Would you believe that sometimes I return from a culinary research trip feeling literally fed up with Mexican food? Contrary to what you might think, the effort to find and taste as many new things as possible can be a physical ordeal for people like me, who generally prefer to eat lightly. My biggest problem is usually fresh vegetables — or lack of same — in an endless sea of meat and poultry and seafood dishes. Why do all the beautiful vegetables grown by neighborhood farmers do such a disappearing act between Mexican markets and Mexican tables?Well, of course they don't, really, at least in everyday meals. But both restaurant menus and the proudest offerings of home cooks are so heavy on animal protein that my digestive system starts crying for mercy after a few days. To be able to eat my fill of fresh garden vegetables during one of these trips is a rare treat, so I was in heaven when I encountered this soupy, aromatic stew at La Brisa del Mar restaurant in Veracruz. The rich brothy sauce or saucy broth can be made with either beef or chicken.I wish I had a neat definition for tesmoles, but about all I feel justified in saying is that they belong to the big family of soup-stews so beloved in the central-southern areas if Mexico, and that they invariably seem to include minute and toothsome masa dumplings (bolitas). The medley of green vegetables used in this version can be varied according to what’s good in the market. At La Brisa del Mar, the staff uses large, mature, fresh lima beans that stand up well to cooking. In this country it’s not always easy to find a good equivalent. I’ve successfully used frozen Fordhook limas or fresh green fava beans. I suggest avoiding baby limas. The vegetables in this dish should be full-size and sturdy, not tiny and super-delicate. If you have to use baby limas, add them only at the end, after the other vegetables and just before the bolitas.The bolitas are cousins of the chochoyotes of Oaxaca. The reason for their funny indented shape is that it helps cook them faster when added to a soup or stew. I would not try to substitute any fat other than lard; it holds them together compactly while making them fluffy without a hint of greasiness.This recipe appeared originally in my book Zarela's Veracruz: Mexico's Simplest Cuisine.
Nothing says Maryland like fresh, sweet crabs, but add a dash of the state’s favorite Old Bay seasoning and you have one creamy, rich seafood soup that is more than a local favorite, it’s a time-honored tradition. Our recipe uses the classic spicy Old Bay seasoning and a splash of dry sherry.