Saturday, October 9, 2010

Fiesta Vegetable Soup

An end-of-the-garden soup!

Ever hear of nopalitos? They are the leaves of the prickly pear cactus, and I never in a million years would have known what to do with them until I visited friends in Mexico a few years ago and was introduced to them in soups, stews, salads, and even juices. Our Mexican friend said that according to folklore, napoles (the cactus leaves) help to prevent bladder cancer. I just think they are a tasty addition to many dishes. A bonus is that they are very low in calories and fat free.

I'm so glad that you can purchase nopalitos already cleaned and jarred, because I really don't think I'd take the time to find them fresh, remove the spines, and peel them. You can find them in jars (see above photo) in Wal-Mart and almost all the grocery stores, and all you have to do is dump them in a strainer and rinse the salty brine off, and they are recipe-ready. Today, I even diced some up and added them to tuna salad, and it was delicious. They don't have a strong flavor, just add that salty kind of bite that capers add to dishes. Oh, and in this soup they look like green beans. I doubt anyone will notice there are cactus leaves in your soup!

Fiesta Vegetable Soup

1 T. olive oil
2 large onions, peeled and chopped
6 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
2 medium green bell peppers
2 medium red bell peppers
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp. ground coriander
2 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2-1 tsp. red pepper flakes
4 c. chicken or vegetable stock (this is a vegetarian dish if you use vegetable stock)
1 pound fresh tomatillos, husked, 1/2 inch dice
2 c. napolitos (from jar), rinsed well, drained, and coarsely chopped
28 oz. canned diced tomatoes, undrained
3 cans black beans, rinsed well and drained
2 tsp. salt
6 dashes liquid smoke flavoring (you can leave this out, but I think it adds something important)
Garnishes: shredded cheese, fresh cilantro leaves, sour cream or Greek yogurt

Coat the bottom of a 6-8 quart heavy bottomed stock pot with thin layer of olive oil. Heat to shimmering, then add onions, garlic, peppers, and herbs and spices. Saute, stirring frequently and scraping the bottom, till vegetables are tender.

Add two cups of stock and tomatillos; simmer for 5 minutes.

Add remaining ingredients; bring to simmer and cook, stirring frequently, for 30 minutes, until all vegetables are tender and soup has thickened a bit. Adjust seasoning if needed and serve. Garnish as desired. Serves 8
Freezes great!

(About 350 calories per serving without the garnishes.)

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