Chipotle lentil soup — sopa de lentejas con chipotle

Easy Recipe for Chipotle Lentil Soup


Comida Corrida
is the large, afternoon meal served in many Mexican restaurants. Often a bargain, it features traditional Mexican cooking brought to the table as three, four, or even five courses. Meals served this way make for more leisurely, relaxed eating with time for conversation. We have pleasant memories of comida corridas at the venerable Hotel Frances in Guadalajara, its tattered elegance showing its age, as piano music wafted in to the dining room. Lentil soup was frequently the first course. My version, Mexican Chipotle Lentil Soup, is seasoned with smoked, dried jalapeño (chipotle) and roasted poblano chiles. It is vegetarian, unless you want to garnish it with queso.

Mexican Chipotle Lentil Soup
serves 4 generously

  • 1/2 lb. (250 grams) lentils
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, finely sliced
  • 2 medium carrots, thinly sliced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon chipotle chile with sauce, or to taste
  • 1 roasted and peeled poblano chile, chopped
  • 6 cups (1.5 l.) water
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon dry thyme
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    1. Clean and wash lentils. Soak overnight for quicker cooking.
    2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat and saute onion, celery and carrots for 5-6 minutes. Add minced garlic and cook 30 seconds, stirring.
    3. Mince the chipotle chile with its adobo sauce so finely that it is almost pureed.
    4. Add all remaining ingredients, including water. Simmer for 30 minutes to 1 hour, or until lentils are tender, adding more water if necessary.
    5. Adjust salt and pepper. Garnish with cilantro, fried strips of tortillas, and crumbled asadero cheese or other dry, salty cheese.


    Notes:

    To fry tortilla strips, cut tortillas in half, then slice 1/4″ (3/5 cm.) wide. Fry in hot oil until crispy and golden. Drain on paper towels.

    To mince garlic, smash cloves with the flat of a large knife. This separates the skin from the garlic, making it easier to peel. Mince with a knife or a garlic mincer.

    Chipotle chile doesn’t mess around — it has serious heat. Start with a small amount, adding more gradually. You may get hooked on its smoky piquancy. Remember to mince finely so the unwary diner is not surprised.

    Remember a Free Tip from a past post about freezing cans of tomato paste and chipotle chile? When frozen, remove both ends of the can, push out the frozen cylinder and keep in a zip-lock bag in the freezer. This way, it is always fresh when you only need a small amount.

    Mexican coconut macaroons dipped in Ibarra chocolate

    Easy recipe with photos for Mexican Coconut Macaroons Dipped in Ibarra Chocolate

    No matter where we travel in Mexico, someone always shows up selling cocadas, Mexico’s version of coconut macaroons. One time we were taking a train from Chihuahua to Los Mochis on the west coast. It was a spectacular, eleven-hour train ride and must surely be one of the great train trips of the world in terms of scenic beauty. When the train came to a stop to pick up riders, a woman came aboard with a basket of coconut cookies, made her sales, and then hopped off the train as it was pulling away. Another time, while on a road trip, we were stopped for bridge repairs. Out of nowhere several children appeared, each with a basket of cocadas, to take advantage of potential buyers who weren’t going anywhere soon.

    Sometimes the cookies are yellow with egg. Often they contain so much sugar they are tooth-achingly sweet and guilt-inducing. I go easy on the sugar and either use piloncillo, an unrefined sugar sold in cones (you can use brown sugar, light or dark) or make the cookies sugar-free, sweetening them with stevia powder. As the yellow color is appealing, and also how macaroons are made in Mexico, I use whole eggs. And since I am exploring all the ways I can use Ibarra chocolate, normally used for making hot chocolate, I dip the cookies into melted Ibarra for an extra indulgence.


    Mexican Coconut Macaroons Dipped in Ibarra Chocolate

    makes about 18 cookies

    • 3 large eggs (5.25 oz./150 grams), room temperature
    • 3 oz. (85 grams) piloncillo (or brown sugar), or 3 oz. mascabado sugar,  or 1 teaspoon stevia powder for a sugar-free version
    • 3 cups (8 oz./228 grams) dried, unsweetened coconut
    • pinch of salt
    • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
    • Optional flavorings: 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon, or 1 teaspoon almond extract, or 1 tablespoon orange zest
    • 1 1/2 discs (4.6 oz./135 grams) Ibarra chocolate or semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate
    • 1 1/2 tablespoons hot coffee (See note below.)

    Read recipe through completely. Assemble and measure/weigh ingredients.

    • Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees F. (204 C.). If you use piloncillo, grate with a micro-plane grater or regular grater. If you live in a dry climate, the piloncillo will be so hard that it will be almost impossible to grate. You can soften it by wrapping a piece of it in a damp cloth and placing it in a 200 deg. F. (95 deg. C.) oven for 20 minutes, or by microwaving it for 10-20 seconds.

         

    • With a standing mixer, whisk eggs until foamy, about 3-5 minutes.

    • Add sugar by the tablespoonful while continuing to beat with the whisk.
    • Add salt and vanilla and mix for 20 seconds.
    • Fold in coconut with a spatula.
    • Spoon batter onto a well-greased cookie sheet, using about 2 tablespoons of batter per cookie. If you are particular about the shape, you can use a small ice cream scoop.
    • Bake in the middle of the oven for 25 minutes. The cookies will be golden brown and still soft in the center. After 25 minutes, remove from  the baking pan immediately,  and place on a cake rack to cool. If allowed to cool on the pan, they may stick.

    Optional chocolate dip: While the cookies are baking, melt the chocolate with hot coffee. (See note below.) You can do this in a double boiler or the micro-wave oven. If the former, there is no chance of burning the chocolate, provided the upper pan is not in contact with the hot water below. If the latter, you must stay with it, setting the micro-wave for 20-30 seconds at a time, stirring with each additional 20-30 seconds, until melted.

    While the cookies are still slightly warm, dip one side into the melted chocolate, and place on a sheet of parchment paper or wax paper to cool.


    Notes:

    Ibarra chocolate is 14% fat, compared to 25% fat content in Trader Joe’s bittersweet chocolate. Because of its lower fat content, it remains thick when melted. The coffee is added to make it thin enough for dipping. If you use Belgian chocolate, or another fine chocolate, it will be thin enough after melting to dip the cookies without needing to add coffee.

    If the eggs are still refrigerator-cold, put them in a bowl of warm water while you assemble the other ingredients. Or while you drink a cup of coffee and think about chocolate. Which reminds me, have you tried placing a chocolate truffle in the bottom of a hot cup of coffee?

    The coconut and eggs used in this recipe are organic. I hope you, too, can find organic ingredients for baking and cooking. The flavor is always superior.



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    Chocolate mousse with Mexican Ibarra chocolate

    Chocolate Mousse made with Mexican Ibarra chocolate.
    Easy recipe for an impressive dessert.

    I had already experimented with Mexican Ibarra chocolate, making Kahlua Truffles and Ibarra Brownies with great success. Could this coarse, strong chocolate be used in a delicate, smooth mousse? Absolutely.  Move over, Belgian bittersweet!

    Ibarra chocolate has coarse sugar crystals, a hint of cinnamon, and a very strong chocolate flavor. Because of its hardness, it is not used for eating out of hand (unless there is no other chocolate in the house), and it is not normally used for dessert making. But with a few adjustments — omitting the sugar, adding more cinnamon, and stirring to dissolve the sugar crystals — it produced as fine a mousse as I have ever eaten.

    Chocolate Mousse with Mexican Ibarra Chocolate serves 8

    • 8 oz. (225 grams) Ibarra chocolate
    • 6 tablespoons (90 ml.) hot espresso or strong coffee
    • 3 oz. (84 grams) soft, unsalted butter
    • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • optional 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon chile powder
    • 3 large eggs, separated
    • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
    • 1 cup heavy cream
    • 1/4 cup (59 ml) Kahlua liqueur
    • Whipped cream and ground cinnamon for garnish.
    • Read through recipe completely; assemble and measure/weigh ingredients.
    • Melt chocolate with hot coffee either in the micro-wave oven (for 30-second increments, stirring every 30 seconds) or in a double boiler over simmering water. There is no need to chop up the chocolate, as it will melt while you prepare the other ingredients.
    • When completely melted, stir briskly for one minute to dissolve sugar crystals. Set aside to reach room temperature.
    • With a whisk, beat butter and cinnamon into melted chocolate and coffee.
    • Beat in egg yolks, one at a time.
    • Beat the cream in a chilled mixing bowl. (Place the mixing bowl in the freezer for 15 minutes, and keep the cream in the fridge until ready to whip.)
    • Wash bowl and whisk with very hot, sudsy water and dry. Beat the egg whites until foamy. Add cream of tartar, and beat until stiff peaks form.

    • Spoon the chocolate mixture down the side of the bowl of whipped egg whites, and fold together using a spatula, being careful not to deflate the egg whites.

    • Gently fold in the whipped cream with a spatula.

    • Spoon 1 1/2 teaspoons of Kahlua into each of 8 serving dishes. Divide mousse among the dishes, being careful not to displace the Kahlua up the sides.
    • Cover and chill several hours. Serve with spoonfuls of whipped cream and a dusting of cinnamon.

    Notes:

    To separate eggs, crack an egg on the counter and carefully pour the contents into one hand. Slightly open your fingers, just enough to let the egg white fall through, while the yolk remains in your hand. This is the most fool-proof way for separating an egg without breaking the yolk. If the yolk breaks, the tiniest amount will prevent egg whites from attaining their full volume when whipped. Your hands should be completely clean of any traces of butter or other oils.

    For whipping egg whites, the bowl and whisk beater should be washed in very hot, sudsy water to remove any remnants of fat or oil, which will prevent the whites from whipping up fully.

    Omit the Kahlua if you wish, or use a different liqueur, such as Grand Marnier.

    For the freshest ground cinnamon, grind cinnamon sticks (the soft bark of true cinnamon, not the hard sticks of cassia cinnamon) in a coffee grinder. To fill a spice bottle, snap 3 6″ (15 cm.) cinnamon sticks into 1″ pieces and grind until fine.

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    Coconut fish fillets with tropical fruit salsa

    So many cooks shy away from cooking fish, not realizing how easy it is to serve a beautiful plate, full of flavor, nutrition and color. If you are one of these fish-shy cooks, I hope you to try this recipe for Coconut Fish Fillets with Tropical Fruit Salsa. It is quick and easy and will bring raves your way.

    As always, whenever you shop for fish, be an informed consumer. Check first with Monterey Bay Aquarium on the internet to see which species are recommended (a link to this site is on the right of this page). Their best choices are “abundant, well-managed and caught or farmed in environmentally friendly ways”. Tips and suggestions for buying sustainable species can be found at The Pescatarian’s Dilemma.

    Coconut Fish Fillets with Tropical Fruit Salsa
    Serves 4

    • Tropical fruit salsa
    • 4 6-oz. filleted, white-fleshed fish, about 1″ thick
    • 1/2 cup flour
    • 1/8 teaspoon salt
    • 2 eggs, beaten
    • 1/2  generous cup bread crumbs or Panko
    • 1/2 generous cup dry, unsweetened coconut
    • 1/4 teaspoon salt
    • Mild vegetable oil for frying, enough for a depth of 1/4″- 1/2″ in pan

    Prepare fruit salsa first. Use any tropical fruit of your choice; I recommend pineapple, papaya or mango. Or a combination of the three. The line can start to blur between fruit salsa and fruit salad, but if you use enough chile, you will keep this dish in the salsa camp. Whichever fruit you use, don’t use garlic. Garlic and fruit do not make happy companions. Chill the salsa in the fridge while you prepare the fish.

    Where’s the chile? I forgot it in the photo, but later added a jalapeño, which was so mild, I might as well have forgotten it.

    Colorful papaya salsa made with home grown papaya
    and cilantro, and garnished
    with cilantro flowers and wimpy  jalapeño.

    For the fish: Arrange 3 bowls, one with flour and 1/8 teaspoon salt, one with the beaten egg, and one with coconut, bread crumbs and 1/4 teaspoon salt combined. Heat oil in one large or 2 medium heavy skillets over medium-high heat.

    While the pan is heating, cut fillets into serving size pieces, about 6 oz. per serving. Lightly dredge each piece in flour, shaking off excess, then dip in egg, coating completely, then into crumb/coconut mixture. Press coconut mixture into egg if you see areas on the surface where the coconut is not adhering.

    When  the oil is hot and you can see shimmer patterns across the surface, add fillets to pan, cooking about 4-5 minutes per side for each 1″ of thickness. If your fillets are 1″ thick, you will cook the fillets no longer for 10 minutes total. For thinner or thicker fillets, adjust the time accordingly.

    When golden brown, remove fillets from pan and drain on several layers of paper towel to remove excess oil. Serve, topping each piece with fruit salsa.

    Coconut Fish Fillets with Tropical Fruit Salsa

    Notes:

    If you can establish a friendship with a fishmonger or the person behind the counter at a reliable supermarket, you are well on your way to finding the best fish for your recipe. Hopefully, this person should be aware of species sustainability and know the source of the fish.

    Fish should be cooked the same day it is purchased, but if you plan on waiting a day or two, place the fish in the coldest part of your fridge. You may want to place the package on a bed of ice, but make sure melting ice won’t seep into the package of fish.

    I use a ruler to measure the thickest part of the fillet to judge cooking time. If you are unsure of the thickness and time, under-cook. You can always put it back in the pan, but you can’t undo overcooked fish.

    Peeled, large shrimp may be used instead of fish fillets. Leave the tails on. Fry for about 2 minutes per side. Test a shrimp for doneness, but remember, it’s just a test. Dinner is later when all the shrimp are done and you are sitting at the table.

    Add a nicely dressed green salad, a crusty loaf of French bread and a bottle of wine and you will have a meal worthy of the late, great Gourmet magazine.

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    Caldo pescado with chipotle chile — chipotle fish soup

     

    If you only make one recipe from my entire blog, I hope it is Chipotle Caldo Pescado — Chipotle Fish Soup. This is my favorite way to prepare fish and my favorite soup, despite its unpretentious name. We enjoy this so much, that even in the midst of summer when the temperature could not get any hotter we eat this. That’s how good it is. Serve it with a green salad and a loaf of French bread, and you can impress your guests with a minimum of effort. Or just impress yourself with this easy, colorful, tasty soup.

    Chipotle chiles are dry, smoked jalapeños. Canned, they come in a spicy adobo sauce. Mark Miller, in The Great Chile Book, claims that the flavor has hints of chocolate, tobacco and Brazil nuts. Hmmm … if you can taste this, let me know. But whatever the flavors, they are complex and addictive. And very hot. Use sparingly, but please don’t omit the chipotle. It is what gives Caldo Pescado its zip.

    This is one recipe where it is important to follow the practice of mise en place — the French culinary term for having all of the ingredients measured and cut before you start cooking. This recipe comes together so quickly that you won’t have time to prepare ingredients once you heat your pan. Mise en place. Mise en place. My kitchen mantra.


     
    Caldo Pescado — Chipotle Fish Soup
    Serves 4
     
    • 4 tablespoons olive oil
    • 1 cup onion, chopped
    • 1 yellow bell pepper, chopped
    • 1/2 cup poblano pepper, roughly chopped
    • 3 small zucchini or Mexican green squash, chopped
    • 4 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1 cup (240 ml.) chopped fresh tomato (about 3 med.) or canned tomato
    • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
    • 2 teaspoons canned chipotle chile with sauce (finely mince chile)
    • 2 cups (1/2 l.)  fish stock or bottled clam juice
    • 1/2 cup (118 ml.) dry white wine
    • 1 1/2 lbs. (680 grams) of boneless fish,  1″ (2.5 cm.) dice
    • generous pinch of dry thyme
    • 1 teaspoon dry Mexican oregano
    • salt to taste
    • minced cilantro for garnish
    • olive oil to finish
    1. Heat pan; sauté onion, bell pepper, poblano chile and squash in olive oil for 4 minutes.
    2. Add minced garlic and sauté 30 seconds longer, stirring.
    3. Add tomato, tomato paste and chipotle chile and cook two minutes more.
    4. Add fish stock, white wine, fish, thyme and oregano. Stir gently and simmer on a low heat for 2 minutes.
    5. Turn off burner, cover pot with lid, and let rest to finish cooking for 3 minutes, or until fish is cooked through.
    6. Ladle into bowls and top each bowl with a splash of  flavorful olive oil and a generous amount of chopped cilantro. Serve with thick, toasted slices of Mexican bolillos or French bread.

    Today’s Free Tip: So often I needed a tablespoon or two of tomato paste, put the remainder in the fridge, and forgot about it until it had spoiled. Cook’s Illustrated suggests freezing a small can of tomato paste, removing the ends, and pushing out the frozen cylinder of paste. Keep it in a zip-lock bag in the freezer and slice off just the amount you need. This works great for cans of chipotle chile, also. Finally, no more wasted tomato paste in my  kitchen.

    Notes:

    More ways to enjoy canned chipotle chile: blend into mayonnaise for a zippy sandwich spread; make compound butter with chipotle and adobo sauce, and use to top grilled steaks, chicken or fish; for a “picante” kick in any savory dish, reach for chipotle in adobo sauce, instead of Tabasco or Sriracha sauce

    Homemade fish stock makes this soup special. You can use bottled clam juice, and it will be very good, but not the same.

    For guidance on selecting sustainable fish species, refer to the Links at the top of this page for Monterey Bay Aquarium  or  past article on this blog, The Pescatarian’s Dilemma.

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