Tortilla Soup and Red Tomato Salsa
This is a beautiful version of a classic dish, with a distinct clarity of flavor. Unlike many other renditions, this one is meatless, so the creamy white cubes of panela bob among the green avocado and cilantro in a red broth, lightly smoked with chipotle and brightened with lime. If you can, make your own chicken broth. It’s worth it.
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- 2 tablespoons canola oil
- 1 medium onion, thinly sliced
- 4 cups diced, canned Italian plum tomatoes
- 1 cup tomato juice
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 large jalapeño chili, stemmed and seeded (if you like a
- little heat, leave a few seeds)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 large onions, sliced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 7 cups chicken broth or vegetable broth
- 1 dried chipotle chili, stemmed and seeded
- Salt, to taste
- ½ pound fried tortilla chips
- 1 bunch cilantro leaves, coarsely chopped
- 1 avocado, peeled, seeded, and diced
- ½ cup cubed panela
- ½ cup crema fresca, crème fraîche, or sour cream
- 2 limes, each cut into 4 wedges
- THE SALSA: Heat the canola oil in a medium skillet over moderate heat. Cook the onions until soft, about 10 minutes. Transfer to a food processor fitted with the metal blade or a blender.
- Add the remaining ingredients and puree, in batches if you are using a blender, until smooth. Pour into a saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook, uncovered, 20 minutes. Adjust the seasonings, if needed.
- Salsa can be stored in the refrigerator 2 to 3 days, or in the freezer for weeks.
- THE SOUP: Heat the olive oil in a large stockpot or saucepan over medium-low heat. Add the onions and cook slowly, stirring frequently, until golden brown and caramelized, about 40 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 10 minutes longer.
- Add 3 cups of the Red Tomato Salsa, the chicken broth, chipotle chili, and salt. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook, uncovered, 20 minutes. Stir in the fried tortilla chips and simmer about 10 minutes longer, or just until the chips soften. Remove and discard the whole chipotle chili.
- TO FINISH: Ladle soup into bowls and top each with some of the garnishes: chopped cilantro, a few chunks of avocado and panela, a dollop of crema fresca, and a lime wedge. Serve hot.
- For a speedy version, use a fresh tomato-rich salsa (found in the refrigerated section of the supermarket) as a stand in for the Red Tomato Salsa.
- The chips should be added minutes before serving, but the rest of the soup can be prepared a day or two ahead and kept refrigerate. Remove the chipotle pepper before storing the soup.
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