The Little Miracle on My Patio

On our Mexico City apartment patio, we have several geraniums, two weird succulent plants, and a very productive chili pepper plant.

Those are the survivors, anyway. We’ve managed to kill a few plants, too.

Amazingly, a week or so ago, I noticed a little green sprout in one of the cast-off pots that I had shoved into the corner and forgotten about. I had no idea what the little sprout was (it’s growing in a pot that used to contain basil), but surmised it was a weed that had shown up because the rainy season meant it was getting watered frequently.

But now, it doesn’t look so weed-like:

Anyone know what flower this is?

Anyone know what flower this is?

I Finally Obtain Cheddar Cheese in Mexico City; Charlie Spazzes

A few weeks ago, I went to Costco with friend and fellow blogger Julie. I had heard the rumors that Costco sells certain food items largely unattainable in Mexico City, chief among them extra-sharp cheddar cheese. I have made it no secret that I get a little woozy in the presence of good cheddar, and since I am uber tired of Mexican cheeses (they are fairly bland), I could resist no longer. I bought a giant block of Vermont’s finest, AKA Cabot’s Vintage Choice white cheddar.

[“Vintage Choice rests in our cellars until it reaches perfect maturity. It boasts a rich, full-bodied, extra-sharp flavor that is wonderfully delicious. Complex in taste and texture, opulent and full of nuances. Its powerful intensity lingers like a sweet memory.” Editor’s Note: Indeed.]

Everyday since then, I’ve sliced a little bit off and savored it. When done, I carefully place Saran wrap around the block and place it lovingly back in the fridge. “Tomorrow, we meet again,” I whisper to it. “Tenemos una cita, amorcito.

Tonight, I decided to splurge and have a white wine (a Portugese vinho verde — another thing Julie introduced me, to, and tengo un mil gracias por eso)  and cheddar cheese dinner.

Normally, when Charlie is in the presence of anything that tastes even a smidge better than his normal kibble, he begins an elaborate begging dance to get a scrap. But if his humans ignore him, he will give up, eventually.

But not tonight. I had thoughtlessly left behind a tiny piece of cheddar and was settling into read a friend’s short story for my writing workshop. He kept bumping into me as I tried to read. WTF? Oh, the cheese, I realized.

He spent a very long time calculating the distance between the sofa and the cheese,.

He spent a very long time calculating the distance between the sofa and the tiny bit of cheese.

I eat crappy kibble all day, is it really so hard to just give me this?

"I eat crappy kibble all day. Please, woman."

"Just give me the fucking cheese already."

"SIGH. Just give me the fucking cheese already."

Finally, I relented and handed it to him.

He gobbled it up and then jumped off the couch and preceded to circle the coffee table.

Just making sure it's all gone.

"Just making sure it's all gone."

Later, I spotted him by the doorway, licking and sniffing his paws (he often holds treats with his paws before eating them).

Right now I think he’s retired to the bedroom, and will soon fall asleep, dreaming of cheddar.

The Ironic Corn Stalk in Parque Mexico

I am fortunate enough to live adjacent to Parque Mexico, one of the prettiest parks in Mexico City. I’ve sung its praises many times here, from the big fat banana flowers to the shabby beauty of the fountains to the cute signs posted on tree trunks.

The park is maintained by a giant fleet of workers who sweep the sidewalks and keep the plants/trees healthy. On the weekends, it’s insanely crowded with families and dog owners.

A few months ago, though, I spotted a strange sight: A gangly little stalk of corn. I thought that it was funny — was it a silly joke, to see if it would survive? Or something more meaningful, a historical statement on what was likely growing in the park’s area 300 years ago? Or a political statement that anyone who can live near the park can afford corn during a time of severe (and panic-inducing) drought when so many can’t?

I thought someone would uproot the corn stalk by now, or that it would wither away. But no, it’s gotten huge — all by its lonesome — and is now sprouting a little ear of corn.

I’d love to know who planted it, and why:

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Delish & Low-Cal: Joy’s Vegetarian Tortilla Soup

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As fall arrives, it’s cold and rainy here in Mexico City (seriously, it’s 55 degrees and raining heavily right at this moment). Meaning, I want soup. Steamy, spicy soup.

But because I try to cook vegetarian at home, my options are limited. Mexico is a meat-lover’s paradise (and trust me, I’m not judging: I’ve partaken of the cooked animal flesh many ‘o times here). But one fail-safe at home dish is tortilla soup, using Mexican ingredients.

Truth be told: I’ve been making this recipe for years now, borrowing heavily from this Epicurious recipe that was printed in Bon Appetit in 1997 – wow! The way I prepare it is really a hybrid between tortilla soup and sopa de lima. And it’s my favorite of any I’ve tried…

Ingredients:

  • glug of olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped white onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced (or more)
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste (I use ketchup)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin (I use a lot more plus at least 2 tsp of chili powder)
  • 4 cups canned vegetable broth, adding more water if needed
  • 4 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro (again, I use liberally)
  • bag of good tortilla chips (totopos en espanol), crush some to sprinkle on top of finished soup
  • 2 cups chopped tomatoes (I use canned whole tomatoes, a pantry item that’s always usable)
  • 1 can black beans, rinsed, drained
  • at least 1 cup chopped zucchini — or more depending on how much you like this veggie. I chop it into fourths.
  • At least one jalapeno pepper (with seeds — we like spice, take ’em out if you don’t) or any other spicy chile
  • Can throw in a cup or so of frozen or fresh corn kernels
  • Can throw in a 1/2 cup or so of fresh chopped carrots
  • Limes — lots of em. I like the small sweet kind
  • Shredded cheddar cheese to sprinkle on top (if you’re a bad girl)
  • salt and pepper, claro

Pour glug of olive oil onto large nonstick saucepan. Add onion, cover and cook over medium-low heat until almost tender, stirring often, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, stir 1 minute. Stir in tomato paste or ketchup, cumin and chili powder. Add broth and 2 tablespoons cilantro; bring to boil. Reduce heat; cover and simmer until flavors blend, about 15 minutes. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover; chill. Bring to simmer before continuing.) Can add water if this is too thick for your taste.

Add tomatoes, beans, zucchini, extra veggies (if desired) and chile pepper to soup. Cover; simmer until zucchini is tender, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. If broth is too laden with veggies, add little bits of water until you reach desired soup consistency. Add more spices if you wish to avoid diluted taste.

Squeeze in juice of 1 lime. Add desired amount of salt and pepper.

Ladle soup into bowls. Sprinkle with remaining extra cilantro. Squeeze a bit more lime (depending on your lime preference — I like a lot). And you may want to shred a little Manchego cheese on top.

Tastes great as leftovers, btw. (I don’t know the exact nutrition breakdown, pero,  black beans have fiber, limes have vitamin c, carrots have vitamin A and fiber, tomatoes have vitamin C and lycopene, garlic is always good for you….and this has just a teensy bit of olive oil. So, it’s low-fat, low-cal, vegetarian and nutrient-dense. AND TASTY.)

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