A Kiss From Mexico

I can't even put into words how cold it has been, so cold that there was a week where I stopped going outside.  Even. To. The. Grocery. Store.  That's how cold.  I started craving something warm, something hearty and it had to be a soup.  I knew it had to involve lentils, don't ask me why, I'm not even a vegetarian.  I quit that many years ago and I haven't looked back.  So, I began my search.  There were countless of soup recipes that I looked at but nothing really stood out.  I wanted something spicy, something tart but also something filling and with beans (yes, on top of the lentils).  And here's what I came up with:  A Spicy Lentil-Bean Soup with a Kiss From Mexico.  Eating it will make you happy, I promise.


I should probably warn you that a lot of this soup came from a can, awful I know.  It's not that it was meant to be quick and easy it's just that I'm incredibly lazy when it comes to soaking anything overnight.  I simply can't bring myself to do it.  I like to cook spontaneously and the idea that I have to prepare something the day before turns me off completely.  I'm sorry, but unless you're making cheesecake (which I suggest is the only thing worth spending that much time on) no recipe should require 24 hours of prep time, even if it involves soaking something in water.  Of course, if you're feeling empowered don't let me stop you and go ahead, use dry ingredients.  But here is what I did:

Sautee the following in a pan:

1/2 medium sized Vidalia onion or yellow onion
4 large garlic cloves (minced or crushed through a press)
1/2 cup of chicken stock (take this from the carton you will be using to make the soup)
2-3 tablespoons of olive oil or grapeseed oil

Of course if you like a stronger flavour by all means use more onion and more garlic.  Don't let me stand in your way.

Then mix the following in a large pot:

900 ml of chicken stock (I used Campbells, you can make your own if you're feeling ambitious)
1 can of lentils
1 can of black beans
1 can of white beans

(All those canned foods!!!  Ahhh, I think I just heard Anthony Bourdain cry)

1 can of La San Marzano tomatoes (796 ml)  (use the entire "juice" plus 2-3 actual plum tomatoes)
3/4 to an entire jar of Mexican green salsa (I used the Herdez brand, it's really tasty)
4 bay leaves
1 teaspoon of paprika
1 generous pinch of chili flakes (make that two if you like it hot)
1 generous pinch of fleur de sel (or whatever salt you like)
freshly ground pepper (if you can find Cambodian pepper please use it you will love it, see Epices-Roellinger)
1/2 fresh lime (squeeze out all the juice)
1/2 fresh lemon (squeeze again)

OPTIONAL:  You can add carrots, potatoes, corn or bacon to this concoction.  Have fun and experiment.

Mix all of this stuff together with the chicken stock and then add the sauteed onions and garlic.  Cook it on low to medium heat.  If you like it thick add more lentils or beans.  The first time I made this soup I added a carrot and a potato but it was too chunky for me.  I omitted them the second time and I know that the next time I make this soup I will add corn and bacon.  I don't know why but maybe it's because this soup tastes too good to be true, and it's almost too healthy that I want to add something bad, but a little bacon once in a while won't kill you.  I hope you enjoy it as much as my family did.

And because this post has a Mexican flavour I thought I would add a bit of a literary element to it by including a couple of poems by Octavio Paz the Nobel prize winner for literature in 1990.  Happy Reading everyone.

Octavio Paz

Where Without Whom

There is not

A single soul among the trees

And I

Don't know where I've gone


I am a man: little do I last
and the night is enormous.
But I look up:
the stars write.
Unknowing I understand:
I too am written,
and at this very moment
someone spells me out.

Between going and staying the day wavers

Between going and staying the day wavers,
in love with its own transparency.
The circular afternoon is now a bay.
where the world in stillness rocks.

All is visible and all elusive,
all is near and can't be touched.
Paper, book, pencil, glass,
rest in the shade of their names.

Time throbbing in my temples repeats
the same unchanging syllable of blood.

The light turns the indifferent wall
into a ghostly theatre of reflections.

I find myself in the middle of an eye,
watching myself in its blank stare.

The moment scatters.  Motionless,
I stay and go:  I am a pause.

On a final note, I thought I would share with you a picture of the new contemporary art museum that is being built in Mexico City by Carlos Slim who also happens to be the richest man in the world.  The museum's spectacular size and design will make your mouth drop.  It's just as grand as the Guggenheim in Bilboa.

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