My three favorite things about visiting Cozumel, Mexico are diving, eating and grocery shopping to bring a bit of this beautiful island and country into my own cocina.
I just came home from another delightful journey to Cozumel. I can still feel the power of Nature's currents pushing us along fantastic drift dives. I can still taste the tacos I had with a group of nine at Los Otates, where the entire bill for nine with dinner, water and beer cost us $77 US dollars. I bought a heap of chiles I don't usually find in the international markets, or even in the local mercados, especially for the price I paid.
Today I tried a delicious soup from my new package of Pasilla Chiles. Before trying, I've read that they are a lower to medium-hot pepper with a sweet, but smoky flavor with hints of cocoa, excellent for salsas, stews and soup. These are sometimes used for mole sauces. I also read that ancho peppers are mistaken for pasillas up here in the States, but are a good substitute if the real deal is not available.
This soup is wonderful for so many reasons. It's vegan (without the sour cream), vegetarian, low carb, low fat and healthy. Just guessing with the said ingredients, it's probably low-calorie and vitamin-packed. It is also not too hot or spicy for those who prefer things that way. It's savory, earthy and perfect comfort food in the colder months.
I found an easy, low-cost way to do this soup on the Food and Wine website. I tried the recipe exactly, but found the soup slightly bland. I know in my Mexican travels and recipes that not all Mexican cuisine needs to be spicy; however, I did need a bit more depth to remind me of the savory but not spicy flavors I was enjoying a week ago in soups and stews.
So, this is my altered recipe adapted from the Food and Wine recipe I found here.
I opted not to make my own croutons, and did not have an avocado on hand for the toppings. I did not use crème fraîche, as the original recipe calls for. I am just guessing that the average Mexican home cook on a budget tighter than ours use sour cream instead.
You will need:
your favorite way to puree - food processor, stick blender, regular blender, etc.
- 3 large dried pasilla chiles
- 1 quart hot water, boiled
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
- 1 head garlic, cloves peeled and coarsely chopped
- 1 large tomato, cut into 1-inch dice
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican
- 1 teaspoon powdered cumin
- 1/2 Tablespoon of concentrated tomato paste, or 1 Tablespoon of regular
- Salt to taste (start with 1/2 teaspoon, go from there)
- 1/2 of a lime
- 1/4 cup sour cream
- 1 Hass avocado, cut into 1/2-inch dice (optional)
- 1/4 cup cilantro leaves
Strain and reserve the soaking liquid. Do this by taking out the chilies first, in what now should be finger-friendly warm water. Squeeze gently to get more of the flavorful liquid and seeds out before straining. Stem (if necessary), seed and coarsely chop the chiles.
In a large saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil. Add the onion and garlic and cook over moderate heat until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the chopped chiles and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the tomato, oregano, a pinch of salt and the strained chile soaking liquid and bring to a boil. Cover the soup and simmer gently over low heat for 20 minutes.
Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender, processor or your stick blender. Return the soup to the saucepan, bring to a simmer and season with salt to taste, tomato paste, cumin and squirt in the lime. Simmer low and uncovered for 20-30 minutes to slightly reduce, thicken and marry the new additions.
Ladle the soup into bowls. Top with sour cream, avocado, cilantro leaves, croutons and serve.
Makes about four 1 cup servings. (One cup for me, three for my husband)
Thank you for reading!
Thank you for reading!