Tesmole Verde

Try Tesmole Verde or Soup-Stew With Green Herbs and Vegetables recipe for dinner
Tesmole Verde

Laurie Smith

Tesmole Verde

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.

6
Servings
758
Calories Per Serving
Deliver Ingredients

Ingredients

For the bolitas de masa:

  • 1 Tablespoon lard, preferably home-rendered
  • 1/2 Teaspoon salt
  • 1 Cup masa, either fresh or reconstituted by mixing 1 cup masa harina with 3/4 cup water
  • Small bit of chopped fresh epazote, cilantro, or hoja santa (optional)

For the tesmole:

  • 4 Pounds beef shin with morrow bones, sawed by the butcher into 2-inch sections
  • 2 medium-sized white onions, 4 left unpeeled
  • 6 garlic cloves, 4 left unpeeled
  • 2 Teaspoons salt, or to taste
  • 5 large fresh or 10 dried hoja santa leaves
  • 1 small bunch of cilantro
  • 4 jalapeño chiles
  • 1 Cup shelled fresh lima beans
  • 2 ears of corn, fresh or frozen, cut into 2-inch rounds
  • 1/2 Pound mature green beans, topped and tailed, strings removed if necessary
  • 2 chayotes, peeled, pitted, and cut lengthwise and cut into 1 1/2-inch slices

Directions

For the bolitas de masa:

In a mixing bowl, stir the lard and salt into the masa to make a smooth dough. Shape the mixture into balls the size of large marbles, slightly flattening each one and using your index finger to press a small indentation into each dumpling. Cover the bolitas with a damp, clean kitchen towel and set them aside. 

For the tesmole:

Place the meat in a large saucepan or small stockpot with the unpeeled onion, 4 unpeeled garlic cloves, and 1 teaspoon salt, or to taste. Add 6 to 7 cups cold water (or enough to cover the meat) and bring to a boil over high heat. Quickly reduce the heat to maintain a low rolling boil; skim off any froth that rises to the top. Cook, partly covered, until the meat is tender, about 2 to 2 1/2 hours.

When the meat is tender, lift it out, letting it drain well, and set aside. Strain the stock and return it to the rinsed-out pot; set aside.

Coarsely chop the remaining onion and garlic cloves. If you are using dried hoja santa, proceed as follows: Purée the onion and garlic in a blender with 6 hoja santa leaves, half the cilantro, 2 of the jalapeños, and about 1 cup of the strained stock, or enough to facilitate blending. If using fresh hoja santa, purée in exactly the same way but use the entire bunch of cilantro. Pour the mixture into the remaining reserved stock and bring to a boil over high heat. Quickly reduce the heat to maintain a low rolling boil. Taste for seasoning and add a pinch or two of salt if desired.

Return the meat to the soup. Add the lima beans and cook for 3 minutes. Notch a small cross in the tops of the remaining 2 jalapeños and add to the soup along with the corn, green beans, chayotes, and zucchini. Cook for about 7-8 minutes, or until the vegetables are just crisp-tender. Add the bolitas to the soup, and cook just until they float to the top, about 3 to 5 minutes.

If using dried hoja santa, place the remaining 4 leaves in the blender with the rest of the cilantro and puree with a tablespoon of stock or water. Fresh hoja santa can be pureed by itself, using just a few tablespoons of stock or water. Stir into the soup and serve immediately.

Nutritional Facts

Total Fat
34g
49%
Sugar
7g
8%
Saturated Fat
15g
63%
Cholesterol
91mg
30%
Carbohydrate, by difference
72g
55%
Protein
41g
89%
Vitamin A, RAE
258µg
37%
Vitamin B-12
3µg
100%
Vitamin B-6
1mg
77%
Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid
3mg
4%
Vitamin K (phylloquinone)
6µg
7%
Calcium, Ca
410mg
41%
Choline, total
8mg
2%
Fiber, total dietary
8g
32%
Fluoride, F
12µg
0%
Folate, total
146µg
37%
Iron, Fe
8mg
44%
Magnesium, Mg
107mg
33%
Manganese, Mn
1mg
56%
Niacin
10mg
71%
Pantothenic acid
2mg
40%
Phosphorus, P
613mg
88%
Riboflavin
1mg
91%
Selenium, Se
71µg
100%
Sodium, Na
2000mg
100%
Thiamin
1mg
91%
Water
255g
9%
Zinc, Zn
6mg
75%

Mole Shopping Tip

How hot is that chile pepper? Fresh peppers get hotter as they age; they will achieve a more reddish hue and sometimes develop streaks in the skin.

Mole Cooking Tip

There are 60 varieties of chile peppers, many of which are used in Mexican cooking. Handle them with care. When handling the spicier kinds, gloves are recommended. Always wash your hands with soap and warm water before touching your eyes.