Crema de Aguacate (Mexican Avocado Soup)
If there’s one ingredient that is already perfect, and rarely improved by cooking, it’s an avocado.
That might sound like a dissuasion from trying out this recipe; on the contrary, this recipe is special. This soup, though cooked, still tastes of creamy avocado heaven (with a touch of spice).
It turns out creamy avocado heaven has a secret ingredient! Avocado leaves.
I discovered this recipe in a cookbook gift from a friend called “Mayan Cuisine” (see full source below), and had even bookmarked this soup, since I love all things avocado. Back when I dog-eared the page, though, I probably assumed that I’d resort to substituting toasted ground anise seeds for the avocado leaves, since where does one get avocado leaves? Unless one has their own avocado tree… or some friends who do.
A few days ago I wrote about my unexpected– yet very welcome– apricot and avocado bounty. I owe the two enormous bags of avocados I’ve been cooking and eating my way through this week to the kindness of friends. (Thanks to one giant backyard avocado tree, and one day’s worth of farmer’s market wages– local almonds swapped for local avocados… I love living in California.)
The farmer’s market avocados still had stems and leaves attached! So when I flipped the Mayan cookbook open to this recipe, I actually had avocado leaves in the house! It was destiny.
I was curious about the use of avocado leaves as seasoning, since the cookbook itself didn’t say much besides the anise substitute suggestion, along with some advice on toasting leaves for flavor. But then I happened upon this lovely little explanation of avocado leaves which satisfied my curiosity enough for me to give it a try.
The hardest part was grinding the leaves, since neither my mini food processor nor my blender was that talented. My blender finally succeeded in shredding the leaves to an appropriately small size after I dropped in the serrano pepper and the roasted garlic (so it would have a bit more to work with).
And let me tell you something: I have always been tempted, then disappointed, by cold avocado soups, with cucumber, with cumin or curry powder, you name it, but THIS soup, with the heat of the serrano and the richness of the garlic, tomato, and chicken stock, this soup did not disappoint.
Crema de Aguacate (Mexican Avocado Soup)
Adapted from Mayan Cuisine: Recipes from the Yucatán Region, by Daniel Hoyer.
(Serves 4 to 6)
~ 1 medium tomato, roasted or charred
~ 4 cloves garlic, roasted and peeled
~ 2-3 Mexican avocado leaves, toasted and ground (or ¼ tsp. toasted ground anise seed)
~ ½ cup chopped white onion
~ 1 Tbsp. canola or vegetable oil
~ 1-2 serrano or jalapeño chiles, seeds removed
~ 3½-4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
~ 3 large ripe Hass avocados
~ ⅓ cup light cream (or half-and-half)
~ 1-2 Tbsp. lime juice, or to taste
~ salt and pepper to taste
~ ¼ cup fresh cilantro, chopped
~ sliced radishes, to garnish
~ tortilla chips, to garnish
~ lime slices, to garnish
~ sour cream or Mexican crema, to garnish
~ cilantro sprigs, to garnish
How to make it:
1. Char the tomato over a flame, or roast in the oven, along with the garlic, at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes. Let the tomato cool, then peel and dice it. Peel the roasted garlic.
2. Toast fresh or dried avocado leaves on a heated dry skillet or a comal for up to a minute on each side, or until fragrant. Then remove leaf ribs and grind with a mortar and pestle or in a coffee grinder or blender. (To make it easier for my blender to handle the leaves, I threw in the roasted garlic and the serrano pepper at the same time.)
3. Sauté the onion in the oil until soft and just beginning to brown. Add the diced tomato and fry for 2 more minutes.
4. Add the chile, garlic, ground avocado leaves, and the broth, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
5. Peel and coarsely chop the avocados and add to the broth with the lime juice (and optionally the ¼ cup chopped cilantro). Remove from the heat and let cool for 10-15 minutes before adding the cream.
6. Purée in a blender, adjust the salt, pepper, and lime juice to taste, and chill for 1-2 hours before serving. (Or serve warm!)