Friday, October 28, 2011

Food on Friday: tortilla soup

Along with the new combined blog, I will be starting a few weekly columns on here.  And, I am starting the first one today.  It is called Foodie Friday and will feature a new recipe every week.  (Feel free to help me come up with a more creative name!)  It will also be our chance to talk about anything and everything food.  I love food.  A lot.  So, I am very excited about this new column.

The first recipe featured is my and Peter's favorite soup recipe of all time!  Peter wasn't a soup person until we made this recipe and he realized that soup could be delicious, dynamic and, yes, a little bit manly.  The recipe comes from a Jamie Oliver cookbook called Jamie's America.  Peter's parents got it for us for Christmas the first year that I moved here and I think it is an excellent cookbook.

The stereotype of American food over here is horrendous and sad.  Ask someone about American food and the only thing they know is McDonalds.  No one knows about the food revolution that occurred in the Bay Area in the 1970s or about down-home Southern cooking.  No one has ever heard of clam chowder and they don't know about the amazing lobster that comes from Maine or the great fish that you can get in California.  (Oddly enough, many of them do know root beer... and they think it is the most disgusting thing ever invented, no joke.)  But, despite the terrible stereotypes of American food in Europe or the general dark people here live in regarding the reality of "American" food, Jamie Oliver's cookbook is excellently done.

Oliver breaks up his book into sections, six to be exact, ranging from one end of the country (New York) to the other (Los Angeles) and everywhere in between.  Because, let's face it...there's really no such thing as American food and no one in America even tries to pretend there is.  There is only regional food: Californian fresh, comfort food from the South, Midwestern grease, Tex-Mex.  Oliver's cookbook includes Jewish and Egyptian recipes from New York, salad recipes from L.A., old Navajo recipes from Arizona, peach cobbler and mac n' cheese from Georgia, alligator poppers from Louisiana and so many other things!  We have tried many of the recipes and have rarely been disappointed.  Finally, an "American" cookbook that does justice to the richness of American culture, the multiculturalism of America and the regional differences that make us...U.S. (pun intended). 

The Rustic Tortilla Soup recipe comes from the Arizona section.  And it is to die for.  But you have to make the chips.  The chips are the best part and completely make the whole thing.  Promise, okay?

Here is the recipe.  I only have the cookbook in German, so I translated it (roughly) for you.

Rustic Tortilla Soup
By Jamie Oliver

Serves 4

For the soup:
Olive oil
1 onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves of garlic, pressed
2 large carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
2 green bell peppers, cored and roughly chopped
2 yellow bell peppers, cored and roughly chopped
2 large tomatoes, roughly chopped
2 fresh bay leaves
2 cubes bullion (chicken)
1 can (400g) chopped tomatoes
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper

For garnish:
1 ripe avocado
1 lime
1 fresh green chili pepper, seeded and cut into small rings
2 large handfuls of tortilla chips
Olive oil
1 tea spoon dried, ground sage

Heat one generous splash of olive oil in a large pot over low to medium heat.  Sautee the onion, garlic, carrot and bell pepper in the oil for 10-15 minutes, stirring frequently so that nothing sticks to the bottom of the pot. 

Add in fresh tomatoes, bay leaves, crumbled bullion cubes and the can of chopped tomatoes.  Pour in approximately 2 canfuls of water.  Bring to a boil, reduce heat to low and let simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

In the meantime, preheat oven to 350 F (180 C).  Halve the avocado, remove the pit and scoop the fruit out of the skin with a spoon.  Cut into cubes and place aside in a bowl.  Zest the limes on top of the avocado and drizzle the juice on them to prevent them from turning brown. 

Lay the tortilla chips in one layer on a baking sheet and drizzle a generous amount of olive oil on top.  Sprinkle the dried sage on top of the chips.  Warm them in the oven for a few minutes.  The soup is almost ready.  To give the soup a mushier consistency, mash it a bit with a large spoon.  Salt and pepper to taste. 

Garnish the soup with the avocado, tortilla chips and chili.  Preferably serve with a cold Mexican beer!'s possible that we served our soup and chips with a REALLY large side of cheesy nachos.  Yeah, we're disgusting pigs and, yes, we like it that way.

If you have a  cold, rainy night this weekend, make this!  It will keep you warm and is the perfect food to make for a movie night.  Try mixing it with the hot chocolate and churros or the chipotle chili popcorn (now I am really making you want to buy the book).  Enjoy!