Friday, February 26, 2010

poppy seed wafers (and my startling lack of self-restraint)

Dear Chef Kim Boyce,

Hi.  Um.  Gee, I've never written fan mail before.  It's just that I wanted to tell you that your new cookbook, "Good to the Grain," is about the coolest cookbook I've ever seen.  Really, it's the tops.  It's almost as though you wrote it just for me.  Did you?  And how did you know exactly what I would want in a cookbook?  Can you read minds?  I wouldn't be surprised, because you seem pretty darned smart.  Anyhow, I just wanted to say the following:  "wow!", "thanks!", and "may I please have your autograph?"

Admiringly yours,


Did I tell you that I got a new cook book last week?

I'm not going to tell you how.  Let's just say that it will hit the shelves next month, and that it pays to have a really awesome friend who works in food journalism.  But this cookbook…wow…let's get back to the cookbook.  It's pages are filled to the brim with wholly unique, hearty, and usual whole grain-based creations.  Notice how I said "whole grain" and not "whole wheat."   Each chapter features a different grain as well as recipes that celebrate and accentuate its unique flavors and properties.  As many of you may know by now, I have a mild (okay, moderately severe) obsession with amaranth, teff, buckwheat, kamut, and all the other ancient grains that have been unjustly neglected in modern american cuisine and in baking books the world over.

But, folks, this is not your average baking book.

Chef Boyce features such tantalizing creations as Honey Amaranth Waffles (yes please!), Apricot Boysenberry Tarts (goodness me!), Chocolate Babka (don't mind if I do), and one of my new all-time favorite recipes Poppy Seed Wafers.  The wafers were one of the first recipes to catch my eye for two reasons, 1) though I've been inundated with recipes for chocolate chip, oatmeal, and shortbread cookies, I had never before heard of a cookie called a poppy seed wafer, and 2) the recipe calls for buckwheat flour.  I am to buckwheat what a fly is to…no, I am to buckwheat what a bee is to honey.  Yes, let's stick with that honey bee analogy.

I whipped up a batch of these crunchy, delicate, and satisfying wafers to give to a friend who had kindly lent me a book.  Unfortunately, the wafers didn't stand a chance.  At one point, (after munching my way through half the recipe) I even wrapped up the remaining cookies with pretty paper and a bow, and set them aside to be delivered to their intended audience.  I am not proud to say that I actually unwrapped them and ate them all.  Yes, I unwrapped someone else's package of cookies.  No, it was not my finest moment.  Yes, these cookies are actually just that good.

If you bake yourself a tray of these wafers, I guarantee that next month you will be first in line at the book store waiting for your copy of "Good to the Grain."

Poppy Seed Wafers
Makes about 6 dozen

1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons heavy cream
2 egg yolks (save whites)
1.5 cups buckwheat flour
1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1.5 teaspoons kosher salt
1.5 sticks unsalted butter at room temperature

2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
egg whites

Step one:  Put egg yolks and cream into a bowl and set aside

Step two:  Sift dry ingredients into a bowl and add back any bits that don't go through.

Step three:  Use your hands to squeeze the butter into the dry ingredients until crumbly.  Add cream and egg yolks and continue squeezing with your hands until the texture comes together.

Step four:  Divide the dough in half and roll each piece into a log that is 8-in long and 3/4-in wide, flouring the dough and work surface as necessary.  Wrap each in plastic and chill for two hours.  You can reshape the dough after 15 min of chilling if your having trouble with the shape.

Step five:  Mix sugar and poppy seeds for topping and spread out on a plate.  Brush one log with egg whites and roll in the poppy seed mixture until evenly coated.  Repeat process with other log, wrap gently in plastic, and put them back in the refrigerator to chill while the oven is heating up.

Step six:  Place two racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven.  Preheat to 350F.  Line two baking sheets with parchment and slice logs into 1/8-in thin wafers.  You'll need the sharpest knife you have to made this easier.

Step seven:  Bake for 15-17 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through.  The wafers are done when they are a dark golden-brown with a darker ring around the edge.  They should smell quite nutty.  Cool on a rack, and do you best to share them with your friends.

Book Information:
Good to the Grain: Baking with Whole-Grain Flours
By Kim Boyce
Photographs by Quentin Bacon
Steward, Tabori and Chang / March 2010
$29.95 U.S / $38.95 CAN; ISBN 978-1-58479-839-9

Monday, February 8, 2010

Day Seven: Anjal's Buttermilk Soup with Zest

Kylie and I are very good at sharing.  We share recipes, we share secrets, and lately we've been sharing friends.  As it just so happens, Kylie now lives one neighborhood away from my college roommate in New York, and I live just down the street from her college roommate in Chicago.  Such a strange, small world.  Lucky for us, we seem to have similar taste in friends.  Ladies and Gentlemen, I'd very much like you to meet Kylie's roommate from college and one of my new but very much cherished friends, Anjal.  Anjal has more creative bones in her body than most people have hairs on their head.  She spends the bulk of her time running her own traditional Indian dance studio right here in Chicago. But when she's not leaping in the air or correcting the posture of her students, she's in her kitchen making food for the soul.  Today, she's sharing with us her recipe for Buttermilk Soup with Zest, called Kadi.

What is your soup called?

Kadi (pronounced: kuh`-dee) - Buttermilk Soup with Zest

What inspires you about this soup?

This soup is commonly ladled over rice or kichadi (rice-lentil pilaf), but it is so magnificently complex that you may want to devour it on its own. It has a real kick with the layers of spice and an ability to cleanse, comfort, and rejuvenate. I associate this soup with my grandmother who has consumed so much kadi and kichadi in her long life. She loves the magic touch of lemon and sugar in most of her cooking, and this recipe is codified according to her taste preferences. Indian cooking is all about personalization and improvisation, though, so all of the flavoring proportions are subject to your liking and discretion. 


6 Tbsp yogurt (preferably homemade)
2 Tbsp graham flour (chick pea flour)
2 cups water

1.5 Tbsp oil
0.5 tsp cumin seed (jeera)
0.5 tsp fenugreek seed (methi)
1 hot green chili pepper, thinly sliced 
8 fresh curry leaves (kari patta)
0.5 tsp turmeric powder (halthi)
0.5 tsp asafoetida powder (hing)
4 cloves

4 cups water
1 tsp ginger, freshly grated
3 Tbsp lemon juice
1 Tbsp salt
4-5 Tbsp sugar

Combine yogurt, graham flour, 2 cups water, and churn mixture until flour has dissolved.

Heat oil on high in a saucepan. Once oil is very hot, lower the temperature to medium. Add cumin, fenugreek, chili pepper, and curry leaves. Immediately cover with lid and be careful of popping oil. Avoid burning spices; consider lifting pan away from heat for a bit. Add turmeric, asafoetida, and cloves. Tilt pan to steep all the flavors into the oil.  Add yogurt-flour mixture, 4 cups water, ginger, lemon juice, salt, and sugar. Stir frequently and do not let liquid come to a full boil as it will break the flour suspension. Taste and adjust. Ladle generously and enjoy the aromas. 

Anjal and Her Soup

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Day Six: Kylie's Red Lentil Soup with Lime

Well, goodness gracious.  Where does the time go?  It's already day six of our fabulous week of soups.  Have you enjoyed meeting some of my friends?  I hope so.  They're all pretty awesome folks, and I've been meaning to introduce you for some time.  Today, I have for you a very special (and comfortably familiar) treat: a recipe by our very own Ms. Kylie "Thin Crust."  Kylie's been busting out uncannily incredible soups for as long as I can remember.  It's almost as though she's a soup-whisperer.  I'm on to you, Kylie.  Today, she's brought us a colorful and unusual number to brighten up the dreariest of February afternoons.

What’s the name of your soup? 

 Red Lentil Soup with Lime

Were you inspired by someone else’s recipe?  If so, which one?  

This recipe is straight out of Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. This cookbook is one of Adriana's mom's favorites, and Adriana gave it to me for my birthday back in my senior year of college. Since then, it's become my vegetable bible, the place I go anytime I have a bunch of ingredients but can't figure out how to combine them into a dish. Deborah always helps me out.

When was the first, or most memorable, time you ate this soup? 

Can I be honest here? The first time I made this soup was a couple weeks ago, because I was trying to save on groceries for the week and happened to have a whole lot of lentils in the cupboard. But I'll be making it again. It's really special, especially with the addition of the lime.

Does this soup have a story? 

I think this soup will always hold a special place in my heart, because I thought my fiancee, Mary, was going to hate it. But she didn't! She loved it! You see, since I've known her, Mary has sworn that she doesn't like hot liquids. Hot chocolate? Don't get it near her. Chicken noodle? Not a chance. However, about a month ago, she tasted a kale lentil soup that I had ordered at our favorite restaurant, and she couldn't get enough. I resolved to start making more soups then and there, because I love them but almost never used to make them because didn't want to eat them alone. When Mary tasted this soup and liked it, I was shocked. It's a puree of lentils that's really heavy on the turmeric and punctuated with silky bites of sauteed spinach and onion. I'm glad I tried making it, because it's always fun to find out that someone likes a dish you thought they'd hate.

Lentil Soup

Should this soup be eaten with alongside anything in particular?  Or at a certain time of day?  Or in a certain kind of weather? 

Hm. Well, I think this is an awesome soup to take to work for lunch. Usually when I eat soup, I want bread to dip in it, but this has rice in it, which I think provides plenty of grainy texture. It would probably be really delicious if you dipped naan or a fluffy pita in it, though.

2 cups split red lentils, picked over and rinsed several times
1 scant Tb. turmeric
4 Tb. butter
1 large onion, finely diced (about 2 cups)
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 1/2 tsp. mustard seeds or 1 tsp. ground mustard
1 bunch chopped cilantro, about 1 cup
Juice of 3 limes or to taste
1 large bunch spinach leaves, chopped into small pieces
1 cup cooked rice (I used brown basmati)
4 to 6 Tbs. yogurt

Put the lentils in a soup pot with 2 1/2 quarts water, the turmeric, 1 tablespoon of the butter, and 1 tablespoon salt. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, covered, until the lentils are soft and falling apart, about 20 minutes. Puree if you feel like it for a smoother soup (that's what I did).

While the soup is cooking, prepare the onion flavoring: In a medium skillet over low heat, cook the onion in 2 tablespoons of the remaining butter with the cumin and mustard, stirring occasionally. When soft, about the time the lentils are cooked or after 15 minutes, add the cilantro and cook for a minute more. Add the onion mixture to the soup, then add the juice of 2 limes. Taste, then add more if needed to bring up the flavors. The soup should be a tad sour.

Just before serving, add the last tablespoon of butter to a wide skillet. When foamy, add the spinach, sprinkle with salt, and cook just long enough to wilt. If the rice is warm, place a spoonful in each bowl. If it's leftover rice, add it to the soup and let it heat through for a minute. Serve the soup, divide the spinach among the bowls, and swirl in a spoonful of yogurt.

Soup Spices

Friday, February 5, 2010

Day Five: Louise's Famed Bean, Squash and Corn Stew

Hello again.  I'm so glad to see you're still here on Day Five of our fabulous soup week.  And it's a good thing that you are, because I want you to meet one of my good friends from high school.

Louise was there the week that I "went bad" for the first time.  We had just graduated from high school and were ready to see the world.  So, naturally, Louise, Kylie and I packed up my parent's Saturn and took off for San Francisco. Due to an unfortunate miscalculation, by the time we got there, we only had about 20 hours before we had to turn around and go back.  But that didn't stop the three of us from making quite a trip of it.  (After all, we accidentally managed to get our hands on a whole six-pack of Mike's hard lemonade.)  Ah, to be 18 and rebellious again.  Since that week, we've all regressed to a more laughably wholesome state, knitting and baking our way through life.  But who knows, maybe one of these days the three of us will get back together for a reunion road trip, where we'll once again throw caution to the wind...and find ourselves another pack of Mike's.

Ladies, and Gentlemen, I am pleased to introduce...Louise!

What’s the name of your soup?
Beans, Squash and Corn stew

Were you inspired by someone else’s recipe?  If so, which one?
I was inspired by many different combinations of black beans and winter squash – then I found almost the exact soup I wanted to make in the cookbook Feeding the Whole Family, by Cynthia Lair.

If you invented the recipe yourself, what originally inspired you to throw these particular ingredients into a pot?
Well, I didn’t invent this all by myself, but I still want to answer this question. I have been really into winter squash this season. I got butternut squash enchiladas at a restaurant last month and they were amazing! There were black beans on the side and the earthy beans, spicy sauce and sweet squash were a great match. I had made spicy black bean soup before, and I knew I wanted to add some squash next time.  Then I got your email – so, Thin Crust Deep Dish inspired me to throw these ingredients into a pot. Thanks!

When was the first, or most memorable, time you ate this soup?
This winter.

Should this soup be eaten with alongside anything in particular?  Or at a certain time of day?  Or in a certain kind of weather?
I think this is best in cold weather. Its spicy and hearty. I ate it for breakfast this morning when I woke up chilled and with a sore throat and stuffy nose. I have been meaning to make it with corn bread but I haven't gotten around to it yet.

1 delicatta or butternut squash, peeled and chopped into ½  inch pieces.
3 cups of cooked beans (I used pinto, white and black)
OR 2 cans beans
1 onion
2 T olive oil
3 cloves garlic
1 can tomatoes
1 cup corn (frozen works)
2 t oregano
1 t cumin
1 t chili powder
salt to taste
2-3 cups vegetable broth

Heat olive oil in large stock pot. Saute onions until nearly soft. Add garlic and spices. Continue to cook for a few more minutes. Pour broth and tomatoes over onions and add squash.

Cook about 10 minutes or until squash is soft. Add more broth or water if necessary.

Add beans and corn and cook until hot. Add salt to taste.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Day Four: Mom's Zingy Carrot Soup

Hi, everyone. Welcome to Day Four of our week of soups! I'd like to introduce you to a very special chef. Perhaps the special-est chef I know: my mom. (Hi, Mom!) She's been making soup for as long as I can remember. Being the talented cook that she was, her dinner-time creations ranged from the homey and comforting (chicken with dumplings), to the exotic and unusual (spicy african peanut soup), to the just down-right inexplicably delicious (vegetarian green soup).

Today she's bringing us a special creation that's bound to brighten up even the dreariest of winter nights. Let's give a big round of applause for... mom's Carrot Soup with Onion Relish!

Carrot Soup with Onion Relish
The blended spiced carrots are at once sweet, creamy and savory. The fresh lime and herbs in the onion relish brightens it up. In all, this soup is packed with flavor and is nothing but good for you!  I adapted this recipe from Deborah Madison's Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.

2 tablespoons butter, olive oil, or a mixture
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 pound carrots, thinly sliced
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
3 tablespoons white rice
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
salt and freshly milled pepper to taste
7 cups water or vegetable stock

Onion Relish:
1/3 cup finely diced white onion
1 serrano chile, finely minced
2 tablespoon chopped cilantro
a few leaves of fresh basil, chopped
Grated zest and juice of 2 limes

In a soup pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, bay leaf, parsley, and rice; cook to soften the onion, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. Add the spices, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and some pepper and cook 5 minutes longer. Add the water and bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer, partially covered, for 25 minutes.

While the soup is cooking, make the relish by mixing all the ingredients together. Remove the bay leaf from the soup. Puree 2 cups of the soup until smooth, then puree the rest, leaving a little texture and flecks of carrot. Taste for salt and serve each bowl with a spoonful of the relish.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Day Three: Hillary's Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with Apples and Chipotle

Hi folks.  I hope you're all having a kickin' Wednesday.  It's Day Three of our soup week, and things are really starting to heat up.  Today we're going south of the border with a Rick Bayless-inspired recipe from my dear friend Hillary.  Hillary and I hit it off the first time we met one another (in line at culinary school registration, to be specific.)  As it turned out, we had tons in common.  We were both blogging about food, we both loved to consume, think about, and talk about food, and we were both willing to take a series of buses and trains to get to a new bakery that just opened all the way on the other side of town.  And though we've only known each other for the past 7 months, it feels as though it's been decades.  Hillary has joined me on a number of culinary adventures (two of which are chronicled here and here), and I'm sure there will be many more to come.  Everyone, let's welcome Hillary!

What is the name of your soup?

Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with Apples and Chipotle (adapted from Rick Bayless)

Why do you love this soup?  Do you remember the first time you tried it?  Do you have a story about this soup?

I watched Chicago super-chef (and personal culinary idol) Rick Bayless demonstrate how to make this soup at Chicago's wonderful Green City Market just before Thanksgiving.  He told the crowd he was making the soup as a first-course for his Thanksgiving dinner, and gave a lot of great information about the ingredients, detailing different varieties of squash and chili peppers.  And then we tasted it.  The flavor profile was unforgettable: first, you get the sweetness of the apples; then, your mouth is coated in nutty, velvety squash; and finally, the heat of the chipotles hits the back of your throat and rounds it all out.  I have to admit that, until recently, I haven't been a squash fan, but a soup this good has changed my mind.  

Would you recommend serving your soup along side something else?  At a certain time of day?  In a certain type of weather?

This soup is great for fall and winter, since squash and apples are still plentiful during those chilly seasons.  Since this soup has Mexican flair, it's fun to serve with quesadillas or chips and salsa/guacamole.  Even though it's great on its own, it would also go well as a first course before a hearty meat dish.  I discovered that crumbled goat cheese makes an excellent garnish too!

Anything else we should know about your soup?

It's a phenomenal way to turn an otherwise intimidating squash into a luxurious cold-weather treat. And I promise that even though I've now had some culinary training, this is a soup that anyone can put together.


1/4 cup olive oil
3 teaspoons ground cinnamon (preferably Mexican cinnamon), divided
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin


1 large (about 5 pounds) butternut squash, split in half lengthwise, seeds removed and discarded
3 carrots, roughly diced
1 large white onion, roughly diced

2 firm, cooking apples, like Granny Smith, peeled, cored and cut into eighths

2 quarts chicken broth

3 to 4 canned chipotle chiles en adobo, seeds scraped out, roughly chopped
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed
1/2 teaspoon chipotle powder (I used Texas chili powder; you can also add a little adobo sauce from the canned chipotles)

1 tablespoon sugar

About 10 ounces firm-textured day-old bread, crusts removed, cut into 1-inch cubes (7 cups)

2-3 rimmed baking sheets (lined with foil)
Large 6-quart soup pot
Blender (immersion blender would be best; can also be blended in batches using standard blender)


Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

In a large bowl, mix the olive oil, 1 teaspoon cinnamon, cumin,  and 3/4 teaspoon salt.  Brush about a third of the mixture over the cut edges of the squash, letting some pool in the cavities.  Place cut side down onto a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil.  Scoop the carrots, onions and apples into the bowl and toss to coat.  Spread onto a separate foil-lined rimmed baking sheet.  Slide both sheets into the oven and roast for about 40 to 50 minutes or until the onion mixture is golden brown and the squash is soft.  (Can put squash in the oven before vegetables if ready first, since it can use a little more time). Halfway through the cooking time, stir the onion mixture.  Remove from the oven and reduce the temperature to 350 degrees.

Scoop the onion mixture into a large (6-quart) soup pot.  Hold the squash with a baking mitt, and using a large spoon, scrape out the squash flesh and add it to the pot along with the chipotles, 1 teaspoon salt and 1 teaspoon cinnamon (can add a dash of cayenne pepper if desired).   Pour in the chicken broth and stir to combine.  Cook over medium heat for about 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a large microwave safe bowl, add the butter, chipotle powder, remaining 1 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and the sugar.  Microwave on high for 1 minute until the butter has melted, stir.  Scoop in the cubed bread and toss to coat.  Spread onto a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet and bake for 10 to 12 minutes until the croutons are golden brown and crisp.  Set aside.

After 30 minutes, transfer the soup, in batches, into a blender and puree until smooth (or use immersion blender to puree soup inside pot).  Return to the pot and bring back to a simmer.  Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt, usually another teaspoon.  Ladle into soup bowls and garnish with seasoned croutons.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Day Two: Christine's Best Split Pea Soup

For those of you just joining us, Thin Crust Deep Dish is in the middle of our week of Scrumptious, Sumptuous Soups!  Each day we're bringing you another soup recipe to keep you warm and happy through this frigid first week of February.  So, without further ado, I'd like to introduce today's very special guest...

I met Christine (aka: Kylie's Mom) when I was in 7th grade.  That night, she fed us her delicious pasta puttanesca.  Well gosh darn if that wasn't the tastiest pasta I'd ever eaten in my 13 years.  I hung out at Kylie's house around dinner time a lot more after that.  But she didn't just win my heart with her pasta.  No, she used other foods as well!  She took me on my very first trip to the Puyallup State Fair where she bought a giant, deep-fried elephant ear with cinnamon and sugar.  Kylie and her mom daintily tore off pieces and ate them tiny bite by tiny bite.  I took a more efficient, though slightly less lady-like, approach.  Yes, those sticky, cinnamon dusted days are ones I'm not soon to forget.  And though I moved away and haven't had her cooking in several years, Kylie tells me that she's churning out culinary triumphs like never before.  She was even kind enough to share one of her favorite recipes with us...

What’s the name of your soup?

Best Split Pea Soup

Were you inspired by someone else’s recipe?  If so, which one?
This recipe was taken from a vegetarian cookbook called the Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen.  It is as close to my Grandma’s recipe as I have ever found.   I update it a bit by adding a ham hock.

Does this soup have a story?

When I was little, my Grandma used to create some of the most wonderful culinary aromas in our kitchen.  One of my favorites was her cherry pie and the other was split pea soup.  The bouquet of the soup used to waft throughout the house, and I can remember running in from playing, several times, just to capture a whiff of that soup.  It smelled hearty and significant, as though it was going to be something very special, and it always was.

Should this soup be eaten alongside anything in particular?  Or at a certain time of day?  Or in a certain kind of weather?

Think about making this soup in the late fall/winter when it is a little nippy or dark and rainy outside (as it is quite often in Seattle).  It will warm you up and make you feel grateful for the weather outside.  This soup is especially good with warm crusty bread or maybe some homemade croutons on top - if you do a salad, it should be light, as this soup is very filling.  It is a meal all in itself.

Part 1
1 package dry, green split peas (rinse well in strainer)
7 cups water (more, if needed)
Add water to split peas and let sit overnight.
Start early the next day, this soup needs to simmer a long time.
Add 1 bay leaf
2 tsp. salt
1 Ham hock

Cover and simmer 3 to 4 hours, remove bay leaf and ham hock after 3 hours.  Let ham hock cool.  When cool enough to handle, remove ham from hock and add to soup.

Part 2
In 2 Tbsp. olive oil sauté the following:
1 cup minced onion
3 cloves minced garlic
1 cup minced celery
1 small, thinly-sliced potato
2 cups sliced carrots
If necessary, add a little water to steam vegetables.  When tender, add to soup and continue simmering.  If soup is getting too thick, add more water.

Part 3
About 15 minutes before serving time, add:
1/4 tsp. dry mustard
1/4 tsp. thyme
Several drops of sesame oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Part 4
Just before serving, add:
3 Tbsp. vinegar
¼ cup freshly-chopped parsley


Monday, February 1, 2010

Day One: Ellen's Tempting Tortilla Soup

Hello readers.  Welcome to day one of our scrumptious, sumptuous soup week!  I know you're probably chomping at the bit to meet today's let's dive right on in, shall we?

I'd like you to meet....Ellen!  I met Ellen during my first week of college, and it was a true case of buddies-at-first-site.  We were both nerdy (she'd been a web-coder in high school), had unusual interests (she'd been an annual attendee of the California Avocado Festival for most of her life), and more into board games than we liked to admit.  Over the years we shared dorm rooms, split late night slices of pizza, tolerated the same ridiculous professors, and even double-dated roommates (twice!).  Yes, after four years we knew pretty much everything about one another.  Which is why I'm shocked that it took me until our senior year, when we finally had access to a kitchen, to learn that this girl can cook.  And so, without further ado, here's her very own kick-ass tortilla soup recipe!

What’s the name of your soup?

Vegetarian Tortilla Soup

Were you inspired by someone else’s recipe?  If so, which one?

My brother, Peter, first introduced us to this recipe in 2005, and we've been fans ever since. The original recipe comes from Cooks Illustrated, but we've since adapted it to make it vegetarian friendly!
When was the first, or most memorable, time you ate this soup?

The first time we cooked this recipe together, we made it for my boyfriend Eddie's family in Florida. This was also the first meal Eddie and I cooked for his family, the first time I met Eddie's family, and the first time Eddie and I ever cooked together.  Flash forward 5 years later and we still think this recipe is delish!

When Eddie and I went shopping for soup ingredients, I was shocked to learn that the grocery stores in Eddie's home town did not stock fresh cilantro, and that Eddie had never even heard of cilantro. After about 25 minutes of searching, we discovered cilantro paste in a tube, which sufficed. Eddie explains, "Growing up in suburban Florida, my culinary expertise was lacking, and cilantro definitely qualified as an exotic ingredient. I'm now happy to say that I have embraced cilantro into my life."

Should this soup be eaten alongside anything in particular?  Or at a certain time of day?  Or in a certain kind of weather?

This soup is good by itself, but if you feel ambitious, limeade or margaritas would be an excellent addition on the side. For dessert, we recommend Mexican flan.

Do you have anything else you’d like to tell us about your soup before we dive in on how to make it?

It is critical that you find chiles in adobo sauce -- don't try to substitute this ingredient. You may have to look in the ethnic food aisle. Also, pay extra attention to the tortilla strips. They are very easy to burn if you don't keep watch. Finally, extra avocados never hurt anyone!

Tortilla Strips
16, 6-inch corn tortillas
Vegetable oil

Two cans of black beans
8 cups of vegetable broth
1 large onion
4 cloves of garlic
8-10 sprigs of cilantro
2 medium tomatoes
1/2 of a jalapeno chile
1 chipotle chile in adobo sauce

1 lime, cut into 8ths
1 avocado, chopped
8 oz of shredded monterey jack cheese
Sour cream

To make the soup:
1) Bring broth, two onion quarters, 2 garlic cloves, cilantro, half teaspoon of salt, and black beans to a boil.
2) Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes.
3) Pour mixture through strainer to remove solids. Save solids if desired -- they can be eaten separately or can be added as soup toppings later (particularly the onions if chopped up!)
4) Puree tomatoes, 2 remaining onion quarters, 2 remaining garlic cloves, 1/2 of the jalapeno, one chipotle chile, and one teaspoon of adobo sauce in food processor until smooth.
5) Heat one tablespoon of oil in dutch oven. Add puree mixture and 1/8 teaspoon of salt. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 10 minutes or until mixture has darkened in color.
6) Stir strained broth into tomato mixture and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes to blend flavors. While soup is simmering, make the tortilla strips (see directions below)
7) Taste soup, and if desired add additional adobo sauce or salt.

To make the tortilla strips:
1) Adjust oven rack to middle position.
2) Heat oven to 425 degrees F
3) Cut tortillas into 1/2-inch wide strips and coat evenly with thin layer of oil
4) Spread strips in a rimmed baking sheet
5) Bake in oven until golden brown and crisped (about 8-10 minutes). It is advised that you check the strips half-way through and shake the pan.
6) Season lightly with salt

Soup Assembly
1) Serve soup in individual boils.
2) Add garnishes as desired.
3) Enjoy :o)


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Adriana Willsie and Kylie Springman ©2009