When I used to work near Union Square I would occasionally treat myself to the tortilla soup at City Bakery when it was available in the colder months. It was something I enjoyed immensely but never considered making. Although I am in the desert, I’m also on the tail end of a cold and I was craving a hot bowl of soup. And I appear to be on some kind of Mexican kick. Of course Tortilla Soup is an invention of the American Southwest, but it does incorporate Mexican ingredients that are fortunately also abundant in Israel: tomatoes, chiles, onions, and chicken.
I found a great recipe in Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything (shout-out again to the iphone app). He also published a vegetarian version in the New York Times a few years back here. To make this recipe vegetarian or vegan simply substitute the chicken stock for vegetable stock and omit the shredded chicken. There are a million ways to adjust it. I added more chiles than he called for to give it more heat. You can top it with any number of ingredients: chives, sour cream, shredded cheese, cilantro, avocado, lime wedges. The recipe calls for lime juice. I couldn’t find limes this week so I substituted the juice of 1 lemon and a few dashes of red wine vinegar, which worked well to give the soup the necessary acidity.
As I mentioned in my last post I made the chicken stock for the soup. It was really killing two birds with one stone though as I needed shredded chicken anyway. And the chicken from the stock produced just the right amount. I also had to make my own tortilla chips since I couldn’t find those here. I made them in the same way I’ve been making pita chips; simply cut tortillas and throw them in the oven. I’m going to do that more often.
The soup turned out great. It had a lovely depth of flavor from the roasted tomatoes and chiles, and blending it with the immersion blender (one of the few kitchen items I brought with me) made the soup deceptively thick and creamy. And it worked – the heat, both from the temperature and the spicy chiles – seems to have kicked whatever minor bug I had.
- 5 chiles
- 8 tomatoes (plus I added about 10 cherry tomatoes I had on hand)
- 2 tablespoons corn or grapeseed oil
- 3 garlic cloves, sliced
- 1 large onion, sliced
- Salt and pepper
- Pinch dried oregano
- 4 cups chicken stock
- 2 cups shredded chicken
- 1 to 2 cups tortilla chips
- Juice of 1 lime (or, in a pinch, 1 lemon + a few dashes red wine vinegar)
- 1 cup chopped cilantro
- 1 ripe avocado
- Heat the broiler. Arrange the chiles and tomatoes on a single layer. Cook until charred on one side then flip and char on the other, 5 to 8 minutes total (note: because my broiler barely broils this took me closer to an hour). When cool peel and seed the chiles, then chop them.
- Put the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the garlic and onion and cook for 10 minutes, until soft. Add the tomatoes and chiles, crushing with the back of a wooden spoon. Season with salt, pepper, and oregano. Add the stock and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes. Using an immersion blender, blend the contents of the soup until you reach the desired consistency (or omit this step if you like a chunkier soup). Stir in the chicken and simmer for another 3 to 5 minutes.
- To serve, put a few broken tortilla chips in the bottom of each bowl. Ladle in the soup and top with slices of avocado, chopped cilantro, and additional tortilla chips.