November 2011/Prepared Foods-- If one’s knowledge of Mexican cooking begins and ends with the stereotypes, then it may be surprising to learn that soups are one of that country’s specialties. Although not imaginatively seasoned, the soups of Mexico are not all full of peppery fire.
Sopa de legumbres, pictured here, literally means vegetable soup.  This one includes beef and a produce stand of vegetables--not simply carrots, celery and potatoes, but acorn squash, cabbage and large chunks of fresh corn on-the-cob.  The seasoning is equally distinctive--a combination of thyme leaves, black pepper, onion and garlic, with a surprising touch of whole cloves.
There is also a soup made with meatballs and chickpeas.  Much of the flavor in this one is in the meatballs, which are creatively redolent of cinnamon and nutmeg.  In the soup itself, a little coriander and black pepper add interest to the beef broth and vegetables.
A favorite in Guadalajara is a pork and pinto bean soup, which is almost rich enough to be called a stew.  The seasoning is essentially chili powder, with added oregano, cumin, garlic and onion.  (Carrots and baby ears of corn combine with the beans and meat to make it colorful and different.)
Mexicans also make an all-bean soup, which is quite different from bean soups of other lands. The beans are first cooked until tender in water that has been seasoned with onion, garlic, oregano and black pepper; they are then removed, cooled and mashed.  Next, they are reheated with tomato sauce and served with grated cheese.
Spareribs and cabbage are made into still another brew.  This one has a tantalizing note of anise among its flavors. Otherwise, the seasoning focuses on chili powder, additional cumin seed, garlic, onion and black

The sopa de legumbres recipe was originally adapted and tested for Prepared Foods by the test kitchen of the American Spice Trade Association. (FR0181)


Sopa de Legumbres (Vegetable Soup)
4 cups beef broth
4 cups water
1 can (8oz) tomato sauce
¼-cup instant minced onion
1 ¼-tsp thyme leaves, crushed
1 ¼-tsp instant minced garlic
1 tsp salt
½-tsp whole black pepper
4 whole cloves
1 ½-cups peeled potatoes, cut in ½-in cubes
¾-cup acorn squash, cut in ½-in cubes
8oz boneless beef shoulder chuck, cut in ½-in cubes
4 cups coarsely sliced cabbage
¾-cup sliced carrot
¾-cup sliced celery
2 ears corn, cut in 1in lengths

In a large saucepot, combine broth, water, tomato sauce, onion, thyme, garlic and salt.  Add black pepper and cloves (tie in cheesecloth, if desired).  Bring to a boil. Reduce and simmer, covered, for 30 mins.  Add potatoes and squash.  Simmer, covered, 10 mins.  Add beef, cabbage, carrot, celery and corn.  Simmer, covered, until meat and vegetables are tender, about 10 mins.

Yield: 10 cups