Vegan, Jane Austen student, Minimalist, Reader, Librarian

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Cuban & Mexican Food Memories

A comment on my blog yesterday triggered a memory of a dish my grandmother (and then my mother) used to make. It’s call sopita (which I think means “little soup”, sopa=soup, ita=little). My grandmother, who was from Morelia, Michoacán, Mexico, would often make it when she baby-sat my brother and I, and I always associate it with her 1940s white kitchen in Delray, Detroit, one with a big old porcelain sink with a riveted dish drainer on one end, and her using the kitchen table as a work surface since the kitchen had no counters at all. Served with fresh buttery homemade tortillas she used to make, it was divine. The ultimate comfort food and perfect for a cold winter day.

This recipe is so easy, doesn’t contain any animal ingredients, and the only change I’ve made to it is to use organic canned tomatoes. It’s a good idea to have everything ready because once the pan is hot, you’re adding things quickly.

You put some vegetable oil in a saucepan (enough to almost coat the entire bottom) and sauté some diced onion (about 1 small or 1/2 of a medium) until translucent. Next, pour some medium or tiny shell pasta in(I use about 2 cups), and lightly brown the pasta on medium low heat. This is what gives it a unique flavor. Stir constantly because you don’t want to burn the pasta. When it’s starting to brown slightly, add a can of diced tomatoes, and enough water to cover the pasta. I can’t work in measurements because I really just eyeball it. The idea is to cook the pasta, but still have enough liquid left over so it’s like soup, not too thick not too thin. I learned from watching my mother and trial and error. Salt to taste. This is best eaten the same day or the next, after that, the pasta absorbs so much of the water I don’t care for it. So I don’t make too much. My husband likes to add basil when he makes it but I hate when he does this and, as I remind him, this is Mexican, not Italian!

Unfortunately, I don’t make many of the foods I grew up with. It’s hard to find plantains plus the only way I like them is as tostones (say toe stone ays), and that requires deep frying them, twice! I hate to add & waste that much oil, plus it makes a mess. (My mom used to save cooking oil in a coffee can, but I just don’t do that). I love a lot of the ingredients that are used in Cuban and Mexican cooking, especially avocados, limes, tortillas (no, I do not like the wheat tortillas out there), black beans, pinto beans, (soy) chorizo, nacho chips, my own salsa, guacamole, and rice (but I no longer use white rice, I use jasmine or basmati instead). I haven’t yet made flan, a rich custard dessert made with sweetened condensed milk, eggs, and sugar. I haven’t looked for a soy version of the condensed milk and I’d probably have to search the web and/or experiment to find a good recipe of this delicious, rich, and very impressive dessert (sort of like crème Brule). I’ve got a lot of other recipes to try out, so I don’t think I’ll be doing this anytime soon.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this recipe! I had a friend who was from Mexico and she made me this soup. It was absolutely delicious and I didn't believe here there was like 5 ingredients. Now I will have to make it for my family. Yummy!