The nearly ubiquitous sopa de tortilla, or tortilla soup, now refers to almost any brothy concoction that is garnished with crispy tortilla strips, chiles, and cheese. Most restaurant cooks use fruity, dried ancho chiles, but some cooks add an extra dimension with the dark pasilla chile.
4 corn tortillas, cut into 1/8-inch strips, and fried until crisp
1 c. grated mozzarella cheese
2 T. olive oil 2 ancho chiles, stemmed, seeded and cut into 1/8-inch strips
1 medium-size white onion, sliced thinly (about 21/2 c.)
1 (14 1/2-oz.) can whole unsalted tomatoes, undrained
4 c. chicken broth water
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 c. chopped zucchini
1 c. chopped yellow crookneck squash
1 tsp. dried whole thyme
1/2 tsp. black pepper
3/4 tsp. salt, or to taste
1 T. lime juice
3 T. chopped cilantro
1 avocado, peeled and sliced
1/4 c. sour cream
Place equal portions of fried tortilla strips in each of 4 large soup bowls, and top with cheese; set aside. In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat; add ancho chile strips and fry about 30 seconds, or until they just begin to turn dark and become crisp. (Do not allow chiles to overcook, as they will be bitter.) Remove chiles, reserving oil, and add equal portions of chiles to each soup bowl.
Fry onion in remaining olive oil 15-20 minutes, or until golden brown, stirring frequently and reducing heat and adding additional oil as necessary. While onions are cooking, place canned tomatoes in a blender, and purée. Pour into a 2-qt. measuring container. Add chicken broth, plus enough water to equal 6 cups; set aside.
When onions are done, lower heat, add garlic to onions, and cook, stirring constantly, for a minute or two until garlic is soft. Add tomato mixture, both squashes, thyme, and pepper, and bring to a boil. Simmer 5 minutes, add salt, lime juice, and cilantro. Simmer another minute, then ladle into soup bowls over cheese and tortilla and chile strips. Top with avocado slices and a dollop of sour cream. Yield: 4 entrée servings.
From the January 2006 issue.