Sorry I've been such a stranger! There are seriously a lot of projects going on around here that have my attention. Writing projects, photo projects, video projects(!), half-finished crafty projects, newly begun crochet projects, projects waiting-in-the-wings...all these in the midst of summer trip gear-ups, family visits (DP's lovely mom arrives today from Connecticut!), recipe tests, auditions and dog walks.
Just yesterday, in the midst of multitasking, I stopped scribbling on post-its long enough to spend a few summery hours with Kathleeny. That is: if your idea of summer involves eating a bowl of spicy soup and crocheting tiny strings of cotton pima into placemats. I just wrote that and laughed out loud. I can think of several people for whom an afternoon doing both (or even one) of those things would be Hell on Earth. We, however, were in heaven.
We had the best conversation about our lack of exposure to spicy/adventurous food, both having grown up in the Midwest. In my house, we mostly ate in--(tuna noodle casserole, anyone?) but my dad was a salesman for a restaurant supply company so we used to accompany him to a handful of restaurants that doubled as his clients. With that exposure you think I'd have been an intrepid eater, right? Nope. I would only eat spaghetti or hamburgers, even at the one extremely exotic Mexican place we frequented. (It was so exotic that they had a cheeseburger on the menu.)
Kathleen said she couldn't recollect ever seeing salt and pepper in her house. She told me the best story about how, as a kid growing up in frigid Michigan winters, she would eat Barbecue flavored potato chips at outdoor football games because she thought they would warm her up. You know, because they're spicy. How awesome is that?
Well, I suppose we've come a long way. I'm sure moving to California (and becoming an instant vegan) halfway through my childhood forced me out of my comfort zone. It's probably also why I can't get enough Mexican food now--I really could eat it nearly every meal--those tomato/cilantro/avocado/chile flavors rock my world.
Here is a soup recipe I wrote that neither myself nor Kathleen grew up with: it contains salt and pepper, it's not a cheeseburger and it's more spicy than BBQ Lays. It's pretty ballsy to give you a recipe for soup when it's literally 90 degrees outside, but I'm risky like that. Sometimes, no matter the time of year, you just feel like some soup, don't you? This is one of my fave fave favorites that evolved over time--a standard chicken soup but with a tomatoey, limey, spicy twist. That lime juice brings it all together--it's SO tasty! Also? Super easy.
Mexican Chicken Soup
serves at least 6
2 bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts
1 medium onion, finely chopped
4 carrots, finely chopped
4 celery stalks, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 large (or more to taste) jalapenos, seeded and minced
2 bay leaves
1 1/2 quarts chicken stock (6-7 cups)
1 15oz can fire-roasted diced tomatoes (mine unexpectedly had green chiles in them--so either those or plain)
4T finely chopped cilantro
juice of 1 large lime, more for serving
1 ripe avocado, diced and sprinkled with a squeeze of lime and sea salt
Preheat oven to 350. Drizzle the chicken with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast on a baking sheet for 30-45 minutes or until cooked through. Set aside to cool.
Bring a soup pot (or dutch oven) to medium heat. Add 2T olive oil and saute the onion, carrots, celery, garlic, jalapeno and bay leaves for several minutes (with a good pinch of kosher salt and ground black pepper) until the vegetables are soft and onions translucent. Add the tomatoes and chicken stock, heat to just before a boil and simmer, partially covered, about 12-15 minutes. Add more salt if need be. It'll need be.
When the chicken is cool enough to touch, pull the meat apart with your fingers into bite-size shreds. Depending on how big your breasts are (the chicken's breasts, actually) you may not want to add all the meat. I added about 1 1/2 chicken breast's worth. Add it to the soup. Add the cilantro and lime juice too. Cook for another minute and then serve with a scoop of avocado on top and extra lime wedges on the side.
Happy 4th of July, Everyone! Hope you have a spicy Holiday weekend:)