Eddie Garza says his tortilla soup is an easier version of the one his grandmother made when he was growing up in South Texas, with one significant swap: He uses mushrooms instead of chicken.
But if you know (and therefore love) tortilla soup, you know that the chicken is really not the star anyhow. The way I see it, there are two stars – the broth and the toppings you stir into it.
The most important of the latter is the tortillas (so important the soup is named for them), which add body and heft the way noodles or rice would. They go on crunchy, and that keeps them from losing their texture and falling apart when you stir them in.
The broth, meanwhile, is the backbone, and it should be deeply flavored and a little smoky.
Garza’s one-pot recipe, from his new book “The 30-Day Vegan Meal Plan for Beginners,” gets that flavor from a little adobo sauce from canned chipotles that you blend into the base of tomatoes and aromatic vegetables.
You brown mushrooms in the same pot with spices, then simmer them in the broth before stirring in corn, cilantro and lime juice shortly before serving.
The recipe is such a breeze, it surprised me that it resulted in such complex flavors. I made one addition – a can of black beans for protein.
Given that I’ve been trying to help my husband watch his sodium intake lately, I also followed one of Garza’s suggested alternatives, to pan-fry corn tortillas instead of using store-bought chips. It adds only 10 minutes to an already-quick recipe – and it makes the soup not only delicious but something I’ll make again and again.
Mushroom and Black Bean Tortilla Soup
Adapted from “The 30-Day Vegan Meal Plan for Beginners” by Eddie Garza (Rockridge Press, 2021).
3 tablespoons vegetable oil, divided, plus more as needed
4 (6-inch) corn tortillas, cut into 1-inch strips
½ small yellow onion, chopped
1 medium carrot, scrubbed and chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
One (15-ounce) can no-salt-added diced tomatoes, with juices
2 tablespoons adobo sauce (from canned chipotles in adobo)
8 ounces fresh oyster mushrooms (may substitute maitake, shiitakes or buttons), trimmed and cut or torn into bite-size pieces
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried oregano, preferably Mexican
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
½ teaspoon fine sea salt, plus more as needed
4 cups homemade or no-salt-added vegetable broth
One (15-ounce) can no-salt-added black beans (1½ cups), drained and rinsed
1 cup frozen corn kernels
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro, divided
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, plus more as needed
½ cup shredded vegan cheese of your choice such as Violife
1 Hass avocado, halved, pitted and cut into wedges
In a large soup pot or Dutch oven over medium-high heat, heat 1 tablespoon of oil until shimmering. Working in batches if needed to avoid overcrowding, add enough corn tortilla strips to fit in one layer without overlapping and fry until golden and crisp, about 2 minutes per side.
Using a slotted spoon or tongs, transfer the strips to a plate lined with a clean dish towel to absorb extra oil, and repeat with the remaining strips, adding more oil if needed.
In the same pot over medium-high heat, heat another 1 tablespoon of oil until shimmering. Add the onion, carrot, celery and garlic and saute until soft, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a blender, add the tomatoes with their juices and adobo sauce, and blend until smooth.
In the same pot over medium-high heat, heat the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil until shimmering. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring until they start to brown, 5 to 7 minutes.
Add the cumin, oregano, pepper and salt. Cook, stirring, until fragrant, 15 seconds. Pour in the tomato mixture from the blender and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat so the liquid is simmering, and cook for about 5 minutes.
Add the broth, increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat so that the liquid is simmering and cook, uncovered, until the flavors have melded, about 15 minutes.
Add the beans, corn, ½ cup of cilantro and the lime juice. Cook until the corn is heated through, about 2 minutes. Taste, and add more salt and lime juice if needed.
Divide among serving bowls and top each serving with tortilla strips, cheese, avocado and the remaining cilantro. Serve hot.
Yield: 4 servings
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