Monday, March 22, 2010

Lentil Soup, Gringa Style

This is your basic gringo lentil soup recipe. Mexicans have their own way of preparing lentil soup, but that's another recipe for another day.  This recipe is cheap, filling, and easy to prepare--the perfect meal for economic recession.


  • 250g or 1/2 lb. brown lentils
  • 5 cups water
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 stalks celery, chopped
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 1 small-medium onion, chopped
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 sprigs fresh parsley, or 1 heaping tb dried
  • dash of pepper
  • salt to taste


  1. Put lentils and bay leaf in a medium pot with water.  Let them come to a boil while you chop your other ingredients.
  2. Add remaining ingredients except salt.
  3. Simmer, covered, 30-40 minutes, until lentils are cooked through.  You may need to add more water during the cooking.
  4. When lentils are cooked, add salt to taste and letter simmer 2 more minutes.
  5. Serve with warm corn tortillas.

Serves 3-4 as a main dish.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Vegan Split Pea Soup

This recipe was inspired by Leftover Queen's Easy PEAsy Vegan Split Pea Soup.  I've tweaked it a bit and added a pressure cooker variation.  The pressure cooker speeds up cooking (reducing your gas use) and eliminates the need to dirty your blender because the pressure pulverizes the split peas.

Every vegetarian should own a pressure cooker, and I can't stress that enough.   The pressure cooker in this recipe reduces cooking time from 40 minutes to 10.  Need I say more?

This split pea soup has a secret ingredient: a single chipotle pepper.  A chipotle is a smoked jalepeño.  It gives the soup a smokey flavor that is reminiscent of the flavor ham would give it.  Don't worry if you don't like spicy food; it hardly gives the soup any spice.


  • 3 TBS olive oil

  • 1/2 large white or yellow onion, diced
2 large carrots, diced

  • 5 cloves of garlic, minced
2 bay leaves

  • salt and pepper to taste
2 cups dried split peas
5 cups water
1 canned chipotle pepper


Conventional Stovetop Method:

  1. Heat oil in a large pot. 
  2. Add the onion, carrot, garlic and bay leaves. Sautee together until onions and carrots are soft. 
  3. Add chipotle pepper, peas, and water to the pot. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and let simmer, stirring often, until the peas are soft (about 40 minutes). 
  4. Place about half of the soup in a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Add it back to the pot and then add salt and pepper to taste. 
  5. Stir together and cook for about 10 minutes. 
Pressure Cooker Method:
  1. Heat oil in the pressure cooker. 
  2. Add the onion, carrot, garlic and bay leaves. Sautee together until onions and carrots are soft. 
  3. Add chipotle pepper, peas, and water to the pot. 
  4. Place lid on pressure cooker and cook under high pressure for 12 minutes.  Then turn off heat and let pressure come down naturally.
  5. Remove lid and stir with a big spoon to mix split peas into a thick creamy soup.  
  6. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Basic Beans, Mexican Style

This is a simple recipe that my husband taught me. Mexicans eat beans with nearly every meal, and this is how to make them.

You can use any dried bean in this recipe. We use runner beans, black beans, or bayo beans--whatever we can get in the farmers market from the couple that comes to the city from a community. Good quality beans from a reputable source are best--you never know how long that bag of beans has been sitting on the grocery store shelf.

To make this recipe really traditional, you need a clay bean pot.  It's the only way we cook our beans in Mexico.  Mexicans swear that the clay gives the beans a flavor they don't get in a metal pot.

Epazote is a Mexican herb. Rumor has it that it helps reduce gas caused by beans. Anecdotal evidence suggests that its gas-reducing effects are offset by the sheer quantity of beans we eat here in Mexico. You can purchase epazote at the following links ground ($2.09) and fresh ($9.99 for four plants).  Alternatively, you can use avocado leaves, as my mother-in-law does sometimes with very tasty results.  You can find avocado leaves in your local Mexican grocery store.

The quantities of some ingredients and the cooking times are not precise. These are home-style beans, and the recipe is in every Mexican's head. As my grandmom used to say when she taught us her recipes, "Cook it until it tastes right." Practice makes perfect sazón.

  • 1/2 kilo or 1 lb. dried beans (yes, I know that 1/2 kilo does not equal 1 lb., but it really doesn't matter), rinsed, picked over, and soaked overnight
  • one sprig fresh  or 1 tsp. dried epazote or a few avocado leaves
  • 3 whole cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1/2 small onion, or 1/4 large onion
  • salt to taste
  1. Drain soaked beans and place them in a large pot (preferably a clay pot).
  2. Add enough water to cover the beans, plus an extra inch or two.
  3. Add epazote or parsley, garlic, and onion. There is no need to chop the garlic or the onion. There is no need to chop these ingredients. They are just there for to add taste; you can pull them out at the end and toss them on the compost heap.
  4. Cook on high heat until it comes to a boil, then reduce heat to maintain the boil.
  5. As the beans are cooking, check water periodically and add more as needed.
  6. When the beans have cooked for about an hour, add salt to taste. Err on the side of under-salting them for now. As the beans cook and cool and are reheated, they'll soak up more water and get saltier. You can always add more salt later.
  7. Total cooking time should be 1 1/2 - 2 hours, but cooking times can vary. Check your beans periodically and decide when they are sufficiently tender.
When you plate your beans, feel free to top them with crumbled cheese and/or sour cream to taste.

Vegetarian Stuffing

I found the inspiration for this recipe on Elise's Simply Recipes blog. I've adapted it to be vegetarian. I also substituted egg bread for french bread and pecans for walnuts. The addition of fresh mushrooms makes up for flavor lost when you omit meat broth. The result is a stuffing that everyone (even meat-eaters) says is the best stuffing they've ever tasted.

If you have old tortillas, you can mix those in with the cubed bread, too, for that special Mexican touch.

Note: This recipe can easily be made vegan by substituting any day old vegan bread for the egg bread and margarine (transfat-free, please!) or olive oil for the butter.

  • 1 loaf day-old egg bread (such as challah or Oaxacan bread), cubed or shredded into 3/4-inch pieces (about 10-12 cups)
  • 1 cup pecans
  • 2 cups each, chopped onion, celery, and fresh mushrooms
  • 6 Tbsp butter
  • 1 apple, cored and chopped
  • 3/4 cup of dried cranberries or raisins or a mix of both
  • 1 cup to 2 cups water or vegetable broth
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning or ground sage or "hierbas finas" (the closest thing to poultry seasoning you'll find in Mexico) to taste
  • salt and ground pepper to taste
  1. Toast the pecans by heating them in a frying pan on medium high heat for a few minutes, stirring until they are slightly browned (not burned). When in doubt, err on the side of undercooking them, because they keep cooking for a bit after removing them from the heat. OR put them in the microwave on high until you can smell the aroma of them toasting, about a minute or two. Let them cool while you are toasting the bread, then roughly chop them.
  2. Heat a large Dutch oven or clay pot on medium heat. Melt 3 Tbsp butter in the pot, add the bread cubes, and stir to coat the bread pieces with the melted butter. Then let them toast; only turn them when they have become a little browned on a side.
  3. In a cast iron skillet, sauté chopped onions, celery, and mushrooms on medium high heat with the remaining 3 Tbsp butter until cooked through, about 5-10 minutes. Add to the bread. Add cooked chopped pecans. Add chopped green apple, dried cranberries or raisins, and parsley. Add one cup of water or vegetable broth (enough to keep the stuffing moist while you are cooking it). Add poultry seasoning or sage or hierbas finas, and salt & pepper.
  4. Cover. Turn heat to low. Cook for an hour or until the apples are cooked through. Check every ten minutes or so and add water or broth as needed while cooking to keep the stuffing moist and keep it from sticking to the bottom of the pan.
Serves 8-10.