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.
Ingredients2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 jalapeño pepper, preferably roasted*, seeded, chopped
1 pasilla pepper, preferably roasted*, seeded, chopped
1 green pepper, preferably roasted*, seeded, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 celery ribs, chopped
1/2 cup chopped cilantro or parsley
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon smoked Spanish paprika (dulce)
2 teaspoons ground chile powder, or to taste
1/4 cup (3 ounces) tomato paste
1 (28-ounce) can whole tomatoes plus juice (preferably organic)
6 corn tortillas (about 9 ounces), or 2 cups tortilla chips
2 quarts (8 cups) vegetable stock
Sea salt and pepper to taste
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