This is a rich, tomato-y, deeply spicy soup that will make your nose run, but in a good way. If you don't want it too spicy, feel free to reduce the chiles to one instead of two, but where is the fun in that? You can also mix up the toppings if you like, but I highly recommend the avocado as it cuts the spice nicely.
The traditional topping for tortilla soup, of course, is tortilla chips - but I didn't realize I was out of corn tortillas until I started cooking. Oops. To be honest, I really didn't miss them!
Spicy Vegetarian Tortilla Soup
adapted from Eating Well magazine
2 dried pasilla, ancho, or New Mexico chiles
1 15-oz. can fire roasted diced tomatoes
1 tablespoon canola oil
1/2 large onion, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 large clove garlic, peeled
2 cups low sodium vegetable broth
2 cups chopped spinach or chard
handful chopped fresh cilantro
salt to taste
juice of 1/2 lime (or more if you like)
1 ripe large avocado, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
1/4 cup shredded Monterey jack (or similar) cheese
1 cup roughly broken tortilla chips (optional)
1. First, toast the chiles. You can either cook them over an open flame using tongs until fragrant and starting to char, or you can cook them in a dry skillet over medium heat, pressing down on them and flipping them over every few seconds. Set aside to cool.
2. When chiles are cool enough to handle, remove stems and seeds. Put in a blender with the tomatoes and their juices, and puree until smooth. Set aside.
3. Heat the oil in a medium Dutch oven or soup pot until hot, then add onion and garlic. Saute until golden, about 5 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to scoop out the onion and garlic, and add to the blender. Puree with the chile mixture until smooth.
4. Return pot to medium heat and pour in the puree. Bring to a bubble and cook, stirring often, until thickened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the broth. Bring to a boil, reduce to a bare simmer, and cook for 20-30 minutes.
5. Stir in spinach and cilantro (reserve some for garnish) and cook until wilted, about 1 minute. Season to taste with salt and lime juice. Ladle into soup bowls and serve garnished with avocado, cheese, and chips if using, as well as remaining cilantro.