smoky tomato broth with masa dumplings and black beans

smoky tomato broth with masa dumplings ||

After my trips to Paris and Oaxaca, arriving home in the middle of our depressing political situation and abysmal Seattle weather had me in a proper funk.

The kind of funk that leaves you struggling to get out of bed in the morning. A funk that makes eating cookies for breakfast, lunch and dinner sound like a good idea. The sort of funk that requires spending as much time as possible in stretchy clothing (preferably pyjamas) in order to avoid feeling bad about all those cookies you ate.

smoky tomato broth with masa dumplings ||
smoky tomato broth with masa dumplings ||

But the good news is I think I’m finally emerging from this tailspin. 

Beau once told me about a Kanye interview in which Mr. West declared his personal mantra: “My life is dope and I only do dope things.” Now, when I find myself feeling small or like an impostor or afraid to pursue my dreams, I try to channel Kanye’s manifesto of personal awesomeness. 

smoky tomato broth with masa dumplings ||
smoky tomato broth with masa dumplings ||
smoky tomato broth with masa dumplings ||

To that end, I have started taking better care of myself again. I’m wearing grown-up clothes with zippers and buttons instead of lycra and spandex. I have replaced cookies with home-cooked meals. I’ve booked tickets to go see my best friend and her kidlets in Wichita and to spend some time under the California sun. I’m planning some fun travel around my Paris workshop in May (Hello, Scotland!). I’m organizing volunteers and testing recipes for next week’s Love Trumps Hate fundraising dinner

smoky tomato broth with masa dumplings ||

Earlier this week, I wanted to go back to bed and sleep until summertime. Today, I managed to shop for, test and shoot this Smoky Tomato Broth with Masa Dumplings and Black Beans. So things are looking up!

Hoping things are looking bright for you this weekend and sending you a reminder that your life is dope and you should only do dope things!



Smoky Tomato Broth with Masa Dumplings and Black Beans

  • 1/2 cup dried black beans, soaked and cooked (or 1 can black beans)
  • 1 large onion
  • 4 dried smoked serranos (or other smoky dried chiles)
  • 2 teaspoons whole cumin seed
  • 2 tablespoons neutral tasting high-heat oil (I used avocado oil), plus additional for frying the dumplings
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 avocado leaves or 2 bay leaves
  • 1 stick canela (Mexican cinnamon, also known as Ceylon or true cinnamon)
  • 1 28-oz can whole peeled tomatoes or diced tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons Mexican chocolate or cocoa powder
  • 3-4 cups bean cooking liquid or vegetable or chicken stock (preferably homemade)
  • Salt, to taste
  • Piloncillo or brown sugar, to taste
  • 1 cup instant masa harina
  • 1 thinly sliced avocado, to serve
  • ½ cup crumbled queso fresco (or mild feta), to serve
  • ¼ cup cilantro leaves, to serve

*Notes: Home cooked beans are best in this recipe but canned will work in a pinch. 

- I recommend searching out the specialty Mexican ingredients in this recipe if you can. If there’s a Mexican tienda near you, you’ll likely be able to find them there. If not, you can order on-line. I get it if you don’t want to track them all down, but this soup is so much more wonderful and subtle with these ingredients instead of substitutes.

- For the masa dumplings, called chochoyotes, you can fry them as I call for in this recipe or you can cook them in your soup for 10-15 minutes until they’re cooked through. I like the crunch of the fried chochoyotes to add some textural variance, but they’re delicious both ways.

- The broth tastes even better the next day, so make it a day in advance if you have time. The dumplings should be made just before serving.

- I wanted to keep this recipe vegan- and vegetarian-friendly, but you can use lard instead of oil if you want. You can also add a tablespoon of lard to the dumpling dough to make your dumplings a bit more tender. If you have access to the lard left over from making chicharrones, a) you are a very lucky person and b) you should use that.

- To turn this soup into a heartier meal, you can add a poached egg or two or some shredded cooked chicken or pork.

smoky tomato broth with masa dumplings ||

Soup prep
If you've cooked your own beans, let them cool in their cooking water then remove them with a slotted spoon (dumping them into a colander while they’re hot leads to smooshed beans). Be sure to reserve the cooking liquid. If you’re using canned, drain and rinse them before using. Set aside.

Preheat your broiler and line a sheet pan with foil. Peel your onion. Leave the root end intact but trim the hairs down. Slice the onion in half through the root end then slice each half into sixths, so that each section has a little bit of the root holding it together. Place the onion, cut-side-down on your sheet pan and broil until the onion is nice and charred (but not burnt to a crisp). Flip and cook until the other side looks the same then remove from the oven and set aside to cool. (You can do this on a grill heated to high if you prefer.)

Place the smoked serranos in a heatproof bowl and cover with 2 cups of boiling water. Set aside for at least 30 minutes to soften. Do not discard the soaking liquid.

Toast the cumin seeds in a heavy pan over medium-low heat until fragrant and a shade or two darker. Set aside to cool before grinding them in a spice grinder. Set ground cumin aside. 

To make the soup
When the onions have cooled enough to be handled, roughly dice them, discarding the root ends. Dice enough of the soaked chiles to yield 2 teaspoons (discard the seeds unless you LOVE super spicy food). Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a heavy-bottomed stock pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the diced onion, garlic, avocado leaves and 2 teaspoons of the diced chiles. Cook until the onions and garlic have softened, about 5 minutes) then add the canela and ground cumin. Cook for 1 minute, stirring often. 

Add the tomatoes with their juice, Mexican chocolate or cocoa powder, 3 cups of the bean cooking liquid or stock, ½ cup of the chile soaking liquid and a generous pinch of salt. If you want more spice, add more of the chile soaking water and/or diced chiles. Add piloncillo or brown sugar to taste--you want just enough to balance out the acid in the tomatoes and any bitterness from the chocolate. Bring to the boil over high heat then reduce heat to low and cook, covered, at a bare simmer for 30-40 minutes. 

While the soup is simmering, make the chochoyote (dumpling) dough. In a medium bowl, mix the masa harina, a generous pinch of salt and ½ cup plus 3 tablespoons hot water. Knead until pliable and smooth, about a minute. Form the dough into a ball, wrap tightly with plastic wrap and rest for 30 minutes.

When the broth is done, carefully strain it through a sieve, pressing on the solids to extract as much liquid as possible. If your broth is thicker than you’d like, add a bit more bean liquid, stock or water to thin it. Taste and adjust seasonings. Return to the pot, add the beans, and keep warm while you make the chochoyotes.

Pour high-heat vegetable oil to a depth of 1 ½ inches in a small saucepan. Heat over medium heat to around 325°F. While the oil is heating, cut the dough into quarters and roll each quarter into a log roughly 1-inch thick. Use a knife or bench scraper to cut the log into 1-inch pieces. Roll a piece of dough into a ball then place on your work surface and use your finger to make a deep indentation in the ball. Repeat with the rest of the dough. 

Add some of the dumplings to the hot oil, taking care not to crowd the pan. Fry, turning once, until golden brown, about 4 minutes. Transfer cooked chochoyotes to a paper towel lined plate and salt generously. Repeat with the rest of the dumplings.

Ladle the hot soup into serving bowls. Add a few of the chochoyotes and garnish with avocado, queso fresco and cilantro. Serve immediately.

Makes 4-6 servings.

smoky tomato broth with masa dumplings ||

pineapple and jicama salad with chile-lime vinaigrette

pineapple and jicama salad with chile-lime vinaigrette |

We’ve been in our house for a little over a year now. I’ve walked the streets of our new neighborhood dozens--maybe even hundreds--of times since we moved in. So I thought I had a pretty decent handle on the highlights of this little corner of Seattle.

Earlier this week, however, I learned that I had been overlooking one of the hidden culinary treasures of the city: the Discoteca los 3 Reyes.

This is not, as the name might suggest, a Latin nightclub, but rather a little grocery store jam-packed with every sort of Mexican ingredient your heart could desire. They stock the more familiar offerings: hot sauce and canned beans and spice packets for taco meat. But also corn husks for tamales, hibiscus flowers, dozens of chiles and fat kernels of Mexican corn ready to be ground into masa harina. They have piloncillo and Mexican cinnamon and dried avocado leaves. In short, they carry everything I need to get my Oaxaca food fix on.

pineapple and jicama salad with chile-lime vinaigrette |
pineapple and jicama salad with chile-lime vinaigrette |

Naturally, I filled my shopping bag with tons of ingredients I don’t entirely know how to use (what do you do with yerba santa anyway?) and over the next couple weeks I’ll be testing recipes for my upcoming Oaxaca-inspired dinner--and just for fun. I’ll be posting my successes here.

Today's experiment was a Pineapple and Jicama Salad with Chile-Lime Vinaigrette and I'm calling it a success. This dish was inspired by a salad we had as part of our photography workshop in Oaxaca. As well as by all the chile-dusted tropical fruit sold in the streets of the city. It treads a thin line between savory and sweet and has some crunchy toasted peanuts and fresh herbs thrown in to round things out. 

pineapple and jicama salad with chile-lime vinaigrette |
pineapple and jicama salad with chile-lime vinaigrette |

Beau and I devoured a plate of this for lunch alongside some jalapeño eggs. Then we started dreaming up other ways to eat it in the coming weeks: as a salsa on top of a nicely charred steak, as a bed for roasted halibut, with yogurt and toasted coconut. Beau even thinks you could get away with adding a scoop of sorbet or ice cream. (Of course, he thinks you can improve a lot of things with a scoop of ice cream, so I’ll have to let you know about that one.)

However you decide to serve this salad, I hope you enjoy it. I’ll be back soon with more dispatches from the Discoteca los 3 Reyes and more Oaxaca-inspired kitchen experiments.

Pineapple and Jicama Salad with Chile-Lime Vinaigrette

  • 2 oranges, (I used cara caras)
  • 1 ripe pineapple, peeled, halved lenghtwise and thinly sliced
  • 1 cup peeled and julienned jicama
  • 3 dried arbol chiles (or to taste)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1/4 cup neutral-tasting oil (I used avocado oil)
  • 1/4 cup roasted peanuts, roughly chopped
  • Salt, to taste
  • 6 radishes, very thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon roughly chopped mint, plus a few leaves for garnish
  • 1 tablespoon roughly chopped cilantro, plus a few leaves for garnish

*Notes: This salad is fairly spicy. If you don't like spice, either cut back on the arbol chile or use a milder chile.

- I think this salad would also be delicious topped with crumbled queso fresco.

pineapple and jicama salad with chile-lime vinaigrette |

Using a sharp knife, slice the peel and pith from the oranges. Carefully slice them into 1/4-inch rounds and then cut each round into sixths (you'll have six little triangles for each slice). Arrange the sliced pineapple, oranges and jicama on a serving platter. 

De-stem the chiles and place them in a spice grinder. Process into fine flakes. Place the chiles in a medium bowl along with the lime juice, honey, oil, peanuts and chopped herbs. Stir to combine then add salt to taste (you want it to be a bit on the salty side). 

Pour the vinaigrette over the pineapple, oranges and jicama. Scatter the radishes and reserved herb leaves over the salad and serve.

Makes 6-8 side dish servings.

pineapple and jicama salad with chile-lime vinaigrette |

simple suppers: huevos rancheros with salsa verde

huevos rancheros //
huevos rancheros //

I'm a big fan of cooking projects. (Hello from-scratch pie crust and braised octopus!) But I know that even the most adventurous home cook doesn't have the time to pull together a culinary masterpiece at every meal. I definitely don't.

So I'm introducing a new feature here on the blog: Simple Suppers. These are recipes that come together without too much fuss; use fresh, seasonal ingredients and are delicious enough you’ll want to add them to your permanent line-up. They’re the sorts of dishes we eat at my house when I’m not recipe testing or in the mood for a more challenging enterprise.

huevos rancheros //

So without further delay, I give you: Huevos Rancheros! That brunch staple that is oh-so-easy to make, satisfying and infinitely customizable. All of which make it an ideal dinner for one or a fantastic brunch for the whole fam. 

huevos rancheros //

I hope you’ll make this simple supper your own. And I’d love to hear back in the comments what exciting variations you come up with!

huevos rancheros with salsa verde

Huevos Rancheros with Salsa Verde

  • 8 medium corn tortillas
  • 8 large eggs
  • Butter, for frying eggs
  • 1 recipe black beans (see below), warmed
  • 1 recipe salsa verde (see below), warmed
  • Kosher or sea salt
  • 4 radishes, very thinly sliced into rounds
  • 1 serrano or jalapeño pepper, very thinly sliced into rounds
  • Crumbled cotija cheese, to garnish
  • Cilantro leaves, to garnish
  • Chive blossoms, to garnish (optional)
huevos rancheros //

For the black beans

  • 1 tablespoon neutral-tasting oil (I used canola)

  • ½ medium onion, diced

  • Kosher or sea salt

  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin

  • Pinch chili flakes

  • 1 medium tomato, peeled and diced (canned works fine)

  • 1 ½ cups cooked black beans (homemade or canned)


For the salsa verde

  • 1 pound fresh tomatillos, husked, rinsed, and quartered (you can use canned when fresh aren't in season)

  • 1 fresh serrano chile, roughly chopped (remove the seeds for less heat)

  • 1/2 large white onion, roughly chopped

  • 2 garlic cloves

  • 1/2 cup water

  • 1/2 cup finely chopped cilantro

  • 1-2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, or to taste


huevos rancheros //
huevos rancheros //

*Notes: I’m crazy for green sauces with eggs, so my version is topped with a bright, spicy salsa verde (which you should definitely make a double batch of and put on everything you make for the next week!), but a red sauce or even a salsa fresca would be great, too.

The sky’s the limit when it comes to garnishes. Here are a few to try: finely shredded cabbage, sour cream or crema, a melty cheese like pepper jack or sharp cheddar, halved cherry tomatoes, diced onion, sliced green onions or crispy tortilla strips.

I like my huevos rancheros with a fried egg, but poached or scrambled work, too.

Lastly, don't be intimidated by the fact that you need to make beans and salsa for the huevos; they both come together in a snap!


Start by making the beans: Heat the oil in a medium sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onion and a pinch of salt. Reduce heat to low and cook until the onion has softened and turned golden brown, about 10 minutes. 

While the onion is sautéing, make the salsa verde: Place the tomatillos, chile, onion, garlic, water and 1 teaspoon salt in a blender. Process until you have a coarse purée. Transfer the mixture to a large sauté pan and simmer, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, 10-15 minutes. Add the cilantro. Taste and season with lime juice (you may not need much if your tomatillos are tart like mine were) and salt. Set aside until you're ready to assemble the huevos.

When the onions for the beans are tender, add the cumin and chile flakes. Cook for 1 minute then add the tomato and the beans. Cover and cook until the flavors come together, about 5 minutes.

To assemble the Huevos Rancheros: Heat a large cast iron or carbon steel pan over medium-high heat.  When hot, cook the tortillas in batches until warmed through. I like a little char on my tortillas, so I leave them on a little longer. Wrap the heated tortillas tightly in aluminum foil and set aside. 

Next fry your eggs. Heat the same pan you used to cook the tortillas over high heat. Add about two teaspoons butter to the pan and swirl. It should melt immediately and start bubbling vigorously, otherwise, your pan isn’t hot enough. Crack 4 eggs into the pan (or as many as your pan will hold) and cook until the edges are lacy and crisp and the whites are completely set, about two minutes. Use a metal spatula to separate the eggs and transfer them to a platter or sheet pan. Repeat the process to fry the rest of the eggs.

When all of the eggs are fried, divide the tortillas among four plates. Top with some of the warm beans. Place two eggs on top of the beans on each plate and season the eggs with a sprinkle of salt. Top the eggs with a generous amount of the warm salsa verde. Garnish with the radishes, sliced chiles, cheese, cilantro and chive blossoms and serve immediately.

Makes 4 servings.

huevos rancheros //

Salsa Verde adapted from Gourmet Magazine