Friday, May 11, 2007

Tortilla Soup (or for me, just Soup)

In Mexico, Tortilla Soup is like “leftover soup,” like Minestrone is to Italians or Chop Suey is to imaginary Chinese people.

Since the soup is historically made of leftovers and remnants, you can toss in practically anything you have handy in the way of vegetables or meat, and still feel pretty good about having an authentic dish.

Also, Mexicans often usually use up their older, drier, day-old tortillas that aren't so tasty for tacos anymore. The tortillas that we eat from the supermarket are already at that stage, so don’t sweat waiting for your tortillas to get old… They’re already there.

This soup is great for families like mine, where I eat low carb and avoid starches and grains for the most part, while my kids don’t. Everyone doctors up their own bowl just the way they like it, so everyone’s happy. I leave the tortillas out of my bowl of Tortilla Soup, so it sounds odd to still call it “Tortilla Soup,” but what are going to do?

In the US, we tend to save soups for cooler fall and winter weather. In Mexico, soup is an everyday, year-round dish. So, why wait?

Makes about 6 Servings

1 onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, peeled (broken is OK)
1 tsp olive oil
1 tbsp paprika
1 tbsp New Mexico chili, ground
28 oz can stewed whole tomatoes
6 cups chicken stock
2 zucchini, or crookneck squash, etc., quartered lengthwise & sliced *
2 carrots, quartered lengthwise & sliced *
2 ears of corn *
2 bay leaves
1/4 teaspoon sugar
thick tortilla chips or homemade fried tortilla strips (about 6 tortillas worth of fried strips)

* if you don't eat any of these vegetable, leave them out or pick something else, like some colorful bell peppers or a second type of summer squash. Anything goes, but a few different colored vegetables make it look that much better than just one.

Garnishes (use some or all, it's up to you):
  • limes wedges
  • shredded cabbage
  • grilled, roasted, or rotisserie chicken (the bagged ones from the market deli work well), cut or shredded into bite size pieces
  • diced avocado
  • cilantro, chopped
  • salsa
  • hot sauce
  • shredded jack, cheddar, or some fancy Mexican cheese
  • crumbled cotija cheese
  • cubes of cream cheese


Saute onion and garlic over medium heat until soft. Add paprika and chili. Cook until fragrant (1-3 minutes). Add tomatoes and 1-2 cups stock. Use an immersion/stick blender (or pour into a standard blender) to puree the ingredients.

Add the tomato mixture and the rest of the broth to a soup pot and bring to a simmer.

Add bay leaves, carrots, and zucchini and simmer for about 20-30 minutes, until vegetables are cooked, but carrots are not mushy.

While soup is simmering, reheat the chicken, if using and prepare your chosen garnishes.

Cut corn from the ears and add to the soup during the last five minutes of cooking.

To serve, add tortilla chips or strips to the bottom of the soup bowls and ladle soup over them.

Top with desired garnishes.


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