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Lunch today, The Geek’s tomato soup. Bordering on heaven. Seriously. I’m showing Simon how to dip his grilled cheese into it when Ed asks me how it is.

“Delicious,” I say.

Simon, obediently dipping, says, “Dewisssus.”

“Did you hear that?”

He’s engrossed in the Sports section. “Harmpfh.”

Simon continues for about 5 minutes, dragging his sandwich through the soup, repeating, “Dewisssus. Dewissus.”

Finally, his father comes up for air and engages his son. “Simon, is that delicious?”

Silence.

“Simon, is that delicious?”

Hummm. Refrigerator buzzing.

“Simon! Delicious?”

“SAY IT!”

He points to his crackers. “Dewisssus!”

jes-and-ed-c.jpg

Our honeymoon, which seems like a lifetime ago, was easily the best week of my life. We left for Puerto Vallarta two days after our wedding, in the middle of July.

Mexico? In the summer? Yep.

It was hot, humid and rained every day. But the rain was usually over by noon, and we were busy waking up slow and drinking our coffee until around then, anyway.

We spent afternoons on walks or horseback rides through the jungle. Early evenings were for margaritas, consumed at the swim-up bar. (It was on this trip that Pepe, the caretaker of the family villa, taught me how to get my friends stinking drunk on a concoction that deceptively tastes like it contains very little alcohol. I warn them, I always warn them, but they suck down the first one and beg for more. I’m a good hostess. I comply. I’m called evil the next day.)

Because Ed’s parents paid for our groceries and our lodging was free, we decided that when we ate out, we were going to eat fabulously. And we did. One of our favorite meals was at La Palapa, in the romantic district.

I don’t remember my entree because the soup overshadowed everything. It was my virgin tortilla soup voyage, so I had no idea that they can be heavy, overspiced affairs. This one was light, refreshing and vegetarian.

When I got home, I spent hours scouring the Internet for a recipe close to what we’d tasted. Turns out, it was the most simple one I found, with just a few ingredients, that brought me to that place, that humid, breezy hut that smelled of seawater and chili peppers.

In the summer, I like it just the way La Palapa serves it, with a light vegetable broth and without meat. But this weekend, being that it’s still cold in this godforsaken tundra, I used chicken stock and some shredded chicken to make it a little more hearty. Tortilla soup must be served with plenty of accoutrements, like sliced ripe avocados, chopped cilantro and crema or sour cream. And of course, crispy tortilla strips. I bake them, which admittedly isn’t that authentic, but it’s easier than spattering oil all over my kitchen and more healthful. And I think they add the required crunch to the soup.

One more thing — you MUST make your own stock or broth for this soup to work. It’s just not worth it to use the canned variety, no matter how high-quality it is.

tortilla soup

Kick-Ass Tortilla Soup

6 – 6 inch corn tortillas
2-3 tsp chili powder (I prefer Ancho, but to each their own. Just please use pure powder.)
1 large poblano chili
1 tsp cumin
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
6 cups vegetable broth (or chicken stock if you’re making chicken version)
2 cups of shredded, cooked chicken (optional)
1 can diced tomatoes
juice of one lime

For garnishing:
Tortilla strips you make below; sliced ripe avocado; sour cream or mexican crema; chopped cilantro; cotija cheese. (Use whichever ones you like — it’s a customizeable thing.)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut 4 tortillas into matchstick-size strips. Arrange on baking pan and spray with nonstick cooking spray. Sprinkle with chili powder and salt; toss. Bake 15 minutes, or until crisp.

Char poblano over gas stovetop or under broiler until black. Put that beautiful little sucker in a plastic bag for about 10 minutes. Take it out and peel. Seed and chop it into 1/2 inch pieces.

Cut 4 tortillas into 1 inch pieces. Heat oil. DO NOT SKIMP ON OIL. Cook tortillas until crips and golden, stirring occassionally, about 15 minutes. Add poblano, onion and garlic, saute 2 minutes, or until onions are soft. Add cumin and remaining chili powder to taste. Sautee another minute. Add broth and tomatoes. Bring just to boil. Reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes. Add chicken, if using, and lime juice. Salt and pepper to taste. Ladle into bowls and garnish as desired.

Stare into the eyes of your dining companion, certain that you’ve found true love.

When I started this blog, I had grand ambitions of posting a soup recipe a few times a month. Well, since October, the closest I’ve gotten was to post a conversation about how gassy a certain cauliflower soup was. Blog-worthy, but not exactly what I’d had in mind.

But today, dear reader, while my kids break stuff trying to get my attention because I’m typing, I bring you the soup we made, hmmm, about two weeks ago. The leftovers have long been snarfed.

I have a love-hate relationship with lentils. While they are tasty little devils, they also cause the geek and I some gastrointestinal distress. Meaning that in the morning when our kids come into the bedroom to wake us up, they’re covering their noses with their forearms, muttering, “What’s that SMELL?”

So you’ve been warned. I also think I’ll kick up the heat a little bit next time.

Soup!

Thai-style lentil and coconut soup (adapted from The Ultimate Soup Bible)

INGREDIENTS
2 tbsp. sunflower oil
2 red onions, finely chopped
1 Thai chile, partially seeded and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 inch piece lemongrass, outer layers removed and inside finely chopped
1 ½ cup red lentils, rinsed and picked over
1 ½ tsp ground coriander
1 ½ tsp paprika
14 fluid ounces coconut milk
juice of 1 lime
2 tsp soy sauce
1 tsp sugar
3 scallions, chopped
scant cup chopped cilantro, chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a large pan and add the onions, chile, garlic and lemongrass. Cook for 5 minutes or until the onions have softened but not browned, stirring occasionally.

Add the lentils and spices. Pour in the coconut milk and 4 ½ cups of water. Stir. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer 40-45 minutes, until lentils are soft.

Add lime juice, soy sauce and sugar. Add the scallions and cilantro, reserving a little of each for garnish.

Ladle into bowls, garnish, and enjoy!