This week is all about simple traditional rustic dishes that are like hidden gems in the world of Mexican Cuisine. Vegetable and legume based dishes are plentiful in Latin America. I especially love that some do not require any adaptations in ingredients to make them vegan friendly. Caldo de Habas or Fava Bean Soup is comforting and hearty, the addition of nopalitos or tender cactus boosts the nutrition levels and make this a super meal. You can find cleaned nopalitos in latin markets or you can substitute jarred cactus if you can not find fresh. This would also be good with kale or swiss chard.
- 2 cups of dried fava beans
- 8 small tender cactus paddles that have been cleaned
- white vinegar
- 6 ripe Roma tomatoes chopped
- 2 garlic cloves
- 1/2 small onion diced
- salt and pepper
- pinch of baking soda
- fresh chopped cilantro
- 8 cups vegetable broth
- 2 tsp oil
- 6-10 Japanese dried chiles or dried arbol chiles
Step 1 – sort and rinse the dried fava beans, add them to a pot and fill with enough water to cover them; bring to a boil, lower heat and simmer for 30 minutes; wash the nopales very well and chop into bite size squares, place in a pot fill with water to cover the nopales, add 1 tbsp salt and a splash of white vinegar; bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 40 minutes or until tender.
Step 2 – while the fava beans and nopales are cooking, make the tomato base; to a blender add the chopped tomatoes, garlic, 1/2 cup of water and process until smooth; heat 2 tsp of oil in a skillet and add the chiles fry until crisp and slightly charred, remove and set aside on paper towels; in the same skillet add the chopped onion and saute until golden brown, pour in the blended tomato base, a pinch of baking soda and bring to a boil, lower heat and let it simmer until no foam remains and the color is bright red.
Step 3 – after 30 minutes the fava beans should be soft and beginning to break apart, at this point pour in the tomato base stir well to combine; cook for 10 minutes; drain the nopales when they are done cooking and rinse very well under running water to remove excess slime; add them to the soup pot; pour in enough vegetable broth to cover everything, cook until fava beans are completely soft and falling apart, about 25 – 30 minutes; add salt and pepper to taste; in the last 10 minutes of cooking time stir in chopped cilantro.
Serve with lime wedges and the fried chiles which could be broken up into the soup. I served this soup today with crispy tortillas slathered with almond cheese and topped with avocado slices. Enjoy!