Contrary to popular belief, I am lazy – incredibly lazy. If I can sleep a good ten hours at night, followed two hours reading a book through my eyelids in my hamaca in the afternoon, I am perfectly content. When it comes to food, with the exception of breakfast, I’m more inclined to tuck into some chips and dip or a homemade, heat-n-serve, pre-frozen bowl of stew. Growing up in a large family has served me well. As the youngest of five, the only girl, and the child of working parents I learned to cook at a young age. It started with fried bologna sandwiches and Kraft Mac and Cheese, progressed to popovers and lemon meringue pie, followed by big pots of spaghetti with hamburger tomato sauce, lasagna, and pots of navy beans complete with ham hock. Over the years my diet changed dramatically, but I never did get over my habit of cooking for seven. These days, when I do cook, it is usually a big pot of something delicious, which I package into serving sized containers and stuff into my freezer.
I have a funny neighbor, Raul. Raul is a bachelor in his 40s, but looks the worse for wear and tear. He drives up and down our street on his yellow and white scooter, cigarette dangling from his lips, full sized bike pump leaning precariously out the side of the plastic milk crate which is precariously perched on the back of his moto. Raul is a chilero – he has a field out past the end of the road where he grows chiles and the occasional tomato, zucchini, and cilantro. The other morning I was watering my garden and he stopped to chat, telling me that my quarantine face was getting fat and that when I am an old woman I will have layers of chins drooping down to meet my collar bones. No, he doesn’t hold back. Yes, sometimes I wish I didn’t understand his Spanish. I think he might have felt bad about his comments – he returned later in the day with a huge bag of fresh poblano chiles, dumped them into my sink, and set about washing them, telling me, “you gringas are lazy.” Raul often brings me produce. Every time he does, he brings enough for a family of seven – or more! I hate see his beautiful produce wither and rot in my compost heap, so I am constantly challenged to make something delicious and freezable with his offerings. Today, I blended his poblano chiles with my plethora of garden fresh cherry tomatoes to make this rich, spicy, and delicious Poblano Tomato Soup.
Poblano Tomato Soup
Serves 8-10 as a main course, 16-20 as a starter
12 poblano chiles, roasted, seeded, deveined, and roughly chopped
6 cups cherry tomatoes, quartered (or 6 cups tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and roughly chopped)
1-3 tablespoons oil
1 large onion, peeled and roughly chopped
½ – 1 head of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
1-3 teaspoons sea salt
1 serrano or jalapeno chile, seeded, deveined, and roughly chopped
1 dried ancho or pasilla chile, seeded and cut into small pieces with scissors
1 dried chipotle chile, seeded and cut into small pieces with scissors
1-2 tablespoons dried and ground cumin
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon Dijon or spicy mustard
Salt and pepper to taste
Freshly squeezed lime juice
Roast and skin the chiles – char the chiles over open gas flame, or under a gas broiler until black and blistering. Place in a paper bag and seal until the chiles are cool enough to handle. Wipe off the charred skin with your hands or a paper towel, but don’t worry if you don’t peel off every bit of skin. Chop off the stem end, remove the seeds and veins, roughly chop.
Peel and de-seed the tomatoes – bring a large pot of water to a boil. Score an X on the bottom of each tomato with a sharp knife, drop the tomatoes into the boiling water for one minute, or until the skin starts to peel back, remove with a slotted spoon, drop into a bowl of ice water, peel off the skin once tomatoes are cool enough to handle. Cut tomatoes in quarters and remove seeds.
Heat oil over medium-low heat, add onion and salt. Sauté onion until translucent, about 5-7 minutes. Add garlic and chiles, sauté another 4-5 minutes. Stir in honey, mustard, and cumin. Add the poblano chiles and tomatoes and sauté for another few minutes. Add enough water to cover the chiles and tomatoes, turn heat to low, simmer with lid on but slightly askew, stirring occasionally. Simmer until the tomatoes are cooked down and the chiles are soft when poked with a knife, about 1.5 – 2 hours. Allow to cool and blend with an immersion or regular blender (remember to cover the blender with a towel to avoid hot soup splatters on the wall and down your front). Season with salt and pepper and serve with freshly squeezed lime juice and a drizzle of creamy white stuff (sour cream or plain yogurt) or this delicious Creamy Jalapeño Salsa.