the need for heat February 13, 2012

Last month, in our rolling kitchen/styling hovel, there were many mornings where we arrived at the location in total darkness. The first ones there – our driveway shelter only plugged into the power to the house and no heat to speak of. Turning on the oven and hovering over it to warm up, we started chopping, searing and stirring – getting ready for the recipes to be shot that day. As the day went on and the sun came up, playing tricks on you that the temperature outside would match the glorious sunshine as we walked back and forth to set, these amazing smells would be pumped out of our exhaust fan – chilies, onions, pork seared with a coffee dry rub, the most divine beef stew simmering on the stove. Ingrid’s recipes were all pretty fantastic and the scents wafting from our kitchen were a comforting beacon to just about the entire crew those days – few people were able to walk by without commenting on how amazing it smelled out here. A figurative soup pot to crowd around.

In the weeks since the shoot, we’ve had some similar days, weather-wise. It’s been gloriously sunny when you wake up and stare out the window over coffee…and then as soon as you open the door, a blast of cold air makes you pull your collar close to your neck. I’ve been thinking back to those warm smells and how comforting and cozy spice and bright flavor can be. Being pescatarian for over a year now, I miss those stick-to-your-ribs stews and braises. Instead, I turn to hearty soups with lots of beans, intense flavors and great garnishes – vegetarian chili (mike makes a great one), soups chock full of chickpeas and greens. Channeling those flavors I was so happy working with, I started a soup with a mess of tomatillos and went from there – their tang is a great base for building spice and heat. Corn off the cob, some white beans from the pantry, and a few other basic ingredients – topped with shrimp from the fridge – yielded one of the best soups I’ve made in a very long time. This is one you want to lean over a big bowl full and inhale the aroma.

Tomatillo Soup with Corn and White Beans – serves 4 to 6 as a soup course or light entree

While this soup is great on its own, I love some cooked or grilled shrimp thrown in the mix – the tang of the tomatillos and the bit of spice goes so well with the sweetness of the shellfish. You could do this with lobster or crab meat, as well. If you want some meat in the mix, leftover shredded pork or small cubes of tender pork loin could be a nice addition here, too. If you haven’t worked with tomatillos before, note that they have a residual stickiness from their husks that needs to be washed away before you cook with them. Although I add the avocado as a suggested garnish, the creaminess really goes a long way here with all the other textures. Try to add it if you can.

  • 2 tbsp. canola or vegetable oil
  • 1 medium white onion, diced
  • 2 large cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and finely diced
  • a pinch dried red chili flakes
  • 15 medium tomatillos (about 1″-1 1/2″ in diameter) – husks removed, rinsed, and roughly chopped
  • 7 cups mildly flavored vegetable stock – I split this and used 4 cups stock and 3 cups water as to not overwhelm the flavor/color of the soup
  • kernels from 2 cobs of fresh white or yellow corn
  • 2 15 ounce cans navy or great Northern white beans – drained and rinsed
  • juice of 2 large limes
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro
  • kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
  • optional additions: cooked or grilled shrimp or shredded/cubed pork
  • for garnish: sprigs of fresh cilantro, cubes of ripe avocado, lime wedges

– In a large stock or soup pot, heat the oil over medium heat until shimmering . Add in the onion and saute until translucent but not brown – 3 to 4 minutes. Throw in the garlic, jalapeno and chili flakes and saute for another minute. Add the chopped tomatillos to the pot and stir to combine thoroughly. Allow the mixture to cook for 7-8 minutes so the tomatillos begin to soften. Pour in the liquid and bring the mixture to a boil. Once bubbling, reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 20-25 minutes – you want these tastes to start to percolate together. Stir in the corn kernels, white beans, lime juice and chopped cilantro. Allow to cook for 8-10 minutes more to heat the ingredients through but not make the corn and beans mushy. Taste and season accordingly with salt and pepper. To serve, ladle the soup in a bowl and top with any extra protein (if applicable) and serve with avocado, extra cilantro and some lime wedges to squeeze in.


Brian @ A Thought For Food Feb 13, 2012 10:02 am

I agree… this is the time for some heat (spicy and in temperature). This is just the kind of dinner I like to make this time of year. Such lovely, bright flavors too.

Betsy Feb 13, 2012 11:02 am

This looks like exactly what I want today! Beautiful photos too

Kulsum@journeykitchen Feb 13, 2012 11:02 am

Thank God you posted about soups. All those valentine drama is killing me. You know I love when you post soups. I just posted the other day a soup where you add large chunks of corn on cob directly into the soup. Yes, gets messy when you eat it but oh so good!

merry jennifer Feb 13, 2012 08:02 pm


And I totally agree with Kulsum. I’m so tired of Valentine’s themed posts. I love seeing something real, something just plain good.

Jann Mumford Feb 13, 2012 11:02 pm

What a terrific meal for a cold evening~beautiful photography!

Kiran @ Feb 14, 2012 01:02 am

Delicious bowl of flavors and yum! I love making soups now that the temperatures are dropping here in Central Florida. Brrr!!!

Mairi @ Toast Feb 14, 2012 01:02 am

Love the photo, it makes me just want to dive right in with a spoon :)

Lynn Feb 14, 2012 06:02 am

I love the smell of food cooking in the air. This soup looks lovely and probably smells wonderful, too.

Maggy Feb 14, 2012 08:02 am

This looks like just what I want / need. Thanks for this recipe, definitely making it this week!

ingrid Feb 14, 2012 12:02 pm

this looks so Delicioso! was great working with you and happy i left you in the mood for color, warmth and sunshine in a plate.
hopefuly we will work soon again! love the blog!

Kasey Feb 15, 2012 11:02 pm

I don’t cook with tomatillos much but I can just tell that this is a kind of soup you want to just inhale. Makes me think of sitting by a fireplace with a warm blanket.

Magic of Spice Feb 18, 2012 06:02 pm

What a beautiful soup and recipe! This looks amazing and I am a huge fan of tomatillos…this is a must try :)

marla Feb 21, 2012 09:02 pm

Loving the idea of a “mess of tomatillos” great soup recipe :)

Russell at Chasing Delicious Feb 23, 2012 02:02 pm

Mmm. What a recipe. And you’ve got me craving some heat too now! I love that tomatillo shot too.

Jen @ keepitsimplefoods Feb 24, 2012 04:02 pm

Yum…I love tomatillos. They are great fried like green tomatoes. This soup sounds like a bowl of heaven.

Jennifer Walker Feb 28, 2012 03:02 pm

Thanks so much for your blogs. I work in a job I totally dislike and on a day like today for about 30 minutes I was completely lost in your words and photos. Loved the recipes and look forward to cooking them. I envy your love for your work, I had that once, maybe again some day…

GadgetGeek Mar 8, 2012 12:03 pm

Wonderful post and recipe.

Mary Apr 18, 2012 01:04 pm

Looks delicious, I can’t wait to try it.

E Tarif Aug 30, 2013 10:08 am

great soup recipe for cold winter…

Shelley Sep 25, 2014 10:09 pm

This recipe is AWESOME…soooo good. Found it on Pintrest. Topped with a grilled halibut fillet. DELISH….