Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Tortilla Soup

One of my favorite lunch spots when I go downtown is Frontera Fresco at Macy's, which serves the most fantastic, flavorful tortilla soup. I've been rooting for Rick Bayless on Top Chef Masters; he has brought terrific food to Chicago, as well as a lot of good works.

Last night, I thought I'd try my hand at my own version of tortilla soup. My daughter has a nasty summer head cold, and I thought a hot bowl of spicy soup might comfort her. Plus, my husband was returning from out of town in the early evening, and I figured the soup could wait on the stove to welcome him home.

It was not as good as Rick's, but still pretty tasty. Served with a side salad of chopped romaine, sliced purple onions, grated cotija cheese, and roasted yellow bell and serrano pepper dressing.

Tortilla Soup

2 cloves garlic, minced
2 jalapeno peppers, minced
2 small onions, chopped
2 boxes chicken stock (8 cups)
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 boneless chicken breasts
1 can fire-roasted tomatoes
1 lime
2 ears corn, cut off the cob (or 1 cup frozen corn)
1/2 bunch cilantro

avocados, cut into bite-sized chunks
chihuahua cheese, grated
tortilla chips, broken into pieces
lime wedges

In a large soup or stock pot, saute the garlic, jalapeno pepper, and onion in a little corn oil until the onion is translucent. Add the cumin and the cayenne, and saute until the spices become fragrant. Add the chicken stock and the chicken breasts. Heat to a boil and then lower the heat to a simmer. Cook for about 20 minutes, or until the meat is cooked through. Remove the chicken to a cutting board and let cool. Meanwhile, add the canned tomatoes, corn, and cilantro to the soup. When the chicken has cooled enough to handle, shred it and return it to the soup. Check for seasoning and keep warm until ready to serve.

To serve, place a small amount of grated chihuahua cheese, some avocado chunks, and some broken tortilla chips in the bottom of a soup bowl. Ladle soup over and enjoy.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Summer Salad and Souffle

Last week, Nick wanted to try his hand at souffle. A dish that I didn't attempt until I was over 30, here he is making it at age 12. Souffle is kind of magic; taking a simple egg and transforming it into an ethereal bearer of whatever flavor (cheese, chocolate, herbs) you choose.

Making souffle gave Nick a chance to practice separating eggs, whipping egg whites, and folding. Actually, I think his favorite part was buttering the ramekins with his bare hands.

This is an excellent light summer dinner with a raspberry salad and miniature, open-face ham sandwiches.

Goat Cheese Souffle

5 eggs
2 tablespoons butter, plus more for buttering ramekins
2 tablespoons flour
1 1/3 cups milk
5 ounces goat cheese
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
bread crumbs

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Separate the eggs, being very careful to not let any yolk break into the whites. In a small saucepan, melt the butter and cook the flour for a minute. Add the milk and cook and stir with a whisk until it thickens into a nice bechamel or white sauce. Remove from the heat and whisk in half of the cheese until it melts. Set the sauce aside to cool for a few minutes. While you are waiting, butter six ramekins generously. Drop a tablespoon or so of bread crumbs into each, and swirl the ramekins on their sides over the sink to coat the bottoms and the sides with crumb. Place on a cookie sheet. When the reserved sauce has cooled to lukewarm, whisk in the egg yolks and pinch the reminder of the goat cheese in to the pan in small bits. Salt and pepper to taste. In a mixer, whip the egg whites and the tartar sauce until stiff peaks form. Fold the yolk/cheese sauce mixture gently into the whipped egg whites. Divide the mixture between the ramekins. Bake for 25-30 minutes until they begin to brown on top. Serve immediately.

Raspberry Salad

1 pint very good quality raspberries
1 head Boston lettuce
1/2 purple onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil

Tear the lettuce into a salad bowl and toss with the raspberries and the onion. Mix the vinegar and oil in small bowl; add salt and pepper to taste. Toss the salad with the dressing just before serving.