Category Archives: Mexican cuisine

Family Recipes: Ana’s Baja-style Tortilla Soup

Last month we headed to San Diego for a long weekend.  It was so nice to get away; we walked everywhere, ate some incredible food, toured the impressive Midway Aircraft Carrier Ship and hung out at Balboa Park.  It was also a time to reconnect with family; my Dad lives a few hours away so we included a road trip to see him and his wife, Ana.  You know how I love it when someone else cooks for me – well, Ana outdid herself.  We feasted on Mexican food (tortilla soup, stuffed Poblano peppers and flan), sipped margaritas and enjoyed some good wine.  Everyone always told me how delicious Ana’s tortilla soup was but we had yet to taste it.  Well, I have to admit – it blows my recipe away.  It was probably all the love and authenticity she put into it because I was in food heaven (maybe some of it was the gooey cheese at the bottom).  The soup tasted rich and comforting, with chunks of avocado, semi-melted Oaxaca cheese (pronounced woe-hawka and similar to mozzarella) and fried tortilla strips at the bottom of the bowl.  With every bite of soup, you could scoop up a bit of each and really experience the “layers of flavors” that I’m always talking about. 

Not just good for your soul, this comfort food is also good for hangovers according to Dr. Ana.  One of her secret ingredients is chipotle en adobo, an even hotter version of a jalapeño.  Chipotle is a smoked ripe jalapeño and the en adobo is roughly a tomato vinegar sauce; the end result is a smoky, HOT, and earthy tasting chile in a tangy tomato sauce.  The tortilla soup is simple to make; she sautés onions, fresh tomatoes and garlic until they are soft and then everything (including some chipotle en adobo and a bouillon cube) goes in the blender for a quick puree.  Some chicken stock (Ana prefers stock over broth because it has a hearty, authentic taste) and the puree are added back to the pan, brought to a boil and it’s ready to serve.  I love the goodies waiting for your spoon at the bottom.

Thanks to my Dad and Ana for sharing their table with me and David – it was nice to reconnect through food.  From their table to yours, here is a family recipe for a delicious soup that is definitely comfort food.  The last few posts have shared some of my Mexican favorites and it’s time to switch gears.  Next week: Napa-inspired food.

Eat well and share the love!

Ana’s Baja-style Tortilla Soup
Recipe: Ana Hernandez-Hogate, September 2009
Serves: 4 foodies plus leftovers

Corn tortilla strips
1 cup Canola oil
6 corn tortillas, cut into thin strips (about 1/8 inch wide)
3 medium tomatoes chopped into 1” cubes
1 medium Yellow onion chopped into 1” cubes
2 garlic cloves chopped
1 teaspoon chopped chipotle en adobo (Herdez brand) – use more for  hotter taste
5 cups chicken stock
1 low salt chicken bullion cube
¼ cup chopped Cilantro
8 ounces Oaxcaca cheese, cut into 1 inch thick strips
1 avocado cut into slices
Cilantro leaves
Sour cream
Salt and pepper

Corn tortilla strips
In a pan, place canola oil (save 2 tablespoons for soup) and cook tortilla strips until light brown.  Place on plate lined with paper towels to drain oil.

Heat a medium skillet over medium heat and add 2 tablespoons of canola oil.  Add tomatoes, garlic, onions, and a good pinch of salt and pepper; sauté until tender, about 5 minutes.  Transfer vegetables to a blender and add the chipotle chile, bouillon cube and a half cup of chicken stock.  Puree and add back into the sauce pan along with the remaining chicken stock.

Bring mixture to a boil then add the chopped cilantro.  Reduce heat to medium heat and cook for 5 minutes to release flavors.  Set aside and cool slightly.

To assemble, add a few tortilla strips in the bottom of the bowl along with 2 to 3 strips of cheese, 2 slices of avocado and a few cilantro leaves.  Ladle soup into bowl and garnish with a dollop of sour cream and fresh cilantro.

  • This soup is also good for hangovers.
  • I prefer chicken stock versus broth because it has hearty, authentic taste

Veggies Galore: Calabasitas for Dinner

Calabasitas is something I haven’t made in a while – it used to be one of my mainstays.  I guess that happens, you make certain dishes all the time then the recipe fades away for a bit only to be rediscovered later.  Calabasitas is like a Mexican version of ratatouille only it cooks in less time.  My version has fresh zucchini, yellow squash, sweet corn, (I’m proud to add that all three are Colorado-grown!) onions, Poblano pepper, tomatoes and cheese.  My secret ingredient is a pinch of dried Italian herbs, which brightens up the flavors.  The vegetables are sautéed until tender and it’s finished off with some cherry tomatoes, melted sharp cheddar cheese, queso fresco and cilantro.  Even though it has all vegetables, it’s a hearty and filling meal.

Coloradans like to brag about the good produce that is grown in our state – we are especially proud of the Palisade peaches and the sweet, tender Olathe corn from the Western Slope.  The peaches aren’t available yet but I did see the Olathe corn in the store and snatched some up.  For more flavor I grilled the corn but you don’t have to, in fact this is great with frozen corn kernels when fresh is out of season.  The vegetables take about a half hour to sauté, and I love that there this is melted cheese on top.  It adds a velvety richness and lots of flavor.  I served mine in individual serving dishes but you can serve it directly from the skillet; sprinkle the tomatoes and grated cheese on top of the vegetables and put the skillet under the broiler for a minute or so until the cheese gets nice and bubbly.  Add the garnishes and serve with warm corn tortillas – dinner is ready. 

Eat well and share the love!

Recipe: Melissa Schenker/Foodie for Two
Serves two foodies

1 ½ cups cubed zucchini (half-inch sized cubes)
1 ½ cups cubed yellow squash (half-inch sized cubes)
½ cup diced Poblano pepper (about half a large pepper)
1 small onion, diced
1/8 teaspoon dried Italian herbs
1 small garlic clove, minced
1 corn on the cob, kernels removed (or ½ cup frozen corn)
Olive oil
Kosher salt
Fresh cracked pepper
5 to 6 cherry tomatoes, halved and quartered,
  or 4 tablespoons diced tomato
1/3 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons queso fresco cheese, crumbled
fresh cilantro leaves
fresh cracked pepper
2 to 3 warm corn tortillas
Optional: jalapeno rounds, thinly sliced

Heat a large oven-proof skillet over medium heat.  Add about 2 tablespoons olive oil, just enough to coat the bottom of the pan.

When the oil is warm, add the chopped zucchini, yellow squash and Poblano peppers to the pan; season with ½ teaspoon salt and 1/8 teaspoon pepper and stir well.  Sauté vegetables for five or six minutes and add the onions.  Add a drizzle of olive oil around the edge of pan along with a good pinch of salt and 1/8 teaspoon Italian herbs.  Sauté for another 20 to 25 minutes until vegetables are soft and tender.  Add the minced garlic and let cook for 30 seconds, stirring often.  Stir in the corn kernels and let heat through, about 2 minutes.  (If the corn is frozen, let cook for 5 or 6 minutes until corn is heated through)

Turn the oven broiler to high.  Sprinkle the tomatoes over the vegetables and follow with the grated cheddar cheese.  Broil for 2 to 3 minutes until cheese is bubbly.

Garnish with crumbled queso fresco cheese, fresh cilantro leaves and fresh cracked pepper (optional: thinly sliced jalapeno rounds).  Serve hot with warm corn tortillas.

  • Optional Flavor Boost – Quick Grilled Corn: Heat grill to medium-high. Remove husks and silk from corn.  Lightly coat the corn cob with olive oil and season lightly with salt and pepper.  Grill corn, turning often, for 5 to 8 minutes until the kernels start to soften and get browned. 
  • Safely remove kernels from corn with chef’s knife lay grilled corn on cutting board and place your hand flat on top, with index finger and thumb in the middle of cob (not hanging over the cutting side).  Slice knife down the side of the cob, parallel to the corn, to remove kernels.  Keep turning corn until all kernels are removed.