Someone once made a soup like this for me, and I ate it happily for days. I would sprinkle it with chili flakes and droplets of lime juice. It was infectiously green and vibrant. I craved it when it was gone.
The last time I ate this, it was cold outside sometimes, but not always. The trees loomed like large, criss crossing labyrinths, intentionally marking the foreign city that surrounded. I remember pulling a chair up to to my window, the thing that separated me from those trees. On it, I set up a cutting board, my grandmother’s crystal, and a scarf I received several years ago to photograph this granola. This is how I capture what I cook sometimes: in weird positions, on unexpected surfaces, without anyone else’s knowledge.
The thing a lot of people don’t know about food blogging is, it can be a learned art. I’m still learning. I’m always learning. The dishes you see aren’t always hot. The ice cream may have purposely melted in the space nearby. The recipe was probably plated when it wasn’t mealtime because sometimes, the lighting is superior at 10:30 in the morning.
All of this is to say, I remember eating this soup for days about a year ago. I remember that chair at the time. I remember the awkward positioning of that granola as I photographed it. There was other stuff going on behind the scenes that I never shared here, ever. It’s strange, the things we retain.
I made my own version of this soup about a month ago, with the addition of guajillo chiles and yukon golds and turmeric. It was even more delicious than the first Peruvian soup I ever had. I didn’t post it, though, because I had nothing to say. I even asked a friend of mine about what she would write if she were me with the story I have.
What we brainstormed is irrelevant; I got nothin’, except to say, it’s been a year. I am thinking of all the things that are different now. I am thinking about the giant container I have of this, frozen, waiting to thaw, that I cannot wait to share with my mom when she visits.
As Pablo Neruda once said, Love is so short, forgetting is so long. Maybe we remember the things we would rather forget because there are moments of deliciousness, too. There is vividly colored, cilantro-speckled broth. There are moist shreds of spiced chicken. Tender, golden cubes of potato. Red and yellow shards of chili. Cloudy, acidic splurges of fresh-squeezed lime juice. To forget all of it is to forget the soup. The warming moments. Even if those weren’t the things at the forefront.
And so, we finish with more greenery-cilantro, scallions, lime juice.-because the main event can never stand alone. There are condiments, palate cleansers, sides–and each is crucial: new places and familiar faces and saving graces and happy traces and homeostasis and safe spaces and interfaces and warm embraces and different paces and at the bottom of what seems a bottomless bowl-with all its twists and turns and possible burns-you will know that you are not what happens to you. Most importantly, you are not alone. Once learned, that part cannot be forgotten.
One Year: Orange-Infused Sunflower Seed Butter Granola with Fennel and Golden Raisins
Two Years: Maple and Brown Butter Hazelnuts
Three Years: Banana Coconut Oatmeal Cookies
Four Years: Avocado Horiatiki Salad
Slow-Cooker Peruvian Cilantro Chicken Soup
Adapted from here
2 boneless skinless chicken breasts
1 yellow onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, diced
2 dried guajillo chiles
2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp cayenne
2 quarts vegetable stock, divided
1/4 cup lime juice
1 bunch of fresh cilantro, stems removed, roughly chopped, plus more for serving
4 scallions, light green and white parts only, thinly sliced, plus more for serving
1 lb (roughly 4-6) yukon gold potatoes, skins on, diced
sea salt and ground black pepper, to taste
chili flakes and lime wedges, for serving
In a crockpot, combine chicken breasts, onion, bell pepper, chiles, cumin, chili powder, turmeric, oregano, cayenne, and 1 quart vegetable stock. Cover and set to high for 1.5 hours. When fully cooked, remove chiles and use two forks to gently shred the chicken. In a large pot, heat the other quart of vegetable stock on medium heat until it begins to bubble. Add lime juice, cilantro, and scallions. Remove from heat and use a handheld blender to blend until green, with small pieces of cilantro still present. Return to heat. Add potatoes and turn heat to high, allowing to boil, until potatoes are cooked through, about 10-15 minutes. Add pulled chicken mixture, including juices, and reduce to a simmer. Season to taste with sea salt and pepper. Serve with additional cilantro, chili flakes, and lime wedges. Soup will last up to four days if refrigerated in an airtight container.