Rustic Tortilla Soup

Rustic Tortilla Soup

The body is wiser than I ever give it credit for. If you listen carefully, it will tell you exactly what you need and when. Actually, scratch that. You don’t even have to listen all that carefully. If you try and tell your body that what you think is best, whispers will become shouts, until the body commands you to stop. Fever, fatigue, body aches, chills, runny nose. In my case, all of the above, with a side of laryngitis.

Too many late nights, early morning, travel, too much wine, too few vegetables, junk food, work, work, work, skipped yoga classes, missed runs and a twice daily dose of chocolate is how I found myself stirring this soup on Sunday night. It has been a busy couple of weeks and I thought I had outrun this bug, but it sneaked up on me when I wasn’t looking during pilates on Friday night.

After spending the majority of my weekend on the couch, under a blanket, I wanted something to do and I wanted something to eat and it had to be warm. See also: spicy, easy as I didn’t have much energy.

I remembered I had flagged this recipe in the October/November issue of Jamie Magazine (heart!). It was very similar to a Tex Mex soup Jeff and I enjoyed at a little cafe in Iceland last year, which is what caught my eye. And since it was composed mainly of vegetables, it was low in calories and fat.

I spent a lot of time chopping, but once everything was in the pot it came together quickly. Instead of using bagged chips, I made my own with some left over corn tortillas I had in the freezer from a recent fajita night. Now that was easy. So easy, I wonder if I’ll ever need Tostito’s again?

Rustic Tortilla Soup
Adapted from Jamie Magazine
Serves 4-6

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, roughly chopped
2 garlic gloves, rushed
2 large carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
2 green peppers, roughly chopped
2 yellow peppers, roughly chopped
1 14oz can chopped tomatoes
2 bay leaves (fresh or dried)
2 chicken stock cubes, crumbled
1 ripe avocado
Juice of small lime
1 fresh green chilli, finely sliced
1/2 cup sour cream
Handful cheddar cheese, grated
8-12 small corn tortillas
Olive oil cooking spray
Sea salt
Pinch of dried sage

Method:

1. Heat olive oil in a large pan on low-to-medium heat. Add onion, garlic, carrots and peppers and fry gently for 10-15 minutes until soft. Stir occasionally.

2. Add the bay leaves, fresh and canned tomatoes and stock cubes. Add in 800 ml of water and stir together. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

3. In the meantime, preheat over to 400C. Cut each tortilla into six thin wedges. Coat a baking sheet liberally with olive oil cooking spray. Arrange tortillas in a single layer, spray lightly and sprinkle with sea salt and sage. Bake for 5 minutes. If they haven’t browned on the under side turn them over and pop them back in for up to 5 minutes. Watch carefully as they can burn easily. Let cool slightly.

5. Once the soup has simmered for 20 minutes, taste and season with salt and pepper if it needs it.

6. Divide soup into bowls and garnish with chips, cheese, sour cream, chillies and avocado chunks.

Italian Wedding-ish Soup

Italian Wedding-ish Soup

Jeff and I most certainly fall into the “opposites attract” camp.  He is tall and skinny; I am short and well, not-skinny.  I am loud; he is quiet.  Jeff is a chocolate cake kind of guy while I prefer vanilla.  Both of us set in our own respective ways at the ripe old age of 27.

One thing we do agree on is that the best meals come in one bowl.  Soups, stews, bakes, pastas, ragus, anything that can be enjoyed cross-legged under a blanket on the couch.  Given this, our brand new slow cooker and the fact that it was 0degrees, ZERO DEGREES!!!! in Toronto this morning, in October, I am forecasting we’ll be eating a lot of soup et al this winter.

With summer long gone I took some time last weekend to dig through some old magazines and recipe books looking for some autumnal inspiration.  I picked this recipe, from Martha Stewart’s January 2009 edition of Everyday Food, because it reminded me of my father.

If Jeff is tomato soup and I am potage pommentier, my father is hands-down Italian Wedding.  I’ve never had Italian Wedding Soup.  I’ve never been to an Italian wedding.  But my dad always orders it at East Side Mario’s, he just loves those tiny little meat balls.  So I made it and I was quite proud to invite him to join us for leftovers on Sunday afternoon when he drove in to bring us home for Thanksgiving.  Dad said the soup was nothing like Italian Wedding Soup, really, but it was still good and that pleased me enough.  Thus the ‘-ish’ in Italian Wedding-ish Soup.

We enjoyed this with fresh, crusty bread and cold butter on an even colder Saturday afternoon and again on a Sunday.  And a Tuesday evening, each bowl better than the last.

Italian Wedding-ish Soup
Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food
Serves 6

Ingredients:

1 pound ground dark-meat turkey
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs
1/4 cup grated Parmesan
coarse salt and ground pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, halved and thinly sliced
1 litre reduced-sodium chicken broth (or 2 14.5 oz cans)
1 28 ounce can diced tomatoes in juice
2 heads escarole (about 2 pounds), coarsely chopped

Method:

1. Combine turkey, garlic, egg, breadcrumbs, Parmesan, 1 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a bowl. Roll mixture into balls, measuring about 1 tablespoon for each meatball. You will have about 20-22 meatballs.

2. In a large pot, heat oil over medium. Cook onion, stirring occasionally until soft, about 3-4 minutes. Add broth and tomatoes with juice and bring to a simmer. Add meatballs. Cook without stirring until meatballs float to the surface, about 5 minutes.

3. Add as much escarole as will fit in the pot. Cook, adding remaining escarole, until wilted and the meatballs have cooked through, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and serve with more Parmesan, if desired.

Spicy Corn on the Cob Soup

Spicy Corn on the Cob Soup

Soup has always been one of those things that I could take or leave.  If it’s there, I’ll eat it.  And if it’s cold enough, I’ll make it.  Despite not being a “soup person”, I’ve spent the greater part of this summer craving bowls of hot, delicious soup.  Understandable for the first half of the summer, when there was a definite chill in the air and rained every other day.  But even when the heat wave settled in, I still wanted soup.  Imagine can thank us for keeping their sales up this past quarter.

Given my recent kitchen funk, most of the soup I’ve enjoyed has come from a box, a can or the sandwich counter in my office building.  But when I spied this recipe, I instantly craved it and a day or two later I was back in the kitchen.  Being out of the kitchen for a couple of weeks is similar to being out of the gym for a short time.  You need to stretch the knots out of your cooking muscles.

Which is probably why I figured it would be okay to omit the turmeric from this recipe.  What harm could it really do?  It’s just a little yellow isn’t it?  Maybe, but that little bit of yellow was the difference between a bowl of soup that resembled pablum with vegetable chunks floating in it and a vibrant bowl of summer.  I apologized to Jeff about 15 times for the slightly unappetizing pallor of our supper (not that it matters, he’ll fill his hollow leg with just about anything).  So my advice to you is to make sure you’ve got some turmeric in your pantry before getting started!

My other piece of advice is to swirl a dollop of sour cream into your soup.  You will not be disappointed.

Also, switch out the chicken stock for vegetable and you’re soup is veggie friendly!

Spicy Corn on the Cob Soup

Serves 4

Ingredients:

6 medium corn on the cob, husked
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
3 medium garlic cloves, minced
2 medium jalapeño peppers, minced
1 cup onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup celery, finely chopped
1 1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground turmeric
4 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
1 1/2 tsp table salt
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup red pepper, chopped
1/4 cup cilantro, finely chopped
1/4 cup scallion, sliced
Sour cream (if desired)

Method:

1. Remove corn kernels from cobs with a knife; reserve cobs and 1 cup of kernels.

2. Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add garlic; sauté about 1 minute until fragrant. Add jalapeño and onions; sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Add celery, cumin and turmeric; cook for about 1 or 2 minutes more.

3. Add stock, water and cobs and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for about 15 minutes.

4. Remove and discard cobs. Add corn (except for cup of reserved kernels), salt and pepper to soup; simmer for 15 minutes more.

5. Puree soup until smooth in pot using an immersion blender (or in a food processor or in batches in a blender). Garnish with red pepper, cilantro, scallion and reserved cup of corn. Add a dollop of sour cream, if desired.

Sweet-Potato Chicken Stoup

Sweet-Potato and Chicken Stoup

Earlier this week a tell-tale chill returned to Toronto and even though it was sunny and above zero most days, it was definitely on the cold side.  Combine that with a spring cold, and I was feeling for the comfort of a bowl of chicken soup. Or should I say stoup?

Everyone has an opinion on Rachael Ray, love her or hate her, I have a couple of her books and I think they are great for easy, basic classics like this recipe. Yeah, the word “stoup” is ridiculous, even if it is literally a cross between a soup and a stew, and I will never get over the whole EVOO (extra-virgin olive oil) thing, but there is no denying that this dish is delicious, hearty and stick-to-your-ribs.

In the book, the recipe is actually called Smoky Sweet-Potato Chicken Stoup, the chipotle chili in adobo sauce lending the “smoky” bit. However, “chipotle chili in adobo sauce” are a mystery to me. It’s a pantry staple Ms. Ray suggests having on hand at all times, yet I have never in my life seen a can of chipotle chilis in adobo sauce anywhere. And trust me, I’ve looked. I replaced the chili with about a teaspoon of chili powder, but it wasn’t quite “smoky”. I’d maybe try a good paprika next time instead.

If you follow the recipe to a T, the method instructs you to heat the oil, chop the carrots, throw them in the pan, chop the celery, throw them in the pan, etc. If you feel confident, go ahead and chop on-the-fly, but I much prefer preparing a mise en place before I even think about heating the oil.

My last note is about the sour cream. The recipe says garnishing your soup with sour cream is optional, but this was like the whole reason I even made the soup in the first place.

Sweet-Potato Chicken Stoup
From Rachael Ray’s Express Lane Meals
Makes 4 servings

Ingredients:

2 tbsps. extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium carrots, peeled
2 celery ribs
1 large onion, peeled and halved
1 large sweet potato
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 chipotle chili in adobo, finely chopped
Salt and black pepper
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1 bay leaf
1 cup dry white wine
5 cups chicken stock
3/4 to 1 pound chicken breast, cut into bite-sized pieces
4 scallions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup fresh cilantro leaves
1/2 cup sour cream, for garnish

1. Heat a soup pot over medium-high heat with the olive oil. While the oil heats, cut the carrots in half lengthwise, then slice into thin half moons. Add the carrots to the pot, stirring to coat the carrots in the oil. Chop and drop in the celery and onion, chopping them as small as you can, but don’t make yourself crazy.

2. Peel and then cut the sweet potato into quarters lengthwise, then thinly slice them into bite-size pieces. Add the sweet potatoes, garlic and chipotle (or chili powder/paprika) and stir to combine. Season the veggies with salt and pepper, the thyme and the bay leaf. Cook the veggies together for 1 minute. Add the wine to the vegetables and reduce for a minute. Add the stock to the pot, cover the pot, and raise the heat to high.

3. When the stoup boils, remove the cover and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes. Add the cut-up chicken and simmer for 5 minutes, or until the sweet potatoes are tender and the chicken is cooked through. Turn the heat off, discard the bay leaf, and stir in the scallions and cilantro. Serve each portion of stoup with a dollop of sour cream on top.

Enjoy!