Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Mexican vegetable soup

I have nothing interesting to say about this, other than that it is easy,  good, and can be made vegetarian or with chicken broth.  We always make it vegetarian.  It is a light meal by itself unless you serve it in very small quantities as a first course and a more substantial meal if you add roasted tofu or shredded chicken. People seem to love mixing in their own garnishes.  Since it does not contain potatoes, it freezes well.  Try it!

Mexican vegetable soup

  • 1-2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 onions finely chopped
  • 1 stalk celery finely chopped
  • 1 carrot peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1/2 pound green beans, trimmed and cut into 1 inch lengths
  • 2-3 small zucchini scrubbed and cut into 1/2 inch dice
  • 1/2 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 - 1 teaspoon dried chipotle pepper (the larger amount results in a much spicier soup)
  • pinch (and I mean a pinch) oregano
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch dice (ok to substitute about 2 cups butternut squash cut into 3/4 inch dice)
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes or puree, 15 oz  (Muir Glen fire-roasted crushed tomatoes adds a nice smoky taste)
  • 2 cups cooked chick peas (canned are acceptable, but then you can't use the liquid -- see below)
  • bay leaf
  • 6- 8 cups liquid (chick pea broth, vegetable broth, or water and bouillon cube -- see below)
  • several sprigs cilantro, well washed
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • optional:  roasted tofu  (see below)
  • garnishes:  chopped red or white onion, lime quarters, chopped cilantro, sour cream, grated cheddar or cotija cheese, chopped jalapeno, toasted tortilla strips (see below)
  1. Heat the oil on medium in a 4 quart pot and add onions, celery and carrot, a bit of salt, and saute until soft but not brown.  (This is really very flexible.  You can add the vegetables to the pot as you are finished chopping them.)
  2. Add the green beans and zucchini as they are ready.
  3. Add the garlic and saute for a minute.
  4. Add the cumin, chipotle and oregano and saute for another minute.
  5. Add the sweet potatoes, tomato puree, chickpeas, liquid and bay leaf.  Push the cilantro into one corner (you can tie it if you want, but I don't bother) and bring to the boil.  Simmer about 20 minutes until the vegetables are tender.
  6. Fish out the coriander, and if you can the bay leaf.
  7. Correct taste for salt and pepper, and if using, add roasted tofu and warm through.
  8. Serve with garnishes, as many as you want, but serve either the sour cream and grated cheese OR the lime, not both.    This makes a pretty hefty dinner for 4.
Non vegetarian variation:  use chicken broth and some poached shredded chicken breast.  I would leave out the cream and cheese here but it is up to you.  This makes more of a hearty main dish.

Cooking liquid:  If you cook your own chick peas, you can use the cooking liquid as some or all of your broth.  One cup dried chickpeas will yield the right amount cooked and will probably leave you with between 3 and 4 cups of liquid.  The rest can be made up with vegetable stock (I used Tabatchnick's boxed) or bouillon.

Tortilla strips:  These are sort of like Chinese noodles made out of corn, and thought they are traditionally fried, you can bake them which is both easier and far lower in calories.  Take white corn tortillas, cut them in half, and then cut the halves into 1/4 inch strips. For this quantity of soup, 6-8 tortillas is more than enough and will probably leave some for snacking.   Line a baking sheet with foil (to make it easier to clean) and spray with vegetable oil spray.  Scatter the tortilla strips in on the pan, spray with more spray, and bake in a 300 degree oven for about 30 minutes.   They are done when they are lightly browned and crisp. Separate them gently and put them in a bowl to serve.  It is difficult to be precise about the time since it depends on so many variables, like the size of the pan, etc.  You can also bake these longer at lower heat, in which case it will take longer they will become less brown or on higher heat, in which case you have to watch them more carefully.   You can use the same method for tortilla chips by cutting the tortillas into sixths, or make tostadas by using whole tortillas.  I find that whole tortillas work best directly on a rack which allows the air to circulate so that they dry out very quickly, and should be done in 15-20 minutes.  I will post some recipes for tostadas shortly.

Roasted tofu:  If you add this, it becomes a pretty hefty dish.  Take about half a pound of tofu and cut into 1/2  inch dice.   Marinate in a combination of pureed onion, a spoon or so of Bragg's amino (or soy sauce or salt), and about a teaspoons of ground cumin for between 30 minutes and a few hours.  Take the cubes out of the marinade, put on a sprayed or greased baking sheet (line with foil first if you want) , spray again, and roast for about 30 minutes in a 450 degree oven until lightly browned.  You can vary the marinade depending on the dish.  This cubes are also good tossed into salads if you have any left over.

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