Wednesday, May 5, 2010

0 Recipe #108: Sopa de Cinco de Mayo (Cinco de Mayo Soup)

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Happy Cinco de Mayo, everybody!

Cinco de Mayo commerates the Mexican victory over the French at Puebla in 1962. It's considered to be a relatively minor holiday in Mexico -- a regional celebration limited primarily to the state of Puebla, although in America it's a much bigger deal. Mexicans in Puebla celebrate Cinco de Mayo by reenacting the Battle of Puebla in a day-long dramatization that includes acting and speeches.

Here in the States, it's a celebration of Mexican heritage and culture. People of Mexican descent celebrate by having parades, mariachi music, dancing, and other festivities, although you don't have to be Mexican-American to celebrate the holiday. Cinco de Mayo is observed by many Americans regardless of ethnic origin, in much the same way as holidays like St. Patrick's Day, Oktoberfest, and the Chinese New Year are celebrated here in the States. To many Americans, it's simply become a good excuse to party. :) Dos cervezas, por favor, and some Mexican food to go along with it. ;)

Cinco de Mayo Soup

I created this soup recipe in honor of Cinco de Mayo. Although this recipe does contain traditional Mexican ingredients, I just want to make it clear that it's not actually a traditional soup that's eaten by Mexicans on Cinco de Mayo. ;) However, if people want to adopt it as part of their Cinco de Mayo meal, that's perfectly fine by me. :-D

1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
2 c. yellow onions, diced (about 2 small onions)
4 Tbsp. garlic, finely minced (about 8 large cloves)
1/4 c. celery, chopped into 1/z" pieces
8 large vine-ripened tomatoes, diced
4 Tbsp. tomato paste
8 Tbsp. fresh (Mexican) basil, finely minced (about 20-24 gigantic basil leaves)
1/2 tsp. ground clove
2 tsp. dried (Mexican) oregano
1 Tbsp. mild Mexican chili powder (or if you like it very mild, add only 1/2 Tbsp. instead)
4 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground black pepper
1/8 tsp. ground cayenne pepper
1 c. fresh cilantro, tightly packed & finely minced
8 c. water (or vegetable broth)
juice of 2 limes
2 large ears of fresh corn, shucked, cleaned, and rinsed

Garnish Ingredients:
low-fat cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese, shredded (about 1 Tbsp. per person)
nonfat yoghurt or low-fat sour cream (optional)
fresh cilantro, finely minced
baked tortilla chips

Directions: In a large soup pot, sautté onions, garlic, and celery over low heat. The way I get away with using such little oil is to take 1 onion, half the garlic, and all of the celery, and sauté that first, and then combine the rest with 1 cup of water and continue to cook. The oil is there primarily to add a bit of flavor, but if you'd like you can leave it out altogether, by cooking the celery, garlic, & onions in 1 c. of water until soft. Then add all other ingredients into the pot (including the remaining cups of water/broth), except for the cilantro. After about 2-3 minutes, remove corn cobs from pot. Test corn with a fork/knife for tenderness. (If it's not fully cooked, place back into the pot until it is. Using a corn cob holder, stab each corn cob at one end and then slice off corn kernels with a knife. Place kernels into a bowl, and set aside. Then add corn cobs back into the pot. (Cooking whole corn cobs in the soup gives it a richer flavor.) Keep heat on low and simmer, covered, for approximately 1 1/2 - 2 hours, checking occasionally to make sure it hasn't cooked down too far.  You don't want the ingredients to stick to the bottom of the pan and burn, so be sure to stir on occasion as well. Stir in corn kernels to reheat them a bit, then let soup cool for several minutes. Discard cobs. Ladle soup into bowls, top each with shredded cheese, fresh cilantro, (yoghurt/sour cream, if using), and crumbled tortilla chips.

Chef's Notes: To grow your own fresh Mexican basil (from seed), check out this link. Dried Mexican oregano can be purchased online at Penzeys Spices.

Yield: Serves 4-6 as a main course, or 6-8 as an appetizer.

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