Monday, March 7, 2011

Cure For What Ails You

At least I hope so.

I have a friend who's very ill, and I'm one of many many people who signed up to bring her family dinner while she fights to get well.

I wanted to make something that is easy to serve, easy to reheat, and good for a group. Soup. Ye old standby when the family requested no white flour which ruled out lasagna. I, of course, could use rice noodles, but half the time they fall apart.

I've been wanting to make a tortilla soup my stepmom made at Christmas, and that seemed perfect. It's best the day after you make it which was perfect since it meant cooking and transporting on different days--easier on the schedule for sure.

If you're using dried beans (always what I recommend over canned), then you want to start 2 or even 3 days before, since you'll need to soak the beans overnight, and maybe cook them the day before you make the soup. That's what I did: soaked beans Monday night, cooked beans Tuesday, made soup Wednesday, delivered on Thursday. But of course you could do the whole thing in one day if you choose. That's what cans are for.

Once the beans are ready, the soup comes together pretty fast. The only part that needs you hovering over the stove for more than a minute is making the roux at the beginning: the flour needs to be stirred constantly with the oil til it turns caramel-colored, and that can take 15 minutes. After that, it's adding ingredients and letting them simmer, and not even for that long.

The original recipe uses chicken and fewer veggies; I used homemade veggie stock, lots of vegetables, and no birds. I also used a fairly spicy dried chile, but you, of course, can spice to your liking. I ordered some tamales from here, got some extra corn tortillas, and made a big salad of lettuces with pumpkin seeds, radishes and snow peas. Our friends Melanie and Jon who live in New York and can't bring dinner over instead ordered gorgeous flowers from, where else, Dandelion Ranch, which we had delivered here so I could take everything over at once.
There's something about soup that says Feel Better to me. When I was in Taos for Christmas and feeling so sick in those first 3 months of pregnancy, this soup was something I could stomach. I made it this time with wishes that it be something that contributes to well-being in my friend's home.

It's also great for a party. You don't have to save it for hard times.

Tortilla Soup
adapted from a New Mexican cookbook I don't know the name of

1/3 c olive oil
1/4 c flour
1 green bell pepper and 1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1/2 medium yellow onion, chopped
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
2 zucchini, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 c cilantro leaves, chopped
1 1/2 t dried chile
1 1/2 t ground cumin
3 c cooked pinto beans
5 corn tortillas, shredded (love the mini-food processor for that)
2 quarts vegetable stock or broth
12 oz diced canned tomatoes, drained
few grindings black pepper

1/2 shredded Jack or cheddar or combo of the 2 cheese (for garnish)
1 ripe avocado, peeled and chopped (garnish)
2 corn tortillas, cut into thin strips and fried in veggie oil (garnish)

Heat oil in large heavy saucepot or Dutch oven and whisk in flour. Lower heat and cook, stirring constantly, til mixture has browned to a caramel color.
Add all chopped veggies except tomatoes, along with cilantro, chile and cumin. Cook 5-10 minutes.
Add beans, shredded tortillas, stock, tomatoes and black pepper. Bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes.
Remove from heat and refrigerate for several hours or overnight if possible to let flavors blend.
Before serving, reheat soup, ladle into bowls, and garnish with cheese, avocado, and fried tortilla strips.


  1. YUMMMMMM. i am making this asap.

  2. that looks so delicious, i can't even stand it!! i have been in total soup mode this week, fighting a cold. and i forgot how much i love avocado in soup. yummmmmm!
    i am curious what type of flour you used, since they requested no white flour. and i try to avoid it, myself. there are so many alternative flours out there, but i'm never sure what kind is best for a particular dish....

  3. jules you are so savvy. y'know it didn't even occur to me that was white flour! and of course it is. i think whole wheat would work fine, and if it's gluten free you're trying to do I would say try teff or a gluten-free blend you can buy from the Co-Op or whole foods. it was 1/4 c in the whole thing and i totally spaced it! thanks for catching