July 21, 2010

Recipe: Tortilla Soup

Before we get to this simple, elegant recipe, I need to rant.  I have a large garden in my backyard filled with beautiful heirloom tomatoes of all colors, shapes and sizes... yellow, green, deep red, purple and pink.  All together, they are absolutely beautiful and they explode with flavor.  Then I go to the grocery store and all the tomatoes are fire-engine red.  That's it.  No other colors.  They also come in only three sizes: regular, plum and cherry-size.  How did this happen?  Commercial agriculture ruins the quality of food and taste.  Exeunt soapbox.

Back to Tortilla Soup.  This is one of my go-to recipes that is super easy and can carry a ton a flavor.  It starts with a mirepoix.  Remember that thing I call flavor?

Tortilla Soup
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, diced
2 carrots, diced
3 ribs of celery, diced
Clean out the fridge veggies!

This is the perfect opportunity to clean out your fridge of old vegetables, even wilted lettuce.  Chop it up and throw it in.  What we're making is essentially a vegetable broth, but we want all the vegetables in there too!  They are all going to get blended, so you won't recognize any of it by the end.

Water fry the vegetables until they start to brown and carmelize.  Then add:

3 C water
3 C tomato puree
2 T cumin
salt and pepper to taste

Then bring to a boil and blend the whole thing with an immersion blender until smooth.  Then add:

2 C black beans, cooked

Let simmer for 15 minutes.  Before serving, turn off the heat and add:

1/2 C fresh cilantro, chopped
juice of one lime

Remember, adding fresh herbs or citrus to a dish after it has been cooked really livens it up.

Now, taste it.  Here's where you make some judgement calls that many people are afraid of.  If you want more tang, add another lime.  You won't hurt it.  If you like more cilantro, add more cilantro.  If you like the cumin taste, add another tablespoon.  If you want some heat, add a few dashes of chipotle powder.  Like I said, you won't hurt it.  This is what chefs do.  Go for it!  

Garnish with fresh tomatoes, cilantro, or even a slice of avocado.  Serve with warm corn tortillas.  Look for ones that have only "corn, water and lime."  You can even make your own using masa flour and water.  Check in the Mexican section of your store for Masa flour.  Sometimes it is called tamale flour too.

Serves 6-8.

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