My UBC class in Mexican cooking from Oaxaca started with this traditional soup: sopa de milpa or ‘garden soup’.
A milpa is a traditional Mesoamerican corn patch that consisted of rows of corn planted together with the companion plants such as tomatoes, zucchini, poblano chiles, ‘nopales’ (cactus paddles), and epazote (a herb). These, along with the onions and garlic brought from Europe by the Spaniards, form the main ingredients found in this soup.
- pureed tomatoes, corn niblets, 2 poblano chiles, epazote (a herb) and oil were some of the main ingredients found in this soup.
- the soup started with a cup of diced onion sauteed until translucent, at which time a minced garlic clove and pureed tomatoes were added.
- a couple of poblano chiles were sliced into strips.
- next came the nopales. A tip about buying nopales (prickly pear paddles) from Chef Rossana: Buy paddles approximately the size of your hand as the larger ones can be too fibrous. Remove the spines from both sides of the paddle by sliding the knife across at a steep angle.
- diced zucchini, corn niblets, poblano chile strips, nopale strips and vegetable or chicken broth were all added to the tomato/onion/garlic mix. Lightly seasoned with salt, it was brought to a boil and then reduced to a simmer.
- at this point the epazote was added. Pungent, and redolent of mint, licorice and a delicate kerosene, epazote adds a distinctive taste to the soup. Chef Rossana suggested removing any stems before adding to the pot as they are quite woody. The soup is then simmered for another 5-10 minutes.
- the soup as served!
Chef Rossana, the instructor of my Mexican cooking course, is on Twitter at: https://twitter.com/MiMetate