Posts Tagged ‘soup’

Tortilla soup

I often tell folks that I am not a soup person, but that’s not really true.  Fact is, I like my food hearty, so while I often enjoy soup as part of a meal, soup for dinner doesn’t really do it for me.  I love soup with grilled cheese (side question: did anyone else grow up in a family that paired grilled cheese with chicken noodle soup, instead of tomato?) or as part of a multi-course dinner, but even though it can be filling, I generally don’t find it satisfying in and of itself.   It’s a shame really, since soup is easy to make, infinitely adaptable, warming (which I certainly need with yet another winter storm having hit this week), freezable, etc.  This tortilla soup is either the exception that proves the rule, or my gateway food to true soup appreciation.  I have loved tortilla soup since I waited tables to help make ends meet while teaching preschool.  I worked at a Houlihan’s restaurant, and if I didn’t have time to grab dinner between teaching and serving, I’d tide myself over with a bit of the tortilla soup that was on the restaurant’s menu, and somehow I never got sick of it.  This weekend with corn tortillas and veggies that needed to be used, an excess of black beans in the pantry, and no end to this brutal Boston winter in sight, I decided to give the south-of-the-border-style soup a try.

I’ve clearly gained confidence as a cook, because I didn’t even consult any existing recipes before tackling the soup.  And it turned out really well!  My version is vegetarian (well, except that I used chicken stock, since I had an open carton in the fridge) and packed with veggies and black beans, which helps make it satisfying for soup skeptics, like me.

Before I launch into the process, I have a question for you all.  When it comes to food blogs, do you prefer step by step photos, one or two pics with a recipe, or some combination?  I am working on getting better photos when I cook, so don’t answer based on my pitiful attempts, please.  I may invest in a better camera or try out different lighting, but I don’t want to spend a lot of time working on photos if they aren’t pleasant or helpful.  Aren’t you guys lucky to be reading in the infant stages of my blog??

Okay, here goes:

For the base of the soup, I used the traditional mirepoix combination of onion, carrots, and celery and also chopped up a red pepper that was a losing its crunch in the fridge. Green pepper would be a great addition to this mix, and you could leave out the carrot and/or celery if you wanted to stick to peppers and onions, but I think there’s a reason that those aromatics are classic soup additions, as this soup turned out really flavorful without tasting like carrot or celery.

I heated about a tablespoon of oil in a big pot and threw in all the chopped veggies and a bit of kosher salt. You could hold off on the salt, but I find that adding a little early on in the cooking process really helps with flavor. Just don’t go overboard, since the stock, canned tomatoes, and beans that get added later tend to be high in sodium. I cooked the veggies over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions were getting soft and translucent.

Next, the garlic and spices went in. I cheat and use crushed garlic from a jar – bulbs of garlic seem to always dry out or sprout on me, and the jarred stuff just saves some time. For spices, I used a mix of cumin, crushed red pepper, cayenne, and epazote (a spice I picked up at Penzey’s that is really tasty in bean dishes.

I let the garlic and spices cook with the veggies for a couple of minutes, then added a can of black beans (drained and rinsed), some frozen corn, and a small can of diced green chiles. The last step was adding some stock (use veggie, of course, if you want the soup to be vegetarian, but I used chicken stock) and a big can of whole tomatoes, along with the juice. I broke up the tomatoes with my hands before adding them to the pot, but you could use diced tomatoes instead, if you wanted.

As the soup simmered (it was basically done at this point, but simmering reduced the liquid a bit and helped the flavors come together), I made some crispy tortilla strips from stale leftover corn tortillas.  This was ridiculously easy.  I cut the stack of tortillas in half and then into strips in the other direction.  Then it was just a matter of laying them out on a foil-lined baking sheet, spraying them with canola oil spray, sprinkling them with kosher salt, and baking at 400 degrees until they were crispy and golden brown.

I didn’t even spray both sides of the strips with oil, so they were way lower fat than regular tortilla chips and still tasty enough that I have been snacking on the extras all week. I didn’t time them in the oven, so I can’t give you a cook time – oops.  I’d guess it took around 10 minutes, maybe.

Finally, I ladled some soup into a bowl, topped with a handful of tortilla strips and some grated cheddar cheese.  It was at once comforting enough for winter but tasted sort of summery, and this soup is substantial enough that I didn’t even want bread or a salad or a sandwich to fill out the meal.

This recipe makes a lot of soup.  I ended up with over 2 quarts after eating a big bowl for dinner.  So, you should be able to get 6-8 servings per batch.

Tortilla Soup

1 Tbsp olive oil                                                            2 cups corn (frozen, canned, or fresh)

1 large onion, diced                                                    1 can black beans, drained and rinsed

2 ribs celery, chopped                                                1 4oz. can diced green chiles

3 medium carrots, diced                                           2 cups vegetable or chicken stock

1 bell pepper, seeded and diced                               1 28oz. can whole tomatoes

pinch salt                                                                      shredded cheddar or Monterey jack cheese

1 tsp crushed garlic or 2-3 cloves, minced           For Corn Tortilla Strips:

1 tsp cumin                                                                  6-12 corn tortillas

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper                                            non-stick cooking spray

1/2 tsp crushed red pepper                                     kosher salt

Preheat oven to 400 degrees for tortilla strips.  Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Add chopped onions, carrots, celery, peppers, and a pinch of salt and cook until onions are translucent, stirring occasionally.   Stir in garlic and spices and cook until fragrant.  Add corn, black beans, chiles, and stock.  Break up tomatoes with hands or kitchen shears and add to pot along with their liquid.  Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and let soup simmer at least 10 minutes.

For tortilla strips, stack tortillas and cut in half, then in strips.  Arrange strips in a single layer on a baking sheet lined with foil.  Spray with cooking spray and sprinkle with salt.  Bake until crisp and golden.

Serve soup topped with shredded cheese and tortilla strips.



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