Limes (Recipe: Mexican tortilla and lime soup)
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.
More recipes for a Mexican-inspired menu:
Cactus salad, from The Perfect Pantry
Mock guac, from The Perfect Pantry
Mexican pizza, from Barbara Bakes
Mexican street corn nachos, from Simply Recipes
Disclosure: The Perfect Pantry earns a few pennies on purchases made through the Amazon.com links in this post. Thank you for supporting this site when you start your shopping here.
Great photos! This sounds delicious. I have a friend from Salt Lake who moved to Mexico and it sounds like it might be the same town. I'll have to find out where she lives.
I'm going to make this soup soon - couldn't resist buying a bag of limes at the local discount produce place.
Looks delicious and I love that you garnished with avocado. Avocado and squeeze of lime juice are good with a fish-based soup too!
I like how you add the lime halves to the soup. Easy way to get the flavor of the zest without the extra work.
A shot of this soup with some zesty lime flavor would really perk me up right now. Beautiful lime portrait!
That looks good!Thanks so much for the lime tips. This morning I took out one lime from the refrigerator but noticed it wouldn't give up juice easily.I'll try warming it up next time. I'll also try the tip on preserving the lime zest.Never thought I could freeze the lime juice!Can I do same for orange zest? Thanks so much.
That looks...and sounds...delicious!
I am now craving tortilla soup at 7:40am. :)
Thanks for the info. I don't buy limes often enough mostly because it is hard to find fresh produce lately. I am looking forward to the Farmer's Market opening soon.
I'm going to cook a chicken this afternoon. I think I'll make this instead of plain chicken noodle soup with the broth.
Lydia, the soup sounds wonderful but reading the name Lake Chapala brought back memories from 20 years ago when my husband and I lived in Guadalajara for six months because he wanted to retire there - we went to Lake Chapala often to enjoy the many attractions and the good food in the restaurants. We travelled as far west as Puerto Vallarta (we drove from NYC to Mexico in a Chevy Nova taking a long scenic route thru the US first) so we were able to visit many cities in Mexico and see the beauty first-hand. One of the most beautiful is San Miguel de Allende, an artist's haven where we had our first taste of faijitas and became addicted. The food in Mexico was uniformly sensational and we were never sick. In Guadalarja we generally ate in local places where we were the only gringos - only a roof overhang, no walls - haven't thought about this for ages.
I love limes in so many foods, even those that don't traditionally use limes. I got lambasted once for including lime in a Borscht recipe I posted, and the guy mentioned that limes grow nowhere near Ukraine. Well, they don't grow in Canada either, and I use them all the time!
THis is abosolutely my favorite mexican soup. Love the avocados.
Lydia, I think this is the best recipe I have seen for tortilla soup, most lack all the flavoring you have added. I am definitely making this with my next fiesta! I'm also jealous of those that can grow lemons and limes in their back yard, wouldn't that be a dream!
This is such wonderful soup - even healthy! A lime tree in the backyard . . . three did you say . . . I'm with you that would be heaven.
What a place to retire! Sounds heavenly.
When I was a kid we had a lime and a lemon tree in the back yard (and a fig tree too). Our neighbor had a pomegranate tree that stretched over the fence so we enjoyed those too. Never appreciated those trees until I moved to the east coast!
Beautiful photo and recipe. :)
Oh man, I would love to have a lime tree in the backyard! I'll settle for my little herb garden in the meantime. ;) The soup looks fabulous!
Kalyn, the town is Ajijic, and there are thousands of Canadian, American and European ex-pats there. Still the town has managed to retain its essentially Mexican qualities.
Mary, this is a real sinus cleaner-outer, and the limes definitely make it.
Joan, I never thought to try, but nice chunks of white fish in this soup would be delicious!
Julia, really easy to fish out the lime halves, too.
TW, thanks. I thought these limes were particularly photogenic. And this soup is guaranteed to cure any cold.
Akwe, yes, any kind of zest will work. And warming up your limes before juicing will make all the difference.
Bridget, with a breakfast burrito, it sounds perfect for the morning.
Treehouse Chef, we get a fairly steady supply of limes here in RI, but all brought in from Florida, California, Mexico, etc.
Janel, you can make the basic broth and freeze it, too.
Louise, how I envy you being able to live in Guad for 6 months. I love the area; the city is spectacular, and yet you do not have to travel far to be in a much more rural Mexico. Thanks for sharing your reminiscence.
Erik, limes in borscht? Well, why not? I can't imagine cooking without limes; I use them more often than lemons.
Elra, it's one of my favorites, too.
Jason, the chipotle (and of course I add extra adobo sauce, because I like it super-spicy) really makes the difference between this and a bland tomato soup.
MyKitchen, yes, it's healthy, and easy to make, and can be frozen... what more could one ask?!
Ari, I haven't seen a real live pomegranate tree since I traveled in Israel as a kid. The kibbutz where I stayed had many pomegranate trees, and we would pick the fruits all day long.
Cate, I'd love to be able to grow limes outdoors here, too. Whenever we're in Mexico, I get completely addicted to the fresh lime juice from limes that are still warm from the sun.
Being in Canada, a lime tree is the stuff of dreams.. like giant squids and active volcanos. I know they exist but I have never seen one in person.
I do love the flavour they impart to a dish. Citrus rocks! Great soup, so flavourful.
i adore limes and this soup promises to be everything we like too.
Great post and recipe! I love limes and always eat the pulp after I squeeze it into my food. Is that weird? They're just so good!
That is one tasty looking soup!
Natashya, agreed -- citrus rocks!
Meeta, it's a great all-purpose soup, and you can add other things to it (a bit of fresh corn, some leftover cooked potatoes), like any good soup base.
Hillary, maybe it's a little bit weird, but so good for you!
Kevin, it is, it is. Hope you enjoy it.
Would you believe that I ate tortilla soup in Chapala when I lived in Guadalajara? Thanks for the recipe!
I'd love to have a lime tree. Thanks for the storing limes tips.
Rebecca, this soup is so popular in Chapala! How lucky for you that you lived in Guad; it's such a vibrant city.
Paz, I'd love to have a lime tree, too. But here in Rhode Island, it's just a dream.
Finally I have made it back from a heavy work load lately! and starting where I left off...what a welcome... beautiful yummy limes! I am one of those who prefer limeade over lemonade but love both.
I just found your site and love your ideas! This recipe looks wonderful and very different from the usual - I plan to try this one soon!