities surrounding the Patzcuaro Lake area, we saw the famous fishermen using their immense nets, which seemed to fly off into the sky, before sunrise. We tasted to-die-for fish soups, meat stews, tamales and sweets that cooks prepared for this occasion.

Day of the Dead is one of Mexico’s most meaningful celebrations, and Michoacan is a spectacular place to experience it, partly because of its beauty and cuisine, but also because of the richness and depth of its centuries-old traditions.

The Purepechas, also called Tarascos, who remain the predominant indigenous group of the region, believed since pre-Hispanic times that the dead return once a year to visit those they miss. Centuries of intermarriage between Purepecha, Spanish and Catholic Church traditions and ingredients resulted in an eclectic mix of rituals and exquisite foods.

Last year, a decade after my second trip, I returned to Michoacan to do further research for the culinary program I teach at the Mexican Cultural Institute in Washington, D.C. We brought our three young sons, and I was eager to share with them the things and foods I had been fascinated with on previous trips. Yet as soon as we unpacked, it became clear that there was so much more to taste and learn. I experienced new things along with my boys.

After a stay in Morelia, the colonial capital where we tasted traditional and modern spins of Michoacan cuisine, we spent a sweet time in the small town of Santa Fe de la Laguna among a Purepecha community. Some of the women fed us their traditional foods and invited us into their kitchens to teach us how to make those dishes. They also taught our boys, with so much patience and tranquility, how to work with their traditional black and green clay.

Upon our return, I finally realized what makes the cuisine of Michoacan distinctive: its people. Michoacanos are generous, warm, hospitable and caring. No wonder the state is known as “the soul of Mexico.” And it is a beautiful soul for Mexico to have. The more I cook, the more I am convinced that the food of a place resembles the characteristics of its people. If asked to define in one word the cuisine from Michoacan, I would say “soulful.”

In my until-death-do-us-part vow with the food of Michoacan, I shall keep sharing and cooking what I have learned from its cuisine until I am able to go back to explore and eat some more. What’s more, if I’m given a license to come back from another world for Day of the Dead, I will happily feast on this menu with the people I love.

Article written for and published by National Public Radio’s Kitchen Window.

tarascan soup
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4.78 from 9 votes

Tarascan Soup

Tarascan Soup, from Pati’s Mexican Table Season 7, Episode 12 "Photographic Food Memories"
Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time30 mins
Total Time35 mins
Course: Soup
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: beans, pati’s mexican table, pinto beans, Recipe, soup, Vegetarian
Servings: 6 to 8 Servings
Author: Pati Jinich

Ingredients

For soup:

  • 1 pound ripe plum or roma tomatoes
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 (about 1 ounce) ancho chile, stem and seeds removed
  • 1/2 cup white onion, coarsely chopped
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt divided, or more to taste
  • 3 tablespoons safflower or corn oil
  • 1 pound cooked pinto beans plus 2 cups of their cooking liquid or 2 14-ounce cans cooked pinto beans plus 2 cups water
  • 3 cups chicken broth vegetable broth or water

For garnishes:

  • 1/2 cup Mexican style cream
  • 1 cup crumbled Cotija cheese
  • 1 1/2 cups crumbled tortilla chips or tortilla strips
  • 1 ancho chile stemmed, seeded, diced, deep fried for a few seconds
  • 1 avocado, peeled seeded, meat scooped out and diced, optional

Instructions

  • Place the tomatoes, garlic, and ancho chile in a saucepan. Cover with water, and simmer over medium-high heat for 10 to 12 minutes, until the tomatoes are completely cooked through and ancho chile is rehydrated.
  • Transfer the tomatoes, garlic, and ancho chile to a blender or food processor, along with 1 cup of the cooking liquid, the white onion, and 1 teaspoon of the salt. Puree until smooth.
  • Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the pureed tomato mixture and cook for 6 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until it darkens in color and thickens in consistency.
  • Meanwhile, rinse your blender or food processor, then add the pinto beans and 2 cups of their cooking liquid (or water, if using canned beans) and puree until smooth.
  • Reduce the heat to medium and stir the bean puree, broth and the remaining ½ teaspoon of salt into the thickened tomato mixture. Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the soup has seasoned and has a creamy consistency. Taste for salt and add more if needed. Turn off the heat, as it thickens quickly.
  • Ladle the soup into bowls, drizzle with a tablespoon of the cream and top with some cheese, a handful of crumbled tortilla chips or tortilla strips, a few fried ancho chile crisps and some diced avocado. You can also place the garnishes in bowls on the table to let your guests decide how much of each garnish they want to add to their bowls.
  • The soup itself may be cooled and stored in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. Because this soup thickens a bit as it cools, you may need to add some chicken broth or water to thin it out when you reheat it.

Notes

Pinto Bean and Tomato Soup
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4.67 from 3 votes

Brisket in Pasilla Chile and Tomatillo Sauce

This is by far, the best brisket I’ve ever had. The meat chunks gain a nutty brown crust as they cook, yet as you take a bite they fall apart in your mouth. And the sauce, thick, a bit tart, a bit spicy and wholeheartedly rich, enhances the flavor of the meat. It is a dish with a flavor hard to forget: it has loads of personality.
Prep Time10 mins
Cook Time4 hrs 15 mins
Course: Main Course
Cuisine: Jewish, Mexican
Keyword: beef, chile, garlic, Jewish Mexican, pasilla, pati’s mexican table, piloncillo, Recipe, tomatillos
Servings: 6 to 8 servings
Author: Pati Jinich

Ingredients

  • 3 pounds trimmed brisket of beef rinsed and cut into about 2-inch chunks (leave some fat on!)
  • 5 garlic cloves peeled
  • 5 peppercorns
  • 2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt divided (plus more to taste)
  • 1 pound tomatillos husks removed and rinsed
  • 3 ounces black or pasilla chiles (may sub for New Mexico chiles) stems and seeds removed
  • 3 tablespoons corn or safflower oil
  • 1/2 cup white onion chopped
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 2 cups meat cooking liquid
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons grated piloncillo or dark brown sugar
  • Chopped white onion and cilantro leaves optional garnish

Instructions

  • Place meat chunks in a large cooking pot along with 5 garlic cloves, peppercorns and salt. Cover with water, bring to a boil, cover partially and simmer over medium heat for 3 hours, or until meat is very soft. Drain and reserve 2 cups of its cooking liquid.
  • Meanwhile, char or roast the tomatillos on a baking sheet under the broiler, or directly on the comal or dry skillet or grill over medium heat, for about 10 minutes, turning 2 or 3 times. Tomatillos are ready when their skin is blistered and lightly charred, and their flesh is soft, mushy and juicy.
  • Toast chiles on a hot comal or dry skillet over-medium heat for 5 to 10 seconds per side. Chiles will release their aroma and become more pliable, and their inner skin will become a bit opaque. Don’t let them burn.
  • Place toasted chiles and roasted or charred tomatillos in a bowl and cover with 1 cup boiling water and 2 cups of reserved meat cooking liquid (if you don’t have 2 cups, add more water). Let this mixture soak for at least a half-hour and up to 4 hours. Pour the mixture into the blender or food processor, puree until smooth and reserve.
  • Add 3 tablespoons of corn or safflower oil to the same pot in which meat was cooked, and heat over high heat until hot but not smoking. Add cooked meat chunks and brown them, 2 to 3 minutes. Reduce heat to medium, add the chopped onion, and stir as you continue to brown the meat for another 2 to 3 minutes.
  • Incorporate pureed chile mixture, a teaspoon of salt and the piloncillo or brown sugar. Stir and simmer over medium heat for about 10 more minutes. The meat should be completely tender, yet still in chunks. The sauce should be think enough to coat the back of a wooden spoon, but not pasty. Taste for salt and add more if need be. To serve, you can garnish with some raw chopped onion and cilantro leaves.
  • If there is any meat left over, you can cool, store and refrigerate it in a closed contained and then reheat, covered over a low simmer.

Notes

Carne Enchilada
tarascan bean and tomato soup
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5 from 1 vote

Cheesecake with Guava

In Mexico, a favorite dessert is to pair sweet slices of guava or other fruit pastes called ates with savory slices of cheese. Cheesecake with guava paste is a modern take on this combination. We tried it for the first time in the Museo del Dulce — the sweets museum — in Morelia. My adaptation has a thinner layer of guava paste than the museum's, and it is placed between the crunchy bottom and the smooth cream cheese batter, rather than on top. Also, the sweetened sour cream topping reflects a craving of mine, but it seems to make the combination even more irresistible. You can use this recipe as a guideline and see if you want to take the cheesecake in other directions: more guava, less guava, more sour cream or no sour cream.
Prep Time30 mins
Cook Time35 mins
Chilling Time4 hrs
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: Ate De Guayaba, cheesecake, Dessert, guava, guava paste, Guayaba, pay de queso, Recipe
Servings: 10 servings
Author: Pati Jinich

Ingredients

Crust:

  • 1 1/2 cups (6 ounces ground) Maria cookies or vanilla wafers, or graham crackers
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 3 ounces (or 3/4 stick) butter melted

Guava Spread:

  • 11 ounces guava paste or ate de guayaba
  • 5 tablespoons water

Cheese Filling:

  • 1 pound cream cheese
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream

Sour Cream topping:

  • 1 1/2 cups sour cream
  • 1/4 cup sugar

Instructions

Crust:

  • In a big bowl, stir the ground cookies, sugar and melted butter until thoroughly mixed. Butter a 9- to 10-inch springform pan. Turn the cookie mixture into the pan. With your fingers or a small spatula, spread it evenly along the pan. Press gently, making a side rim of 1/2 to 1 inch on the sides. Refrigerate while you make the guava spread, cheese filling and sour cream topping.

Guava Spread:

  • Place guava paste and water in the blender jar or food processor. Process until smooth, and reserve.

Cheese Filling:

  • Place the cream cheese in the bowl of an electric mixer, and beat at medium speed until smooth and foamy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add sugar and vanilla, and continue beating until well mixed. Add eggs, one at a time. You may need to stop the mixer to scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, as the batter may stick to it. Add the heavy cream, and beat until the mixture is all incorporated and smooth. Reserve.

Sour Cream Topping:

  • In a bowl, mix the sour cream and the sugar together.

Assemble Together:

  • Adjust rack of the oven one-third up from the bottom and preheat to 350°F.
  • Remove the pan with the crust from the refrigerator. With a spatula, spread the guava mixture evenly over the crust. Turn out the cheese filling onto the guava layer, and spread gently and evenly.
  • Place the cheesecake in the oven and bake for 35 minutes, or until it is cooked and has a lightly tanned top. Remove from oven and let cool for at least 10 minutes. Then spoon the sweetened sour cream over the cheese filling and place it back in the oven for 10 more minutes.
  • Remove from the oven and let it cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving. It tastes even better if it chills overnight.
  • Before serving, release the sides of the springform pan. Place the cheesecake onto a plate (keeping it on the bottom of the pan), slice and serve.

Notes

Pay De Queso Con Ate De Guayaba

A comfy soup for the still chilly nights

While most of us in DC have stacked our winter clothes up in the attic or inside a trunk, the truth is, it’s still a bit chilly. So today I made this mushroom soup, yet again. I should be tired of it already, since I just cooked 100 portions of it for last Friday’s cooking class at the Institute and I had tested it for weeks… But here I go.. It is just too good!

It is not your typical soup at all. It has the woody and earthy feel of the mushrooms, but their flavor is somehow enhanced by the chile de árbol. It may sound strange, since one would think that chiles mask the flavor of ingredients. But depending on how you use them, they can pronounce rather than overpower other flavors.

Although the chile de árbol is quite spicy, in this soup you can taste its depth but not its heat, since they are browned but never opened. This is one of the subtle ways to use them, as the seeds and veins which contain most of the heat are bundled up inside throughout the cooking.

Luckily, these chiles can be found almost anywhere these days. Like other dried chiles, they are a very smart staple to incorporate into your pantry since they last forever, they are filled with Vitamin A (great excuse to indulge…) and they can enrich your home cooking immensely.

The soup has a flavorful roasted tomato base. You can buy the already roasted tomatoes, but down below I tell you how to roast or char them yourself. It takes no more than 10 minutes, it is rather simple and it gives the soup a nice rustic feel. I include the epazote in the end, but if you don’t find it don’t worry, it is optional. It just gives it a nice accent.

It takes about 25 minutes to make this soup. Go for it! You can make a double batch and reheat it the next day for lunch, accompanied with some sliced toasted baguette or bolillo, and a slice of ripe Mexican avocado on top.

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4.5 from 2 votes

Mushroom, Chile de Arbol, and Roasted Tomato Soup

Prep Time5 mins
Cook Time35 mins
Course: Soup
Cuisine: Mexican
Keyword: Avocado, bolillo, chicken broth, chile, chiles de arbol, epazote, garlic, Mushroom, onion, pati's mexican table, Recipe, soup, Tomatoes, Vegetarian
Servings: 4 to 6 people
Author: Pati Jinich

Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 pound, or 6 to 7, ripe roma/guaje tomatoes
  • 3/4 cup white onion roughly chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves peeled
  • 2 tablespoons safflower or corn oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 3 chiles de arbol
  • 2 pounds mushrooms rinsed and sliced
  • 1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt or to taste
  • 8 cups chicken broth homemade or storebought
  • 2 fresh epazote sprigs may substitue for dried, optional
  • 1 ripe Mexican avocado peeled and sliced
  • 1 or 2 bolillos or small baguettes sliced and toasted, optional

Instructions

  • Char the tomatoes, onion and garlic, by placing them in a single layer on a baking sheet under the broiler. Alternatively, you can char them on the grill or on a hot comal, the traditional way. Whichever method you choose, tomatoes will take between 6 to 9 minutes, and the onion and garlic between 3 to 4 minutes. Turn them around halfway through.
  • Tomatoes are ready when they are completely cooked through, mushy and their skin is charred, blistered and wrinkled. Garlic and onion will have also charred and softened.
  • Place charred tomatoes, onion and garlic in the blender and puree until smooth. In a pot, heat one tablespoon of the oil and the butter over medium heat until butter starts to bubble. Add Chiles de Arbol and sautee for a couple minutes, turning them around, until they are lightly browned and crisp.
  • Add sliced mushrooms, sprinkle with salt, cover the pot and let them steam for 5 minutes.
  • In a soup pot, add a tablespoon of oil and heat over medium high heat. Stir the tomato puree into the pot. For a smoother feel, you can place a strainer on top of the soup pot, and strain the tomato puree into the pot. Let the puree simmer, season and thicken for about 4 to 5 minutes. Its color will darken and become deeper.
  • Stir in the chicken broth and simmer for 5 more minutes. Incorporate the mushrooms along with the chiles. Add the fresh epazote sprigs, if you want, and let it all simmer 5 more minutes. Taste for salt and add more if need be.
  • Serve very hot. If you wish, add a slice of avocado on top of each bowl of soup. It can be eaten with a side of toasted bolillos or baguettes as well.

Notes

Sopa de Hongos con Tomate y Chile de Arbol