Sunday, August 19, 2007

Back to Normal Weather and Thoughts of Scurvy


We had a week of summer. Glorious, sunny days in the low-70s. Sunshine blazing through my windows during what is usually the wettest month here in Isolationville. It was a treat. It was a trick. Overnight, our weather reverted to normal, with gray, wet skies and winds gusting above 40 mph. Ah, well, it was lovely while it lasted, and we took advantage with nice cool meals like cold sesame noodles with snow pea salad.

Tonight, however, soup was on the menu. Sopa de lima, to be exact, from the Sundays at Moosewood cookbook. I love this soup. I like the freshness of the tomatoes and lime, the soggy crunch of the tortilla chips (or strips of fried tortilla, which is what I usually do), the richness of the avocado. It all mingles in the bowl so amiably. We had some grated pepperjack and a few sprigs of windowsill cilantro to finish off the toppings.

When I first moved to Isolationville, deep in the throes of the coldest winter in a couple decades, I made the mistake of reading a collection of journals from ships trying to find the northwest passage (a previously mythical sea-route across the top of the North American continent; with global warming, it may soon be a reality almost year-round). The bravest (or foolhardiest, depending on your perspective) of the explorers ended up caught in ice at the end of the summer, doomed to spend the winter in a giant ice cube with diminishing supplies and no way out. Many of those crews succumbed to scurvy, and as I read these accounts, I started to crave oranges and tomatoes and limes.

It made perfect sense: I was in a land of darkness for much of the day, surrounded by piles of snow, with no escape route, and the produce section of our small store left much to be desired. They did carry citrus. I will have to admit that up front. Husband made fun of me, claiming that "nobody gets scurvy anymore."

Oh, really?

Just in time for me to score a major debating victory, the NYTimes Sunday Magazine printed one of their occasional "medical mystery" columns and the mystery illness was scurvy! A modern case of scurvy, not in some northern hinterland, but in the Bronx. I felt vindicated!

With this lovely soup, however, even I don't worry about getting scurvy:

Sopa de Lima (Sundays at Moosewood, page 455)

1 cup chopped onion
4 large cloves of garlic, minced
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 or 2 chiles, minced
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
3 1/2 cups chopped fresh tomato (here in Isolationville, I use a can of crushed and a can of diced tomatoes instead of fresh)
3 cups vegetable stock
1/3 cup fresh-squeezed lime juice
salt to taste

In a medium pot, saute the onions and garlic in oil until the onions are translucent. Add the chiles, cumin, and oregano, and saute a few more minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes and sprinkle with a little salt. Cover the pot and cook gently until the tomatoes begin to release the juices. Stir occasionally. Add the stock and simmer, covered, for about 15 minutes. Add the lime juice and salt to taste.

Serve topped with grated cheese and crumbled tortilla chips. Garnish with finely chopped cilantro, if desired. (I usually serve it with cubes of avocado and lime wedges as well.)

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