Ten years ago, Ted's aunt and uncle retired to a small town on the north shore of Lake Chapala, in central Mexico.
We love to visit. Great weather. Great food. Great location, in a town popular with artists and artisans, very traditional and yet just 45 minutes from Guadalajara, Mexico's second-largest city, with its four-story Mercado Central, museums, and culture.
Their house sits uphill from the center of town, where there's a small market for daily needs, and an outdoor farmers' market a few times a week. A short walk from their house, a storefront tortilleria sends the aroma of fresh corn tortillas into the neighborhood.
Even closer to home -- right out their back door, in fact -- Ted's aunt and uncle planted a couple of lime trees. When we visit, we sit outside on the patio, overlooking the lake, sipping limeade or something stronger, made with fresh lime juice.
You might be thinking, big deal, lime trees in the back yard. Believe me, when you live in New England, back yard lime trees are just a dream.
In New England, there are neither lemons nor limes -- at least not growing outside the back door. In Mexico, there are no lemons, but there are limes -- Persian limes, the ones we buy in the supermarket here at home.
When choosing limes, look for fruits that are firm, bright green, and heavy for their size. Although limes turn more yellow as they ripen, they are at their peak of flavor when they're most green.
Store limes at room temperature for up to a week, or in the refrigerator, in a plastic bag, for up to two weeks. You can freeze lime juice (most conveniently in an ice cube tray), or lime zest; be sure to dry the zest for a bit before freezing it in a plastic bag.
To extract the most juice from a lime, either roll it back and forth on the countertop with the palm of your hand, or place it in a microwave for ten seconds. Warm limes give up more juice than cold ones, so this is especially helpful if your limes were stored in the refrigerator.
Mexican tortilla and lime soup
A rotisserie chicken makes this easy, or use any leftover cooked chicken. You can make the soup and crisp the tortillas ahead of time; store separately in covered containers. Recipe adapted from Latin & Carribbean Stores Demystified, by Linda Bladholm. Serves 4-6.
2 oat bran or whole wheat tortillas
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1 canned chipotle chili in adobo, plus 1/2 tsp adobo sauce
2 cups cooked chicken breast, shredded (I used rotisserie chicken from the market)
2 Tbsp vegetable or canola oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped
3 medium tomatoes, chopped
6 cups chicken stock (homemade or low-sodium canned)
Juice of 2 limes, plus the rinds (4 halves of squeezed lime)
1 tsp dried Mexican oregano
1 bay leaf
Kosher salt and fresh black pepper to taste
Chopped garnishes: red onion, avocado, radishes, queso fresco (or crumbled feta cheese), cilantro (some or all, optional)
Preheat oven to 425°F.
Slice tortillas into thin matchsticks, 2-3 inches long, and spread on a cookie sheet. Leave out on the countertop to get a bit stale, for 30-60 minutes, while you prepare the soup.
In a small food processor or with a mortar and pestle, puree the garlic and chipotle, and set aside.
In a large saucepan, heat the oil. Sauté onion until soft, 2-3 minutes. Add tomatoes and garlic-chili puree, and stir 2-3 minutes. Add 1/2 tsp adobo sauce, stock, lime juice, lime halves, oregano and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer 10 minutes. Add shredded chicken, and season with salt and pepper. Remove lime rinds. Set soup aside, covered.
Bake the tortilla strips for 10 minutes, or until crisp and browned. Ladle soup into individual serving bowls, and garnish with a few tortilla strips. Pass bowls of garnishes for each person to add, to taste.
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