My new eating regimen has opened me up to the fact that I am feeling well fed by consuming soups. In fact I think I have become a soup fanatic, much as back in the day when I learned I was a french fry fanatic. Now, as my eating evolution continues, I can confidently say I am officially a soup fanatic. Not only desiring to eat them but, create, and make my own soups. Some are age-old and well-known but, with my particular spin and others are solely my own creation. One soup in particular I learned to love was Menudo. Menudo is a soup served in Mexico on Saturdays. Much like other cultures, as in Jamaica cow foot or red pea soup is served on Saturday, so in Mexico its Menudo.
Growing up in So Cal, much of the Mexican cusine, specifically Baja style cusine, greatly influences everyone living there no matter their state or country of origin. Baja style food enveloped us all and my mother became quite the Menudo maker (my mother’s version of Menudo was closer to the Sonoran blanco style not the more common red chile based variety.) Beef feet (Jamaicans call cow foot), beef tripe, pig feet, pig tails and hominy filled the pot. Besides that she added in all those special Mexican herbs and spices that just gave the house this special aroma and the finished soup made our mouths so happy. Over time, my diet regimen no longer could take the eating of the beef feet and never really liked the tripe (cow stomach) and surely did not ever eat pig feet of pig tail (floppers, pig tails and ears and trotters as my father called them) but hell I still loved my menudo. I had to come up with my own version of the Mexican souper Saturday meal.
I was in the farmer’s market one day, passing the Latin aisle and saw a can of Menudo on the shelf and it hit me. I would mimic all the flavors of Sonoran blanco style Menudo, but make it vegetarian. What was most apparent to me that I had to do, was to keep that authentic Mexican flavor, but leave out the tripe,cow foot and pig’s feet. I start by washing and soaking cannelloni beans for about 30 minutes. Put them on the stove with the fire on high to bring the beans to a boil. Never add salt to your water, this causes the beans to be a little tough and take longer to cook. You can add salt after they have become softer and you begin to add your spices. After the beans have cooked for about 30 to 45 minutes, I will add some tomatoes and bring them back to a boil. Then comes the good stuff.
To this I add fresh corn off the cobb (of course you can use frozen corn if you cannot get it fresh in your area), a chopped yellow onion, green, red and yellow bell peppers, one mild serrano chile, a roasted poblano and a 28 ounce can of hominy. Let that boil together for about 15 minutes, add in sea salt to taste, black pepper, garlic and onion powder and the final coup de gras, a nice pinch of Mexican oregano. Now, Mexican oregano is not the same as your common Greek or Italian oregano, it has a distinctive flavor and aroma of its own. Bring everything back up to boil again for about ten minutes then turn off the pot leaving the lid on to steam the flavors down.
After about 15 minutes, take the top off toss in a hand full of cilantro chopped fine and cut a lime and squeeze half a lime directly into the pot, and recover. This will allow the flavor to emit from the cilantro and allow the lime to seep into the food. On the side chop and make some Mexican Salsa (Pico de Gallo), chopped scallions for garnishing along with a few lemon wedges. Next, warm a few flour tortillas up and get ready to chow down. I love to drink a nice cerveza with a warm bowl of vegetable Menudo and some Tapa Tio hot sauce. Enjoy!