Tortilla Soup--Comfort Food

comments (0) February 20th, 2018

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cookinwithherbs susan belsinger, contributor
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This tasty bowl of tortilla soup is a warming comfort food in any season.Click To Enlarge

This tasty bowl of tortilla soup is a warming comfort food in any season.

Photo: susan belsinger

Chile peppers and garlic are two botanicals that I include in my diet daily. I believe that they keep me healthy throughout the year-in any season. In the winter, I must use dried or preserved chiles since my fresh ones are long gone, and my garlic stored in the coldroom is just about finito.

There is nothing like a bowl of nourishing hot soup on a cold winter day, especially a grey, damp rainy day that sort of seeps into the bones in your body that seem to complain about the weather. I add enough capsicum and allium to make me sweat a little and I feel warm to the very core of my body. Try some tortilla soup--it is warming comfort food.

Tortilla Soup

There are many versions of this soup--this one is vegetarian--although it is often made with chicken stock and sometimes pieces of chicken or chorizo. The vegetables vary according to season--you can use whatever you might have on hand. I usually include some type of squash--zucchini, yellow or an orange winter variety, corn (fresh or frozen), mushrooms add a lovely flavor, green beans or asparagus cut into 1-inch lengths add green and crunch, cabbage adds sweetness, and I like some red bell pepper and a fresh jalapeno or serrano besides the ground red chile. You need about 3 or 4 cups of chopped vegetables.

Some recipes fry the tortillas, however I do not find this neccessary and I like how the corn tortillas get thicker, soft and chewy in the soup. They give it that inimitable flavor from the corn and lime.

Garnish with a handful of crumbled tortilla chips, sprinkle grated cheese over top and then some chopped cilantro. Sometimes I also place a few slices of ripe avocado and sliced green onions on top too.

Serves 6 to 8

About 2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
About 3 to 4 cups chopped vegetables
3 to 5 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 jalapeno or serrano pepper, stemmed, seeded and chopped fine
About 4 6-to 8-inch corn tortillas
1 generous tablespoon hot and/or mild ground red chile
1 teaspoon toasted and ground cumin seed
About 1 pound ripe tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and diced, or a 14-ounce can tomatoes, seeded and chopped
About 6 to 8 cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 cup cooked pinto beans, drained
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
About 1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves
Couple handfuls of tortilla chips, for garnish
Grated cheddar or queso, for garnish
Chopped fresh coriander leaves, for garnish

Heat the olive oil in a large heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium heat and add the onion, saute a few minutes. Add the vegetables (using the firmest ones first like the squash and red pepper and adding softer, quicker cooking vegetables like mushrooms and cabbage a bit later in cooking) cover and cook 3 to 5 minutes.

Remove the lid and stir in rest of the vegetables, garlic and jalapeno and stir, cover for a few minutes. Meanwhile, cut the tortillas in half and then crosswise into 1/2-inch strips. Add the strips to the pot, stir, cover and let cook for a few minutes more.

Sprinkle with the ground chile and cumin, stir and add the tomatoes, vegetable broth and pintos to the pot. Bring to a simmer and cook over low heat for about 20 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and chopped cilantro. Add the extra broth if you like a thinner soup.

Simmer for a few minutes longer. Taste for seasoning and add a little more chile pepper if it is not spicy enough. Serve hot accompanied by the garnishes of crumbled tortilla chips, grated cheese, scallions, avocado, cilantro and perhaps a squeeze from of fresh lime. Salud!

posted in: garlic, cilantro, chiles, corn tortillas, tortilla soup, comfort-food