If you love vegetables, you will love this soup. Not only can you use a variety of vegetables, but you put them in a slow cooker and basically let them cook on their own!
Menestra has many variations. Much like minestrone, it is a soup you can change based on what you have at home or like to eat. In some places it is more of a stew that includes meat.
This recipe is from the cookbook, The Mexican Slow Cooker by Deborah Schneider. I used many of the ingredients she lists in her recipe (corn, carrot, onion, leek, garbanzo beans, sweet potato, zucchini, tomato, green beans) but I added some beet greens I had on hand. I’m sure spinach, Swiss chard or most greens would be delicious in this soup. The original recipe calls for the vegetables to be finely chopped, but I like my vegetables a bit chunky. This is my version.
And I’m hoping to try this soup again as the seasons change to see how the flavors change.
Menestra, or Sopa de Verduras (Mexican Vegetable Soup)
1 poblano chile, roasted, seeded and diced
½ cup dried garbanzo beans
1 small leek, white and light green leaves, cleaned quartered and sliced
1 medium white onion, diced
1 carrot, peeled and diced
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
½ – 1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
2 cups diced fresh seasonal vegetables (such as zucchini, green beans, red bell peppers, sweet potatoes, green cabbage, peas, mushrooms, kale or other greens, etc.)
1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes with their juice or 3 ripe tomatoes, diced
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper, freshly ground
½ dried thyme
A pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
8 cups of water (chicken or vegetable stock if you prefer)
2 guajillo chiles, stemmed and seeded
1-2 tablespoons grape seed oil, or vegetable oil
2-3 corn tortillas
2 ounces cotija cheese, crumbled
Combine all of the soup ingredients in a 5-6 quart slow cooker, cover and cook on low for 7 hours. Check occasionally to stir and add more water if necessary. Adjust the seasonings to your taste.
For the garnish:
Heat a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chiles and toast until dark but not burned (see my post about using dried chiles). When the chiles are cool, crumble to small pieces or chop finely.
In the same skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Cut the tortillas into ½ inch squares and fry them until crisp. Drain them on a paper towel and set aside.
Serve the soup while it is hot, sprinkled with some of the tortilla squares, guajillo chile and some cotija cheese. Add more or less to your taste.
This soup is vegan if you use water or vegetable stock and omit the cotija cheese. It is delicious either way!