Archive for January, 2011

Chicken Soup: Easy Mexican Chicken Tortilla Soup

Saturday, January 29th, 2011

Easy Tortilla Soup Caldo Maiz Avocado

This time of year my brown skin gets pasty. Shorter days, I’m outside less and bundled up in layers. I usually escape the winter blues on a beach in Mexico. The last few years it’s been in the Yucatan, mostly around Playa del Carmen.

Four to five lazy days at the beach is some serious R&R with no full agenda. We only take in two or three cultural or historical sites like Chitchen Itza (inland Mayan ruins), Tulum (the beachside ruins) or Coba (more ruins in a jungle setting) because the purpose of these trips is soaking in the natural beauty and chillin’ – sleeping in, long walks along the beach, and swimming/dipping in pristine waters.

During the day, when the sun is blazing we grub on fish tacos or ceviche and swig down a few cold cervezas. Once the sun has set and the coastal winds pick up,  hot soup is more inviting. A bowl of chicken tortilla soup is the perfect appetizer or main course for a soup lover like me.

Over the years, I’ve eaten so many versions of tortilla soup I can’t count. Some had cream, others were thick, and some were so skimpy it was more like consume.

I made this chicken tortilla soup the other night needing some comfort food after a long day at the gig and a single-digit day in Denver. Since I’ve been hobbling about in this medical boot, I come home tired and famished, craving something to assuage the hunger and physical discomfort.

This is one of the best tortilla soups I’ve had. My husband says it’s moved to his list of favorites – it’s that good. It’s easy to make and layered with flavor. This is a smoky version that does not require roasting or dry toasting chiles  – only a little jalapeno and chipotle – staples in my kitchen.

Whether you’re at the beach, in the mountains or in the city, I encourage you to try this one. As for me, I doubt I’ll get to beach it this winter, but, at least I have a damn good bowl of tortilla soup.


Chicken Soup: Greek Lemon Chicken Soup – Avgolemono

Thursday, January 20th, 2011

Chicken soup is food for the soul and is said to be the most famous broth-based soup in the world. Because it is so popular there are innumerable cultural variations and recipes.  I could have an entire blog devoted to chicken soup – but that would get a bit mundane for both you and me even though I am a soup and sauce addict.

One of my favorite chicken soups – yes, I have a lot of favorites – is avgolemono soupa, Greek lemon chicken soup. “Avgolemono” refers to the egg (avgo) and lemon (lemon) sauce that is the basis of many Greek dishes. The term is also widely used to reference the soup that’s made of the same.

This is a heartier version than most traditional and commonly found recipes because it includes both the cooked chicken and veggies. Many recipes also call for adding flour or cornstarch, I don’t use either and make this recipe gluten-free friendly by using a starchy rice to make the soup thick and creamy. The eggs are also a thickener and give it some richness.  If you can eat pasta, try it with orzo pasta – it’s frequently the preferred starch used to make avgolemono.

The secret to making a really good Greek lemon chicken soup is the stock. If you have home-made stock all the better. If you don’t keep your freezer stocked with it, you can substitute chicken thighs for breasts, which will make for a tastier broth. If you use bouillon cubes, good luck.

If you’ve never made or eaten avgolemono, do try it. Like many other Greek dishes, the use of citrus brings a refreshing balance of flavor.  It’s light but still satisfying and great for leftovers. I’ve been grubbin’ on it these last few nights when I needed some comfort food – the cold temperatures and snow are back in Denver.

I also wanted to mention that I made a food stylng faux pas – I added the fresh ground black pepper to the bowl before I photographed (and soon after ate) it.

By the way this is one of those soups that tastes better the next day.


Chicken Soup: Filipino Chicken Soup – Sotanghon

Saturday, January 15th, 2011

Sotanghon is one of my favorite soups. It’s a Filipino chicken soup that’s perfect anytime I need some brothy comfort food. It’s my husband’s favorite version of chicken soup.

It’s so good, it’s been in my regular soup rotation for several years, thanks to my girl Celestina, who is an amazing cook. When I get an invite for dinner from her, I dare not decline because she continually introduces me to new dishes from her homeland of the Philippines.

The first time I ate sotanghon I was in heaven. . .  It was a cold, Sunday afternoon and this soup was right on.  I remember it distinctively. It was one of those food moments that is permanently etched in my flavor memory – the first time I had this hot, gingery broth that is both citrusy from lime and salty from patis (fish sauce).

To me it’s the broth that makes this soup stand out and the reason why my version is more soupy than most traditional satanghon recipes you’ll find. Many years ago Celestina showed me how to make a quick version using chicken breasts. I’ve adapted it over the years using chicken thighs to make the broth. I also prefer this version because it has more vegetables than most.

A lot of recipes call for removing the ginger in the final stages. I prefer to leave it in, because the flavor gets more intense as the soup sits. Also, as you know from my ginger posts, ginger aides digestion and is a warming spice. Don’t eat it if it’s not your thing.

I usually buy these ingredients at the Asian market. FYI, sotanghon noodles are cellophane noodles made from mung beans; they are also called chinese vermicelli noodles. I like to get the package with bundles wrapped and tied (see photo below).

This recipe makes a huge pot, half it if it’s too much.

Tidbits on Chicken Soup:

  1. Chicken soup has been a remedy for colds, flu and other infirmities since prehistoric times. The hot broth is coveted because it is thin, protein-based, and easier to digest than a full-on solid meal.
  2. Chicken soup was also considered curative because of it’s light broth, which was similar to the human complexion.
  3. Originally and in some places today, old chickens were used to make chicken soup – because it was a good way to use the tough meat and also a way to stretch out a meal.


Chicken Soup: Peruvian Chicken Quinoa Soup – Caldo de Gallina con Quinoa

Sunday, January 9th, 2011

2010 went out with a bang. A big one:  I ended the year with a nasty cold (that has just finally run its course) and then injured my foot, which will take longer to recover.

For the last several weeks, I’ve been feeling a bit blue inside and out. So, what better a remedy than chicken soup? It’s not poshy. It’s real food – food you eat when you need something nutritional and comforting.

Caldo de gallina con quinoa (chicken soup with quinoa) was the first meal I ate in Cuzco, Peru. The city is the primary entry point for all the folks like me who set out to visit Machu Picchu and sits at about 11,000 feet in altitude, which means it gets chilly at night. The chicken soup was memorable, however, the alpaca that I also ordered was not.

This Peruvian chicken soup is a brothy fix that will take away the chill, clear the head and sinuses, and soothe your soul. It’s also packed with protein since it has chicken and the “Mother Grain” – quinoa. Read more about the history of quinoa and its nutritional benefits in my previous post.

It’s the perfect time of year for chicken soup. Have a happy and healthy 2011!

Also, if you love the outdoors or if you appreciate architecture, Machu Picchu is a must see. If you’re up for it, I’d also recommend hiking the Inca Trail to get there. It makes the journey to this sacred place – even more spectacular. My husband and I, along with two friends, made this journey in 2006 – with some unexpected adventure (but, that’s another story).