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Wanderlust Strikes

April 27, 2010

All the rain here in the SF Bay Area has dampened my attitude about spring…literally.  April showers?  More like April storms.  Mother Nature sure has a funny sense of humor.

Since this damp, gray weather isn’t fostering much of a sunny attitude, I’m yearning to be on a beach somewhere–anywhere–to escape this gloomy atmosphere.  Do you ever feel like this?  Mexico would be just the ticket, don’t you think?   I’d love to be sipping a cold slushy drink and to be looking out at the impossibly blue waters of the Mayan Riviera.  In 2006, when I was last there, I fell in love with Tulum, a small town in the Yucatan peninsula most noted for its Mayan ruin that sits atop a cliff.

The ruins of the formerly walled city (Tulum is a Mayan word for fence or wall) stir up questions about the plight of the Mayans, but looking from where they stood, the spectacular aqua blue water inspires awe rather than dread.  Of course, some of the charm of the small town is being upended by the construction of big hotels nearby, but the water is still special nonetheless.  Oh, what I wouldn’t do to be there now. Instead, I’ll be dishing up soup for dinner…in late April.

The only consolation is that it will have Mexican-inspired flavors.  I found this Chicken Tortilla Soup recipe here a couple of years ago and I really liked it.  I’ve made it several times since.  What sets it apart from other tortilla soups I’ve tried is that it tastes fresh and light.  The recommended garnishes contribute much to these appealing qualities, but I think the anaheim chiles also make a big difference.  They’re slightly sweet, clean-tasting with just a hint of bite.

The original recipe calls for making this in a slow cooker but I think it’s so easy to prepare on the stove it’s not necessary.  Of course, I added a couple of extra ingredients to my version (and omitted a couple), so make it your own.  I’ll post the recipe here just as it was originally shared and I’ll note my revisions.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

  • 1 46-oz can chicken broth (I use a 32-oz container of stock and add water instead)
  • 1 15-oz can tomato sauce (I omit)
  • 1 15-oz can diced tomatoes
  • 3 cups shredded cooked chicken, diced (I prefer using less; the chicken is not the star of this soup)
  • 2 Anaheim chiles, diced (I usually use 3)
  • 1 jalapeno pepper, diced
  • 1/2 cup diced onions
  • 3-4 large tomatoes (sometimes I just use 3)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 tablespoons minced cilantro
  • 1 tablespoon chili powder (I use more)
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin (I use more)
  • 2 teaspoons pepper (I use much less)
  • 1 teaspoon salt (I skip the salt when I use store-bought stock)
  • 2 teaspoons chipotle-flavored Tabasco sauce (I omit)
  • 1/2 teaspoon chipotle peppers (I omit)
  • olive oil for sauteing
  • 1 can of sweet corn (my addition)
  • 1 can of black beans (my addition)
  • For the garnish:  shredded cheddar cheese, chopped avocado, chopped cilantro, lime wedges, crushed tortilla chips

If using a slow cooker, throw everything in except for the garnishes in the cooker and set on high for 5-6 hours.  When finished, dress with the garnishes and add a squeeze of lime.

If you plan to use the stove top like I do, saute the garlic and onions in a tablespoon or two of olive oil.  Use medium heat; you don’t want to burn the garlic.  Next, add the diced chicken, fresh tomatoes, jalapeno and anaheim chiles.  After a couple of minutes, add the chili powder, cumin and pepper (and salt if using) and cook for about a minute to release the flavors of the spices.  Finally, add the canned tomatoes, the stock and minced cilantro.  Bring this to a boil then turn the heat down to let it simmer for about 15-20 minutes.  Add the corn and black beans and simmer for another 8-10 minutes.  I leave this until the last minute because I don’t like them to get mushy and disappear into the soup.

Ladle on individual bowls, garnish and serve.

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