Chicken Soup for the Latina‚Äôs Soul

 

Well my friends, you know what they say about making plans, right? We make‚Äôem and somebody else laughs or something like that. I‚Äôm home again; For the good news, I‚Äôm happy to report that Panama is actually cooler than Houston is currently. Imagine that. But, the bad news are that my mami‚Äôs health continues to deteriorate and so I‚Äôve come to check on her, spend some time with her, ‚Äėboss her around‚Äô as she has told my siblings and I. She also asked me to cook for her as she isn‚Äôt a fan of hospital food, and so I have been for the past 3 days.

I will continue to attempt updating posts on the schedule I had committed to, but I am asking for your patience. I‚Äôm having to manage preparing foods, spending most of the day with Mami¬†at the hospital, sometimes nights too, such as last night. I will also attempt to incorporate¬†some work in, blogging will have to be squeezed into a nook or cranny some days. On the other hand, being in Panama, I’ll have an excellent repertoire of Latin dishes! YAY!

Today I will share with you a soup Mami¬†made for us growing up, it was her sneaky way of getting us to eat our vegetables. It is a chicken soup base she would cram full of any and all vegetables seasonally available. There was a wide range of¬†goodies: carrots, chayote¬†and acorn squash, potatoes, spinach‚ÄĒyou get the picture. This is an easy and quick soup to make, cooking time is very low and the final rewards are wonderful.

Mami’s Chicken & Veggie Soup (Cream)

Chicken pieces, with bone preferably
1 tbsp vegetable oil
Culantro or cilantro leaves
Chicken bouillon
Vegetables of choice
Sea salt & ground black pepper

Season the chicken pieces with salt & pepper and chop all the vegetables into chunks. Heat a pot over high heat and add the oil. Brown the chicken in batches as necessary. Once all the chicken has been browned, remove the excess fat and add about ¬Ĺ cp of water to help scrape the drippings off the bottom. Add the cilantro leaf and veggies, then add water to cover.

Once it comes to a boil, lower the temperature and allow it to simmer until everything is tender. To ensure¬†we ate all the¬† vegetables, my mami used to puree it all. Remove the chicken meat from the bone, then place the stock, chicken and veggies in the blender or food processor. The beauty of this extra step is that you end up with a thick,¬† flavorful chicken cream without the added calories of heavy cream.¬†My dad, however, doesn’t care for the cream style soups, so he got it straight out of the pot.¬†Serve with white rice.

 
Cookingly yours,
Anamaris

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New Mexico: Calabacitas

This was another incredibly successful dish for the food orgy that was our 24, 24, 24 dinner last month. We put together a menu based on foods by the various US regions. This entrée represented the Southwest region: Arizona, New Mexico and Texas.

The food in this region was heavily influenced by Spanish immigrants who brought ingredients such as chiles, tomatoes. These were then combined with ingredients common to the area, which included red pepper, cummin and cinnamon. And, of course, this is cattle/livestock country, so the entrée had to include something meaty. We ended up with: Lamb Chops with Pepper Chutney and Calabacitas.

Calabacitas is a true New Mexican favorite, you will often find it as one of the sides you can pick from when you eat at most restaurants. I remember having it in Albuquerque many years ago. It was a creamy casserole of sorts, with Mexican squash, corn, chilies, cheese and a hint of allspice.¬† For this recipe I wanted something ‘fancier’, so I was thrilled when I came across this version over at Fete & Feast. It brought to mind a stuffed chayote my¬† mom prepares. Anyway, here it is:

Calabacitas Rellenas
Serves 6

6 small zucchini squash
1 tsp. ancho chile powder
1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 small red onion, diced
1 cp fresh corn kernels
1/2 cp red bell pepper, chopped
4 oz. chopped green chiles
1 tsp allspice
1 cp queso Oaxaca*, shredded
1/4 cp crema fresca or heavy cream
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 375¬į degrees.

Slice the top ¬Ĺ inch from the squash. The squash I used for this were very small, about 4-5 inches long each and I used a whole one per person. To trim and remove their filling, I split each zuchinni at about 2/3s of the way–less than halfway through. If you’re working with larger ones, you could simply split them¬†in half horizontally and scrape out the seeds.

Bring enough salted water to cover the squash halves to a boil. Drop the halves into the boiling water and cook for 2 minutes. Remove shells from boiling water; nestle close together in a glass baking pan, and season with a little more salt and pepper.

Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan. Cook the onion until soft and starting to become translucent, about 5 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the corn,  and green chiles. Let cool for about 5-10 minutes. Then add 2/3s of the cheese, crema, and allspice. Check for seasoning; add salt and pepper to taste.

Mound some of the stuffing into each squash half. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil, sprinkle the rest of the cheese, and return to the oven. Cook for an additional 5-7 minutes or until the cheese is bubbly.

Cookingly yours,
Anamaris