Mainly because I’m a sucker for a cutesy name (and if I haven’t had post title involving ‘soup’-er yet…well, it will come, my little Smarties…oh yes, it will come…) but, you know, also because I love to make soup.
Oh yeah, and for every soup recipe she received in the month of January, Branny will donate $1 to the ASPCA. Since our adorable pup* Zelda was found in a recycling bin before being adopted by my mom through the local SPCA…
*fine, she’s old and gray…but still a pup to me!…it is definitely a cause I can rally behind.[Contrary to popular belief, Zelda is not named after F. Scott's wife...we chose her name by flipping through a baby book and calling out names and their meanings until we found one that was agreeable to all. Since my sister could barely speak at the time, it was basically a battle of wills between my brother and I. Zelda meant "warrior princess" and was also the name of a video game (The Legend of Zelda, for those of you completely out of the realm of young boys and their e-toys). Since she would be a princess, I was intrigued...and since she would forever be branded as the object of Link's undying quests for glory, my brother was satisfied.]
Also, the Charity Souper Bowl it would be give me a chance to make a soup recipe that I had been mulling over in my brain for weeks now. [Seriously, weeks. I'm not even kidding.]
When I was home in Pennsylvania over Christmas, I had the joy of reading through my stepmom’s Cooking Light magazine for January……in which there was a recipe for Chicken Verde Stew with Hominy, that I immediately knew was right up my (preferably-not-dark-and-scary-like-a-scene-from-Law & Order:SVU) alley.The recipe called for making salsa verde from scratch [been there, done that] and then using it to flavor the (otherwise pretty basic) chicken stew. Knowing that I had this jar of pre-made salsa verde in my fridge (left over from my quest to find a decent replica of the D.L. Jardine’s Roasted Tomatillo Salsa that I searched and searched through every Austin grocery store in vain to find again)…..I figured it was only a matter of time before the stew was made and in my belly.
Then, on New Year’s Eve, I went to dinner at Takoba with my roommate and some friends, and we shared a dish of slow-roasted pork tacos with a side of nopales……which only served to remind me of the time that I ate my very first breakfast taco (also at Takoba) in which I had eggs, chorizo, and nopales…and it was divine.
…and nopalitos are simply the sliced, prepped, and canned/jarred incarnation.
Naturally, I needed to figure out what now to do with the nopalitos. I could cook them as we had them on New Year’s Eve…simply stewed with tomatoes. [They are like the Mexican okra...same reputation for sliminess....apparently the same style of preparation...]
And then, as is always the way, the lightning bolt of culinary genius so prevalent in my (terribly humble) soul shot into my brain…and an idea was born. The result? Sopa Verde (con Pollo)!Combining the idea of salsa verde as a seasoning agent that I extracted from the Cooking Light stew recipe…I created one of the easiest, most flavorful soups yet to emerge from the depths of The Smart Kitchen stewpot.*
*Which is a good place to be…unlike when you play Duck, Duck, Goose and have to sit in the middle.
In addition to the cup or so of prepared salsa verde, grab a white onion, some cloves of garlic, and some fresh cilantro…
You’ll also need 1-1 1/2 lbs. of boneless, skinless chicken breast (although I imagine you could make this vegetarian and substitute cannellini or another white bean…red kidney or pinto or black beans would be fine too, but you’d lose the whole green-and-white thing I had going…)– –which you’ll need to dice into bite-sized pieces (although if you had pre-cooked shredded chicken, I think it would be even better…I kind of prefer shredded chicken in soups and stews actually).
The ubiquitous chicken (or vegetable broth) should be acquired as well. You’ll need 4-6 cups of the stuff depending on how soupy vs. stewy (Griffin) you want this to be. [I used 5 cups.]Definitely use low sodium, because even if you rinse and drain the nopalitos, the fact that they have been prepped and jarred will mean they are still salty. You’ll also get some saltiness from the hominy.Again, I went with white hominy to stick to the green-and-white (which always makes me think of striped soccer socks…?) theme. You can use yellow…or even just go with white and yellow corn Rinse and drain, as is the usual method for anything that comes out of a can in my kitchen.Now, I had recently picked up this chayote squash at the Asian supermarket……which sort of holds it’s own irony, since it’s a squash used in Mexican and Latin American cooking, and not the least bit Asian……so I decided to use that in my Sopa Verde.Yes, it looks like diced green apple, but the closest substitution–since chayote is hard to find, even in Texas…and you know how close we are to Mexico—would be zucchini (although one of my taste-testers said they also taste a little like potatoes, so perhaps you could dice up half a zucchini and a few Yukon golds).So you’ve got about 2 1/2 cups chunked chayote (say that three times fast), 1 cup of diced white onion (1/2 the onion), 3 cloves minced garlic, and 1 cup of nopalitos, diced.Start by sauteeing the onion and garlic for a lil’ bit in some canola oil over medium heat. Once they start to soften, add in the chicken.After the magical pink-to-white transformation, throw in the rest of the veggies. (Is cactus a veggie? I don’t even know.)Add a hearty dose of freshly ground pepper and stir it up.Pour in 1 cup of salsa verde……and stir THAT up.Let it cook for about 5 minutes or so, stirring occasionally, then pour in the chicken broth and bring it all up to a boil. Let it all simmer until the chayote is cooked and tender, then stir in a few handfuls of fresh cilantro.
1 cup diced white onion
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeno, minced (optional)
1 lb. skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into bite sized pieces
1 cup diced nopalitos (tender baby cactus)
1 chayote squash, cubed (about 2 1/2 cups) [may substitute zucchini]
1 cup salsa verde
1 can white hominy, rinsed and drained
5-6 cups low sodium chicken broth
ground black pepper
3/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro, plus extra for garnish
1. Cook onion and garlic in a drizzle of olive oil until beginning to soften.
2. Add chicken to the pot, cooking until white all over.
3. Stir in nopalitos, chayote, salsa verde, and hominy.
4. Cook 5 minutes, stirring regularly.
5. Pour in chicken broth and add some freshly ground pepper. Bring soup to a boil and allow to simmer until squash is tender to the bite.
6. Stir in cilantro.
7. Serve with a dollop of sour cream and a sprig of cilantro…or even a slice or two of avocado!