Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Fast and Fresh Tortilla Soup

One Sunday, back in 2002, Amanda Hesser waxed eloquent about the pleasures of tortilla soup in the pages of the New York Times Magazine. She had my full attention. I made her recipe the very next day, it was quite the production. It took half the day, made my kitchen reek of oil, and the results - while truly magnificent - were hardly suitable for anyone on a diet ... Diva or otherwise. I never made it again. More's the pity, its damn delicious stuff.

Last night, I set out to create my own version ... its a charming cheat. I didn't toast or rehydrate any chilies, didn't make my own stock, and I most certainly didn't fry any tortillas. I used what I had on hand - some leftover cooked chicken, a few cans of broth, some fresh veggies, etc., - in less than an hour I had dinner. An exquisite, healthy dinner to be exact.

45 Minute Tortilla Soup:
  • 2 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large stalk of celery, leaves included, diced
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 of a Vidalia onion, diced
  • 1 large clove of garlic, peeled and minced
  • 1 large jalapeno pepper, seeded and diced
  • a pinch of Kosher salt
  • a generous grating of freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp. ground cumin (or more to taste)
  • 1 tsp. Mexican oregano, crushed between the palms of your hands
  • 1/4 to 1/2 tsp. hot Hungarian paprika (or to taste)
  • two 14.5 oz. cans of non-fat, low-sodium chicken broth
  • two 14.5 oz. cans of low-sodium vegetable broth
  • one 14.5 oz. can of petite diced tomatoes
  • 1 tsp. unseasoned rice wine vinegar
  • dash of Chinese Five Spice powder
  • dash of ground cinnamon
  • a few drops of Tabasco or Habanero sauce, to taste
  • 1 to 2 tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 to 2 cups of cooked chicken, shredded or chopped
  • 1 large ear of corn, kernels removed
Heat the oil in a large stock pot over medium high heat, when it is hot, but not smoking, add the celery, carrots, onions, garlic, jalapeno a pinch of Kosher salt and some freshly ground black pepper. Saute until the onions are translucent and the vegetables are tender, approximately 3 to 4 minutes. Add the cumin, Mexican oregano and Hungarian paprika, stirring well to combine, and saute for one minute. Add the chicken broth, vegetable broth and the tomatoes (along with their juices), stir to combine, add the rice wine vinegar along with a dash of Chinese Five Spice powder and a dash of ground cinnamon if desired. Add a drop or two of Tabasco sauce, to taste, and the chopped parsley, stirring well to combine. Raise the heat and allow the soup to just come to the boil. As soon as it does, turn the heat to low, cover the pot and simmer the soup for 15 to 20 minutes.

While it simmers, slice the kernels from the ear of corn. Just before serving, add the cooked chicken and corn kernels to the soup, stir and continue simmering until both the chicken and corn are hot. Ladle the finished soup into bowls and garnish with any and all of the following:

  • some crushed corn tortilla chips (I like the blue corn variety)
  • some chopped red onion
  • some chopped fresh parsley or cilantro
  • some cubed fresh avocado
  • some wedges of lime for drizzling over soup at table
  • shredded cheddar, manchego, or crumbled cotija cheese, if desired
Serve immediately and enjoy!

As written, this recipe will serve 6 and it is anything but traditional. Most tortilla soup recipes do not call for Chinese Five Spice powder or unseasoned rice wine vinegar ... but that's just how I roll. I like a multi-layered soup and once it starts simmering, I'll throw just about anything in there until it tastes good to me.

My version is lower in fat than the traditional variety as well, because I do not add the fried tortilla strips to the broth. I find that the crushed tortilla chips added as a garnish offer just enough crunch and interest for me and, frankly, I prefer the soup this way. It also allows for the option of using a baked tortilla chip, which would further reduce the fat content. I don't bother with the cheese addition, but the avocado, lime, onions and parsley are non-negotiable for me.

This is a luscious, flavorful and healthy meal in a bowl. Its quick, easy and ridiculously delicious. Believe me, I mean no disrespect to Amanda Hesser. If you have the time, the inclination, and can spare the extra calories, you certainly can't go wrong with her version. Its truly scrumptious. You can find the recipe here. But if you're looking for a weeknight meal that's both light and satisfying, my 45 minute version can't be beat.

I know I said we'd be talking tabbouleh today ... but this post was ready and the tabbouleh has yet to be photographed! Stayed tuned for Thirsty Thursdays tomorrow ... and we'll get to that tabbouleh on Friday.

Bon appetit!


words...words...words... said...

I love tortilla soup, and your version looks delicious! I would have to leave out the avocado though. That's MY dealbreaker :)

Chrystal & said...

So many nice herbs and spices in there. Sounds like just the thing to get your body revved up.

Heavenly Housewife said...

This looks beautiful, its so colorful. It just needs some crusty bread and butter to go with it :D

Anonymous said...

The avocados are non-negotiable for me too! Thanks for this; Tortilla soup is my favorite!

Maven said...

Does that ever sound and look good! I've never had torilla soup and I know the men in my house would love it. I'm going to have to start a recipe file of your stuff!

pixelgal said...

This looks great Miss Diva! I like tortilla soup and I'm with you re: the strips of tortilla floting therein. I think the chips outside the soup sound better. I'll try this on himself and see what he thinks. But one of the rules is that it has to be a rainy day or at least a cool one. We can't have soup in the summer unless it's gazpacho or something.

stephchows said...

Healthy AND quick! Oh you got my attention for sure!

The Diva on a Diet said...

words words words - dahling, we must expand your horizons ... how about just one little cube? No? LOL

Duo - yes, and it was a bit spicy too! :)

HH - I made whole wheat biscuits to go with ... they were sooo yummy.

Kimizzy - you're welcome! And you can really do this on a weeknight, I promise its that easy. :)

Maven - Tortilla soup is a fun and festive meal. Set out bowls of all the garnishes and let your peeps have at it. Fun!

Pixelgal - another rule?! I'm going to have to break that one, I'm afraid. Soup is year round food for me, so easy and delicious. I hope you'll like it!

Steph - thanks! :)

Christie's Corner said...

Confession time. I've never made tortilla soup before. This looks like it would be a very tasty meal without being too heavy.

Tangled Noodle said...

I can definitely set aside 45 minutes for something this delicious! The rice wine vinegar and Chinese 5-spice were a surprise and all of the ingredients promise such incredible flavor. The fresh garnishes you mentioned are much more appealing than cheese and although this is tortilla soup, I'd be perfectly content with just the soup part! 8-)