It snowed another 8 feet or something (ok, maybe 8 inches) last night, breaking an 80 year-old snowfall record for December in Fargo. It all looked so pretty this morning, until I got my work pickup stuck a couple of times on the way across town. Work in general was snowed out by noon, so I went home to make soup and pretend I was in the tropics. Or any place where you can walk outside without your face freezing solid in 30 seconds. But I'm fine, really.
The soup in question is an encebollado. The Spanish word translates to something like "onioned," as if onion were a verb. Maybe it should be. But I'm getting off track, and over my head liguistically. I got to know tuna encebollado pretty well in Ecuador in my omni days. The soup has a reputation as a hangover cure, and as such is usually sold in the mornings at street carts and market stalls. Steaming bowls are served with lime quarters, or even a plastic bottle of fresh lime juice. Toasted corn or popcorn are used in the same way as saltines, to scatter over the soup.
Encebollado takes to the vegan treatment really well, since bold flavors like onion, lime, tomato, and cilantro don't need those poor fish to make a good soup. To add a sense of sea flavor, I boiled the yuca chunks with a piece of kombu, and sprinkled the soup with some kelp powder. The sea veggies aren't totally necessary, but I liked the evocative effect.
Encebollado de Chickpeas y Yuca
1 big red onion, halved, sliced exceptionally thin, and rinsed in lots of cold water*
1 medium yuca, peeled and cut in chunks
1 14 oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 cups canned unsalted tomatoes, pureed in the blender
1/2 cup tomato juice
Juice from a half dozen limes
1 cup fresh cilantro
Toasted corn or popcorn for garnish
avocado slices, also optional
kombu and kelp powder, both optional**
1. Once you've tracked down yuca and kelp powder, this is a pretty easy soup. Boil the yuca chunks in just enough water to cover them, and with the piece of kombu if you like. They should be tender in 15 to 20 minutes, and soft when poked with a fork.
2. Strain the broth to remove the yuca. At this point I like to rinse the yuca chunks in cold water, and then remove the little spine/stem thing that runs through the center. It falls right out, and in some yuca I've found it cooks too and gets soft. I'm no yuca expert, but I guess it probably depends on the size of the tuber. Maybe.
3. Add the tomatoes, tomato juice, chickpeas, and yuca chunks back to the cooking broth. Bring to a simmer, add half the cilantro, and remove from heat.
4. Ladle into bowls, and add as much lime juice and popped/toasted corn as you like. Sprinkle a handful of sliced onions and more cilantro on top. Avocado is perfect over this too.
* Rinsing those onions takes away some of the raw bite, and my friends in Ecuador always did it. This way you get the crunch and onion flavor, but it's more mellow.
** Kelp powder has a mildly salty taste. Salt to taste if not using kelp.
There you go. I had fun veganizing this, although the whole deal is wildly inauthentic. But next time you get a craving for popcorn, tomatoes, and kelp powder, this is the soup for you!