On a chilly Sunday evening, my brother and his new fiancée came over. I had an hour to come up with dinner. Digging through the vegetable bin, I found all the ingredients for a mire poix — carrots, celery, and onion — the building blocks of a good soup. But I was in the mood for something spicy and celebratory. After all, there was a wedding to plan and lots of festivities in store.
I started with a small amount of oil and sautéed the vegetables, adding three different peppers for a Spanish flair. There was some wilting cilantro in the fridge and a package of corn tortillas in the freezer, so I tossed them in, along with a can of organic tomatoes and a few heady aromatics. Left to simmer while we chatted at the kitchen table, the mixture began to bubble in the pot — rich, rose-colored, and wonderful. After 45 minutes, I blended it smooth and served it with a smorgasbord of garnishes…a one-pot dinner that everyone enjoyed.
It got me thinking about my brother’s decision to finally tie the knot. A good soup, like a strong marriage, is built from the bottom up. It is a complex concoction of sweet, salt, and spice. But given the right ingredients and plenty of time to brew, it’s something delicious to share on a cold winter night. —90210 Farmgirl
Garnishes: Diced avocado, crumpled Cotija cheese (or grated jack cheese), lime wedges, tortilla chips, sliced scallions, white or black beans, shredded chicken, and/or sour cream thinned with a little lime juice
Heat olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the leek and onion, garlic, peppers, carrots, celery, cilantro and spices. Cook gently until softened and beginning to color, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.
Add the tomato paste and stir to coat all the vegetables. Add the tomatoes, tortillas, and broth. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil.
Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered for about 45 minutes, or until the soup has thickened, seasoning with salt and pepper at the beginning and end of the cooking process. Allow the soup to cool off heat for about 10 minutes.
In a blender, purée the soup in batches to a smooth consistency (or leave chunky if preferred). Transfer to a pot to re-warm on the stove or to serving bowls, topping with the garnishes. The soup can be stored in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
* To roast peppers, place them over a flame on the stove or under a broiler, turning frequently, until the skins are completely charred to black. Cool in a small bowl, covered with plastic wrap to help steam off the skins. Once cool enough to handle, peel off the skin with your fingers, rinsing under a little water if necessary. Remove the stem, pith, and seeds. To avoid irritation, do not touch your eyes while handling hot peppers.