It's still summer so soup wasn't the first thing on my mind but that's what I made because our garden is full of ripe tomatoes and peppers. Corn is still in season, and I also happened to have a perfectly ripe avocado so this was actually the perfect meal.
Soup is tough on a low sodium diet. It's one of the Salty Six, foods identified by the American Heart Association as being very high in sodium. But this tortilla soup works for a few reasons. First, it starts with a lot of delicious umami-rich tomatoes, flavorful peppers, and my not-so-secret-ingredient: half an apple. Second, blending the soup gives you a thick broth that is much more flavorful than just seasoned chicken broth alone. Finally, a variety of toppings add a lot of texture, flavor, and flexibility. This is a great meal to make for a group because you can make the soup salt-free then let each person customize their bowl with various salty and salt-free toppings.
The simplest way to make it is to throw all the ingredients into a pot, boil, simmer and blend. But if you have some extra time, roasting the tomatoes, peppers, onions, and/or garlic will add a nice smoky flavor. Or make your own chicken broth and add the cooked chicken to the soup.
Servings: 4 Sodium: 45 mg per serving (does not include optional ingredients or toppings) Time: 1 hour
2 roasted Hatch chilis, diced small (poblanos or jalapeños work well, too)
14 ounces of fresh tomatoes (or 1 can of salt-free diced tomatoes)
1/4 cup olive oil
1 medium yellow onion
8 cloves of garlic
1/2 medium apple, peeled and diced small*
1/2 cup corn
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1 teaspoon onion powder
4 cups unsalted chicken broth
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon sugar (optional)
1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke (optional)
pinch of bonito flakes (optional)
1-3 teaspoons unsalted tomato paste (optiona)
1 small corn tortilla (optional)
*Yes, that's right, add half an apple to the soup. Apples are one of my favorite ways to flavor soup, especially tomato-heavy soups, and they add a really nice but subtle flavor to this soup.
Unsalted tortilla strips
Toasted, unsalted pumpkin seeds
Roasted or raw peppers
Green onions, sliced thin
Cheddar or Monterrey jack cheese
1) The quick and easy way to make this soup: add all the ingredients (leave the chilis raw, don't include the toppings) to a large pot and bring to a boil, then simmer for about 30 minutes. When the soup is cool enough, blend with an immersion blender or pour into a standard blender. Serve hot with toppings.
2) If you have more time, roast the chilis (whether you're using hatch, jalapeños or poblanos) tomatoes, garlic, onion, and corn.
I opted to roast my hatch chilis in the oven under the broiler for about 5-6 minutes per side, and then I charred my tomatoes in a very hot, dry wok to bring out some more flavor. My kitchen started getting too hot at this point so everything else went in raw. Apples are a really nice addition to this soup. I used half a medium pink lady apple, but anything a little tart and sweet (honey crisp, envy, fuji) would work. Peel the apples and dice them small.
3) In a large pot on medium heat (at least 3 quarts, mine is 5), add olive oil, onions, garlic, 1 teaspoon ground cumin, 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander, 2 teaspoons sweet paprika, 1 teaspoon smoked paprika, and 1 tsp onion powder.
If you have an unsalted chili powder you like, just use about 2 tablespoons of it instead of this combination of spices. Chipotle chili powder and ancho chili powder would also be really good!
Sauté until the spices are fragrant and the onions are soft. If the onions dry up and the spices start to stick to the bottom of the pot, add about 2-3 tablespoons of water and keep cooking. Once the onions get soft, add the tomatoes, hatch chilis, corn, and 4 cups unsalted chicken broth. My favorite unsalted chicken broth is Swanson's but any kind will do. Vegetable broth works, also. Bring the soup to a boil and then simmer for about 20 minutes, covered. If you have an immersion blender, blend until smooth. If using a standard blending, let it cool down a bit and then blend.
4) Now add the optional ingredients. I love the addition of just a pinch of bonito flakes to my soups, especially tomato based soups. Read more about bonito flakes here. Leave this out if you don't have it or don't like it. I also taste to see if I need any sugar, and usually add just a touch (about 1/4 teaspoon). If the soup is thin, I'll add a whole tortilla or two and let it dissolve into the soup. If it's thick enough, I'll leave the tortilla out and just add tortilla strips when serving. If you find the tomatoes aren't very flavorful, add 1-3 teaspoons of unsalted tomato paste. Finally, add a splash of balsamic vinegar and liquid smoke for some added flavor.
5) Serve hot with lots of topping options. There are a number of salt-free tortilla chips on the market but if you have a little time try frying up your own tortilla strips. It's really fast and these fresh tortilla strips will taste so much better than anything you can buy. I used these taco-sized Mission brand corn tortillas (20 mg for 3 small tortillas), sliced them thin and fried them in a skilled in canola oil. They brown in less than a minute so you really don't need that much oil, just enough to barely cover a thin layer of tortillas. Use a slotted spoon to set them aside on a paper-towel lined plate and let them cool just a bit before serving. Sprinkle with a little paprika if you like.