All Photos © Christine Elise McCarthy 2012
My boyfriend doesn’t like to eat very much and I mean that both ways. I mean – eating is something he seems to do only because he must and – when he must – there are only a few things that strike his fancy. Among them are pizza (thank God), my pasta with clams, grilled cheese sandwiches, meat of all kinds (it seems) and a host of soups. Tortilla soup is one of his favorites. I decided I needed to make him some the other day. I’d never made it before & I wanted to be able to try it – so I made a vegetarian version. The other challenge I faced was that I had to make it from ingredients I already had in the house. It was incredibly hot out & I was too lazy to make a market run. “Why make a spicy soup on a hot day?” you might ask. I might respond by saying, “That’s nothing. I made three shepherd’s pies, a carrot cake & corn chowder this week on a 95 degree day.” I don’t know that that would answer the question you were really asking – but that’s all I got for ya.
I didn’t have any vegetarian stock or bouillon cubes – so I had to make the stock from scratch, too. A recipe will follow – but you can do this a zillion ways. I chose to use what I did because I HAD it. You might not have all these things or you might choose to use others that you think sound good. This made a lot of stock – maybe ten cups. I froze all that I didn’t use in one pint containers that I recycled from past sour cream, mozzarella or cottage cheese etc purchases. These also make great to-go containers for you to send guests away with leftovers in (pardon that grammar).
This soup really is the result of some creative combining and I think it came out pretty good. Still – in an ideal world – I would have used fewer canned items in it & gone with fresher options – especially with the cheese. But the fact that it came out so well – means that you can probably substitute like crazy & still come up with a pretty decent tortilla soup – so do not feel you need to follow this one – either the ingredients or the quantities of each ingredient – with anything resembling loyalty. I didn’t have any avocado – so mine here isn’t adorned with any – but I recommend you use some.
a few carrots – chopped into big chunks
a few stalks of celery – chopped into big chunks
1/2 large russet potato – chopped into big chunks
1/2 small head cabbage – chopped into big chunks
1 large shallot – chopped into big chunks
2 jalapenos – chopped into big chunks
several sprigs of fresh Thyme
a handful of fresh cilantro
a handful of fresh sage
a handful of fresh oregano
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
Salt & pepper
Fill a large stock pot with water. Add all the other ingredients & bring to a boil. Reduced heat & simmer for 45-60 minutes. Strain (through cheesecloth if you have it – but this isn’t necessary) into another pan & toss all the ingredients away. Voila! You will likely use 4-6 cups or more in this. Freeze the rest in smaller containers for future use.
Very Spicy Vegetarian Tortilla Soup
4-5 corn tortillas – cut into thin strips
4-5 corn tortillas – chopped
3 TBS olive oil
1 large onion – diced
2 tomatoes – diced
8 garlic cloves – minced
1/2 russet potato – diced
6 chipotle peppers & their adobo sauce – diced (less if spicy bothers you)
1 15oz can diced tomatoes – fire roasted if you have them (I didn’t – so I used regular)
1 15 oz can of vegetarian refried beans (or you can use garbanzos or other canned white bean)
1 10 3/4oz can Campbell’s Cheddar Cheese Soup (REAL fresh grated cheese – a cup of it – would be MUCH better)
handful of chopped fresh cilantro
1 tsp paprika (smoked if you have it – though mine was not)
1 tsp dried thyme
1 tsp turmeric
Salt & Pepper (1 tsp each – or to taste)
1 cup corn (fresh of the cob is best – but canned or frozen are fine)
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
6 cups vegetable broth
1/2 avocado – sliced or diced (for garnish)
1 tomato – finely diced (for garnish)
chopped cilantro (for garnish)
grated cheese (for garnish)
lime wedges (for garnish)
Heat your oven to 350. Spread the thinly sliced corn tortilla strips in a single layer on a cookie sheet sprayed with cooking oil. Bake the strips 10-15 minutes until they are crispy. Try not to overcook them (they should not be browned). Remove from oven & set aside.
Heat the olive oil in a large soup stock pot. Saute the onion & potato over medium heat for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic for a minute & then add the chopped tortillas and the dried spices (turmeric, thyme, paprika, S&P) and the chopped cilantro. Stir them in & then add the canned tomatoes, diced tomatoes, beans, corn, chipotle peppers and the vegetable stock (use at least 5 cups – more if you like a thin soup). Bring to a boil & then add the canned cheese soup. If using real cheese – add it AFTER the soup has been pureed.
Remove the soup from the heat & allow it to cool enough that it is safe to begin blending it all up. In smallish batches – blend the soup into a puree. Never get lazy & try to over-fill the blender – as you are sure to pop the top off & scald yourself. I go with 1/2 to 2/3 full & put a thick kitchen towel over the top of the blender to assure the top doesn’t fly off & create a hurricane of whipping, boiling soup in my kitchen – and in my face.
Once the soup is all pureed, add the real cheese (if you are using) and the heavy cream. Simmer this on a medium-low flame – stirring frequently – until the cheese & cream or fully incorporated. If the soup is too thick – add more vegetable stock. If it is too thin – allow it to cook down a bit. Taste & add S&P – if you desire.
Serve in bowls & garnish with tomato, grated cheese, cilantro, avocado & a few baked corn tortilla strips. Serve each bowl with a lime wedge to squeeze into the soup – if you desire.