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)


  1. this soup smells delicious when cooked! i love the bright colors of the food paired with the plates and juice!

  2. My boyfriends mom makes Tortilla soup and it's to die for. Normally all she cooks is indian food but she learned this in New Mexico. She always makes fresh sopapilla to go with it!

  3. i am making this TONIGHT! thank you!

  4. I've had this soup made by the REAL Ellen!!!!!! It's fantastic and then some!

  5. I loved this soup! I read every blog and love your graphics.
    Proud Aunt Kathleen



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