Wednesday, September 2, 2009

"you just did what you're supposed to do"

Last night's dinner...Vegetarian Tortilla Soup and Mexican Salad

Last night's music..."One of Us Must Know (Sooner or Later)" Bob Dylan

I've been going back and forth about the idea of a cooking/eating blog for a while now. The thing that really pushed me over the edge and made me think "now is the time" was chopping up a big fresh bowl of cilantro. Plucking off each individual leaf, separating the pieces into usable and compostable was pure bliss for me yesterday afternoon. So much so in fact that I was late meeting my friend for a happy hour beer. But at that moment, the beer could wait. It was the cilantro calling my name.

A lot of this herb went into our dinner last night, which was spicy, fresh, and quite satisfying. Leftovers today left me with a swollen and burning lips, which sounds not so good unless you like your food to have that sort of affect on you (which is how we roll in our household). So be warned this is very hot and adjust this recipe to your taste.

My iTunes was on random, and I have to say that this song is not the usual thing I'd probably be listening to while preparing dinner. While chopping said cilantro, I was listening to the new Mountain Goats album and desperately seeking the next "Lovecraft in Brooklyn" (I'm sorry to report that there isn't one. I still love you, John Darnielle.) But something connected with this song and the meal I was preparing. Tortilla Soup strikes me as one of those things you don't really need a recipe for. It seems somewhat intrinsic- broth, vegetables, spice, tortillas. Throw it all in a big pot. Top with creamy, fatty goodness. And so this traditional (and undeniably awesome) song seemed to fit well with this simple (and simply perfect) meal.

I served this with a salad that was very thrown together, but delicious. It was a mix of corn, pinto beans, red bell pepper, tomatoes, cilantro, and feta cheese. Serve over a bed of greens with a little citrusy vinaigrette.


Vegetarian Tortilla Soup
Adapted from Epicurious.

1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 cup chopped red onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste (although I used ketchup. classy, I know)
1 teaspoon ground cumin
3/4 teaspoon chili powder
1 can Rotel Tomatoes and juices (I used "Hot" and they aren't kidding)
3 cups vegetable broth
1/2 cup water
4 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
4 corn tortillas, cut into strips
15 oz. canned black beans, drained and rinsed
2/3 cup chopped zucchini
1/2 cup chopped mushrooms
1/2 hatch chili (hooray for Hatch Chili season in Austin, Texas! poblanos, seranos, even bell pepper would work fine here)

Gently heat olive oil in large saucepan. Add onion and cook on medium-low for about 5 minutes, stirring often. Stir in tomato paste, cumin, chili powder, and garlic. Add canned tomatoes, broth, water, and half of your cilantro. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer. Add beans, zucchini, mushrooms, and chili pepper to soup. Simmer for 10 minutes to allow flavors to combine. Add tortillas and simmer for about 5 more minutes, until tortillas have started to break down.

Top with more fresh cilantro. Also sour cream, avocado, cheese... any and all things creamy and savory that will help cut the heat of the soup. Oh, and don't forget some tortillas chip crumbles for a crunch.

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