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.
– 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.