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Soup for the soul

January 9, 2013

“Soup of the evening, beautiful soup!” Lewis Carol

Pozole is soup for the soul

Pozole is soup for the soul

I wait all year long for this month to have unbridled license to create soup pot after soup pot full of nutritious and soul warming soup. January is also “get healthy” month and I will take a wild bet that no less than 60% of you are thinking about cookies but are eating carrots right now. I know I am. But with a warm cup of soup in my hands, the fragrance swirling up to fill my senses, I’m okay without the cookies. Really I am.

It seems the love for soup and its prowess as a healthy food has been around forever. Well, maybe not forever, but when humanity finally figured out how to make pottery, about 5000BC, soup was born. Our ancestors had only dried meats, tough roots and grains in the winter that were much tastier boiled up into a broth. It also warms you up from the inside out, pretty important stuff when it is dark by 4:40pm and Jack Frost is running amuck.

I think one of the things I love about soup so much is how creative it is. Each soup I make takes on its own personality and qualities. I never know what is going to happen when I start to make a soup. One soup that I have been making for years, since my first encounter with it is pozole. I’ll never forget that first bite, the flavors exploded in my mouth and I had an epiphany. It was something like, “WOW!” That’s all. I don’t think I was at the stage yet when I broke down flavors or cultures in my mouth, but I knew I had to make it.

Pozole is an ancient stew that dates back to the pre-contact Mexico. The common ingredient in pozole is “nixtamalized” corn, also known as hominy, in which is corn soaked in lye water. I know it sounds weird but it is actually a very beneficial process as it makes the corn easier to digest and dramatically improves the availability of B vitamins, minerals and amino acids in the corn. Without this process, ancient societies that were reliant on corn as a major food experienced malnutrition. Nixtamalized corn is thought to have been done for over 3500 years. Those ancients knew more than just calendars!

Pozole is a very social dish in Mexico where it is served with many condiments at festive gatherings. It is usually made with pork, but I like to make it with turkey or chicken. After the holidays I usually have a freezer full of delicious homemade turkey broth that is just begging to be used and this is a great way of doing it. If you do not have homemade broth, try to use organic low sodium broth in its place. Here’s to a new year filled with warmth and health. (Instead of cookies)

Chicken Pozole

Chicken Pozole

Turkey or Chicken Pozole Rojo with an Avocado Relish
Chipotle chili powder and smoked paprika are available at Mother Nature’s in the bulk spice section. If you don’t have them, substitute regular chili powder and bump it up to 3 teaspoons. This soups serves 4-6 people as a main dish, more if a starter dish.

Perfect Spice mix;
1.5 teaspoons of chipotle chili powder
1 teaspoon of smoked paprika
2 teaspoons of ground cumin
1.5 teaspoons of ground coriander
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
1 teaspoons of cracked black pepper
.5 teaspoon of sea salt
Prepare the spice blend by mixing all the spices together in a small bowl. (Double it for a great spice mix to use on anything you please.)

1-2 tablespoon of olive or coconut oil
1.5 pounds of chopped raw chicken or turkey thighs
OR 2-3 cups of cooked and shredded turkey or chicken meat
2 onions, coarsely chopped
2-6 garlic cloves, finely minced
2 bell peppers, coarsely chopped
4-5 fat carrots, sliced into 1/4 rounds
1 30 ounce can of hominy drained or 2 cups of frozen sweet corn
1 32 oz container of low sodium organic chicken broth
OR 1 quart of homemade chicken or turkey broth
1 28 oz can of organic low sodium crushed tomatoes, un-drained
1 4.5 can of mild diced green chilies
1 small can of organic tomato paste
The juice of 1 to 2 limes
1 to 2 teaspoons of honey
Salt and pepper to taste

Get out your favorite soup pot, everyone has one, and sauté the chicken or turkey meat in the oil over medium high heat. While it is cooking sprinkle half the spice mix over it and mix in. Cook for 8 – 10 minutes stirring continuously. (If using pre-cooked meat just barely heat it up then proceed) Add the onions and garlic, and sauté a bit more till fragrant, about 5 minutes. Toss in the chopped carrots and bell peppers and sprinkle the rest of the spice mix over the mix while doing the cha cha. Sauté a bit longer then, pour in the hominy, broth, tomatoes, green chilies and paste and mix them in well. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer for 20-35 minutes till the carrot are just starting to get tender and the house smells like goodness. Taste and add the honey and the lime juice, a little bit at a time till you have the right flavor. Add any salt and pepper it might need and serve with the avocado relish, radishes and warm corn tortillas. Ole!

½ cup of chopped cilantro
1/3 cup of chopped green onions
1 diced and peeled avocado
Grated lime zest of one lime and juice
3 ounces of cotija cheese, crumbled (optional)
A pinch of salt

When the soup is almost ready to serve, dice the avocado up and squeeze a little lime juice over it and sprinkle with the lime zest. Add the cilantro, green onions and cheese then mix gently till barely mixed. Serve on the soup.

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