Roasting tomatoes, onions, and garlic is a common technique in the Mexican kitchen. The slight charring intensifies flavor and heightens the sweetness of the vegetables, yielding a soup with a deep, rich taste. Pureed chickpeas give the broth body, and chipotle chiles warm it up. Pass tortilla crisps for diners to add as they like; softened in the broth, the crisps seem almost like noodles. Substitute packaged tortilla chips if you prefer. For a wine pairing, try a California Albariño or rosé. — Janet Fletcher
- 2 pounds tomatoes
- 1 large white onion, sliced into rounds 1/3 inch thick
- 4 large cloves garlic, unpeeled
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano
- Kosher or sea salt
- 2 cups cooked chickpeas (drain and rinse, if canned)
- 2 1/2 to 3 cups chicken or vegetable broth
- Chipotle chile in adobo sauce
- Canola oil for deep-frying
- 4 corn tortillas, about 6 inches in diameter
- 1/3 cup finely grated cotija or pecorino romano
- Chopped fresh cilantro, for garnish
Preheat the broiler and position an oven rack about 8 inches from the heating element. Line two rimmed baking sheets with aluminum foil. Put the tomatoes on one baking sheet and broil, turning the tomatoes as needed, until their flesh is soft and the skin is charred in spots and splitting. It should take about 20 minutes. Don’t rush this process, as you want the tomatoes to develop a deep roasted flavor. Move the rack down if the skin threatens to char too much before the tomato is cooked through. Set aside.
Put the onion slices and garlic cloves on the second foil-lined baking sheet. Broil, turning the vegetables as needed, until the onion is soft and lightly charred on both sides and the garlic is soft, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the garlic if it softens before the onions. Don’t allow it to blacken or it will taste bitter. When cool enough to handle, core and peel the tomatoes and peel the garlic.
Put the tomatoes, onion, and garlic in a blender and puree until smooth.
Heat the olive oil in a pot over medium-high heat. When the oil is hot, add the tomato puree and the oregano, crumbling it between your fingers. Season with salt and cook at a vigorous simmer, stirring, for 2 to 3 minutes to deepen the flavor.
In the blender, puree the chickpeas with 1 cup of the broth. Add to the tomato mixture along with enough of the remaining broth to bring the soup to the consistency you like. You may not use it all. Stir until smooth. Season to taste with salt and with as much finely chopped chipotle chile as you like. Keep the soup warm.
In a deep, heavy pot, pour the canola oil to a depth of 2 inches and heat to 375 degrees. Have ready a tray or baking sheet lined with a double thickness of paper towels. While the oil is heating, stack the tortillas and cut them in half. Stack the halves with the cut side facing you, then slice into strips 1/2 inch wide. Discard the short end pieces.
In small batches, fry the tortilla strips in the hot oil until golden brown, 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Use a wire-mesh skimmer to keep them moving in the oil so they brown evenly. Transfer them with the skimmer to the paper towels and sprinkle generously with salt. Check the oil temperature between batches and adjust the heat as necessary to keep it at 375 degrees. Put the cooled tortilla crisps in a bowl.
Reheat the soup to serving temperature if needed, then divide among six bowls. Garnish each portion with the cotija, dividing it evenly, and cilantro. Serve immediately, passing the tortilla crisps for diners to add to their soup as desired. Serves 6.
— From “Wine Country Table: Recipes Celebrating California’s Sustainable Harvest” by Janet Fletcher (Rizzoli, $45, available on Amazon)
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