My mom has a series of hand-written cookbooks that her grandmother put together over the course of her life. Besides being unbelievably gorgeous, they are an amazing documentation of my great-grandmother’s life. The first page of one states the date in the author’s crisp, impeccable calligraphy. The last pages of that book are written in such shaky scrawl, they are all but indecipherable.

She lived through the Mexican Revolution at the beginning of the 20th century, and many of her recipes are authentic, beautiful, gritty, true works of art and tradition.

Including one of my favorite cold-weather recipes.

Surprisingly adaptable to rushed weekday cooking, and full of protein and flavor, Sopa de Habas (or Fava Bean Soup) is one of my family’s favorites. She used to cook this in a traditional stovetop pressure cooker, soaking her beans for twelve hours, and oiling and toasting dried chile ancho flesh to get just a hint of earthy smokiness at the end. I’ve converted the recipe to a quick Instant Pot version, abbreviated the soaking to make it manageable, and switched out the chile ancho for dried pepper flakes. Still really delicious, but waaaaaaayyyyyyyyy easier and faster.

Who knew my Bisabuelita Titina would one day regularly make her mark at the dinner table of the great-granddaughter she never met?

Sopa de Habas (Mexican Fava Bean Soup)
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  1. 1 lb dried fava beans or lima beans – see NOTES below for how to soak beans
  2. 2Tb olive oil
  3. 1 large onion, finely minced
  4. 3 garlic cloves, minced
  5. 3 roma tomatoes, chopped
  6. 1/2 bunch fresh cilantro, finely chopped
  7. 2 tsp salt, fresh ground pepper
  8. 6 cups chicken stock or vegetable broth (or water, because I’llbedamnedifI’mgoingoutintherainforstockIforgottomakeorbuy)
  1. Baguette
  2. Bag O'Salad (I don't mind going without greens for a day, but this goes nicely with a simple salad, if you want to pick up a bag of baby spinach and a bottle of dressing)
  1. Turn on your sauté function on the Instant Pot, and add olive oil to heat.
  2. Add onion and garlic, and stir frequently until they begin to caramelize – about 5 minutes.
  3. Add chopped tomatoes and cilantro and give it a stir, seasoning with salt and pepper. Sauté for 3-4 minutes.
  4. Add fava beans and chicken stock, and turn off Sauté mode on IP. Put top on IP, and press Manual mode, and adjust the time to 20 minutes (push the “-“ button till you get there – you won’t have to hit any start buttons once you get to 20, it will automatically start pressurizing once it realizes you’re no longer changing the settings. (PLEASE NOTE: I’ve also made this soup on the Bean/Stew setting for a much shorter period of time – push comes to shove, you can always do that, though my favorite flavor and texture was with Manual setting).
  5. When the cooking time has completed, carefully do a slow release of pressure. What do I mean by that? I mean open the valve on the IP just a little bit (remember to do this from the side so you don’t burn your hand), and let out some steam. Close it after a couple of seconds. If anything other than steam comes out (foam or liquid), immediately close the valve, and wait for 10-20 seconds before trying again. Proceed in this fashion until the pressure has been released and the valve drops.
  6. Check your soup’s texture: the beans should be so soft that they are easily crushed with some stirring (I like to use my Cuisinart Smart Stick and give it a very quick whir – just enough to get a cloudy base, but still with some intact beans).
  7. Check your seasoning, and add more salt/pepper if desired.
  1. Serve with dried pepper flakes, if desired, and a salad (or just bread, because carbs don’t count when it’s 19 degrees outside).
  3. Like I mentioned before, the traditional way to prepare beans is to soak them at night – just give them a quick rinse in a colander and pour them into a big pot, covering with water. The next day, when you’re ready to cook, just drain your beans in the colander again and use to cook.
  4. However, as I’ve mentioned before, many of my nights are spent at the hospital, and rather than asking my family to start up the soaking of the beans (because we all know how badly families can screw up the soaking of the beans! … no? Just me?), I do an express soak. Express soaks are the best. I rinse the beans in a colander as above, then pour them in my pot and cover with water. But then, I turn the heat up on my stove, and bring them to boil. It doesn’t take long, especially because it’s okay to use a high heat, and then I let them boil for two minutes. Then, turn it off and cover them, and let them soak in that for an hour. This is the hour I use to chop tomatoes and onions, and pour a glass of wine, and chat with the kids about their day. But you can also just get this started before going to work in the morning, and just let the beans soak till you get back.
  5. Finally, one more method: The Instant Pot quick soak. You can rinse your beans, throw them in the IP, cover with water (pot should be no more than halfway full), and turn it onto Manual for only 2 minutes. Once the 2 minutes are up, do a slow manual release like I described above, being careful to stop the release immediately if foam comes out instead of steam.
  6. The point is, soaking overnight is easy and efficiently uses your downtime – but for those of us that can’t always soak (or can’t remember to do so!), there are very good alternative methods!
Emi Ponce de Souza


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