A Soup to Warm Up Ones Toes

The barometer took a dive this week in New York City from last week’s highs in the 50s to the 30s and 40s. During these chilly times, my toes are the most vexing extremities to thaw. Fingers I can manage by sitting on them or tucking into my armpits, but the toes have no place to go.

When faced with such a frigid crisis, there’s only one thing for me to do and that is to drag out my cauldron and stir up a pot of spicy Mexican Tortilla Bean Soup. A bowl of this steaming fiesta of lime, chili, cheese, in a rich tomato broth will toast my toes up in no time.

The original recipe was inspired by Rick Bayless’, Mexican Everyday, but over the years, I’ve tweaked and toiled until it’s taken on a life of its own.

First, start by making the Sofrito, a sauce made of onions, garlic, cilantro and racao, an essential herb used in Mexican sofritos (also known as saw leaf herb, or in Vietnamese, ngo gai). If you don’t have saw leaf herb, cilantro stems will do fine as a substitute.

Sofrito, depending on the region where its made, varies in the types of ingredients , but usually consists of an aromatic such as onions and/or garlic, tomatoes, herbs (cilantro, saw leaf) and spices (cumin, paprika, chili powder or peppers). It is versatile in use and can be the base for rice, meat, fish, or vegetable dishes, and is found in cuisines all over the world including but not limited to Latin American, Greek, Spanish, Portuguese, and Caribbean cuisine.

The cilantro and racao in this recipe bring an earthy quality to the sofrito. There’s a slight kick from the peppers (chile de arbol and chipotle), bright citrus flavor from the limes, and butteriness from the cheese and beans which round out the flavors.

This soup is the best thing to savour on a cold, dreary, rainy New England day.

Here’s the recipe. Bon Appetit!

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