Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Celebrating My Husband with Tortilla Soup

As Bob’s birthday was nearing this week, I asked what he would like me to make for dinner to celebrate. He requested a Mexican feast which, given his Southern California roots and love of spicy food, was not a surprise. Happy to oblige! Mexican is a family favorite (tied with sushi) and often is our choice for a festive meal.

I just have to say, Bob is the most rewarding person for me to cook for ... he is my biggest fan, giving me praise and support and honest feedback when I create new recipes, make old favorites or dive into a new cookbook. He endures food crazes I subject the family to (ask him about the fennel phase ...) and enthusiastically sits down to dinner every night. I’m proud to say he has developed a very good palate and savors subtle flavors most others would miss. Anytime I’m talking about food (which is - well, most of the time!) he listens intently and takes a moment to think about each ingredient I toss out so he can picture what I’m proposing.

When I began to ponder starting a food blog, Bob immediately encouraged me to take the leap and jump into food writing. He encourages me to challenge myself, to grow and discover, allowing me to strive to be the best I can. No matter what I say I’d like to do in life, he’s right there to help me figure out how to make it happen. He is truly inspiring and always ready for a new adventure. Needless to say, life is exciting with him!

So, for his birthday dinner, I wanted to dazzle Bob with his favorites. Tortilla soup is a top pick for him and was on the menu along with tacos, pickled tomatillos, salsas, pickled red onions, refried beans and oregano roasted potatoes.

I began making tortilla soup after reading a recipe Amanda Hesser shared in the Food Diary section of the New York Times magazine. While on vacation in Mexico, she and her family stayed in a house with a local cook who prepared a tortilla soup that they enjoyed. I immediately made the recipe and it became a keeper. I’ve since played with it a bit, roasting the tomatoes and increasing the number of chilies and amount of lime juice. Garnished with sliced avocado and crispy fried tortilla strips, it is an earthy, deeply flavored bowl of smoky heat.

Cheers to my husband!

(White sangria, anyone? Mix together a chilled bottle of Sauvignon Blanc, two cups of peach lemonade, fresh raspberries, some sliced peaches, strawberries and limes and you have a pitcher for your fiesta!)

Tortilla Soup
Adapted from a recipe in the New York Times magazine (3/31/02)
By Amanda Hesser
Serves 8

3 dried ancho chilies, stems removed
4 dried guajillo or pasilla chilies, stems removed
2 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus more for frying
24 corn tortillas, sliced into 1/2 inch strips
2 large onions, peeled and coarsely chopped
10 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
1 pound roma tomatoes, sliced in half, roasted in the oven until softened and beginning to turn black at the edges (this is an optional step, you can also just chop the fresh tomatoes and use as is)
10 ounces cherry tomatoes
1 quart vegetable broth
3 limes, juice 2 of them and cut the 3rd into wedges for serving
Salt to taste
2 avocadoes, sliced for garnish

Toast the chilies in a saucepan over medium heat (until their skin colors and bubbles, don’t let them burn). Move the chilies to a bowl and cover with warm water (about 2 cups) to rehydrate them.

Pour about a 1/4 inch of vegetable oil into the same saucepan. In batches, fry the tortilla strips until they are crispy and golden. Drain on paper towels.

In a large soup pot (I use an 8 quart), add the 2 tablespoons of vegetable oil. Add the onion and garlic and sauté until soft. Remove from the heat.

Drain the chilies (save the soaking water!) and roughly chop them. Add the chilies, roasted tomatoes and cherry tomatoes to the onions and garlic and stir. Pour in the vegetable broth and about 3/4 of the fried tortilla strips. Using an immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth (being very careful since it’s hot). Warm the soup over low heat. The soup will be thick so you can thin it with the chili soaking water to your liking (I add about 2 cups). Add in the lime juice and salt to taste.

Serve the soup garnished with reserved tortilla strips, sliced avocado and limes.


  1. I love tortilla soup! Your version interests me, because it looks totally different from the other versions I've tried. My husband and I are big fans of Mexican (and Tex-Mex) food, but haven't found a good place to go here yet (and it's been 3 1/2 years). I guess I need to start making it at home...

    Bob sounds like a great guy. It's great that he's so supportive; I hope he had a wonderful birthday!

  2. @Lauren
    Thanks, Lauren, Bob did have a great birthday!

    There are definitely many versions of tortilla soup. This one appealed to me with its tomato has more of a bisque texture. Let me know if you try it and what you think. :)


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