Friday, January 13, 2012

Mexican Tortilla soup

It is a New Year and that means a whole slew of New Year resolutions.  By the second week of January it usually becomes apparent that most of them will not survive.  How many of us have wowed to go on a diet come January 2nd, just to find themselves gouging over the kitchen sink on something fatty, salty and terrible, or is this just me?  Speaking of sustainable dieting, denial is never the answer.  Healthy and light food should be delicious, satisfying and fun.  It also means cooking more at home, eating out less, and a constant challenge of finding ways to entertain your deprived palette, which wants nothing less than a croissant.
In my house it is almost impossible.  My kids do not want to eat diet food come January, so I keep cooking their favorites, like pastas, braised meats and such.  The dogs have their own menu, which I have to cook as well. And I now have to figure out each night what my dear, dieting husband will have for lunch the next day.  It is exhausting… My solution is soup.  Make a pot; it will last a few days.  It is delicious, satisfying, provides infinite amount of variations and it is easy.  One of my favorites is the Mexican Tortilla soup.  It must be one of the most argued recipes on the planet, with each cook and chef claiming true authenticity.  I don’t know what all the fuss is about, it is one of the easiest soups to put together and if the right spices are used, the flavor will be authentic; my secret spice is Mexican Oregano.  It is nothing like the dried oregano we are used, Mexican Oregano is much more fragrant, has hints of mint and immediately transports you south of the boarder.
Here is my recipe for the Mexican Tortilla soup.  I give a few variations to lighten the calorie count without giving up the taste.  By my calculations, a bowl of this soup is about 200 – 220 calories.

Mexican Tortilla Soup.

0.5 lbs boiled chicken breast shredded (used to make stock)
12 to 14 cups of home-made chicken stock (made with chicken breast the stock is lighter in fat)
1 tbs of olive oil
1 yellow onion diced
4 cloves of garlic, minced
3 celery ribs, diced
1 tomato, seeded and diced
1 small jalapeno pepper diced very fine (remove the seeds and ribs if you want less heat)
1/3 cup diced sun dried tomatoes (I like the smoked kind)
1 small chili in adobo diced plus one tbs of adobo sauce
1/2 tsp toasted cumin
1 tsp hot Mexican chilli powder
1tsp smoked paprika (hot or sweet)
1 tbs Mexican oregano
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 ripe avocado
½ cup chopped cilantro
Juice of ½ a lime
5 or 6 tortilla shells cut into matchsticks
1 cup vegetable oil for frying tortillas (optional – See Note).

Preheat a large heavy bottom soup pan.  Add olive oil, onion and celery.  Cook on medium heat until the onion is translucent.  Add the chopped garlic and jalapeno and cook for 2 more minutes.

Add both fresh and the sun-dried tomatoes, chili, adobo sauce and all the spices and cook for a few more minutes. 

Add the stock and bring to a boil.

Simmer the soup for about 10 minutes, then add the shredded chicken, check for seasoning and simmer for an additional 10- 15 minutes. 
While the soup simmers prepare the tortillas.  Preheat the oven to 375F.  Spread the tortilla matchsticks on a baking sheet and bake for 10 – 15 minutes, stirring a few times, until the tortillas are crispy.
Note:  If you are not counting calories, go ahead and fry the tortilla strips in vegetable oil. Drain on pepper towels.   You will get a little better texture than with the baked ones, but honestly, the taste and the crunch is not really sacrificed with the lighter version. 
The fried or baked tortillas can be kept for a few days in a pepper bag or an uncovered container, Re-crisp in the oven if they become soggy.

Dice the avocado and toss with cilantro and lime juice.  Serve the soup with some of the avocado-cilantro mixture and tortilla chips.

According to the dieting husband, this was worth going on a diet for!

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