I don't really make soups. I'm not good at viewing a soup as "dinner." Put a grilled cheese sandwich next to it, and I'm all set, but just soup sounds like a beverage. But this is different. This is borderline stewlike. This has stuff it it, and if you want to put different stuff in it, that's ok too. Like pizza, pretty much, you can clean out your fridge into tortilla soup.
Seriously, the base is three soups. It's tomato, it's chicken soup, it's black bean, it's everything. Starting from there, what can't you add?
I'm going to talk about chicken throughout, but you could make it vegetarian by omitting that. I don't keep chicken stock on hand, so I used vegetable, and there is so much action in the soup, I'm sure you wouldn't miss the chicken.
But the chicken is pretty damn good too.
The recipe I used was a lot like this one over on The Pioneer Woman. I found her version when I was Googling the cornmeal bit (we'll get there) and realized what I did was so much like what she did that you should probably go there for the recipe.
I started with onion and garlic in a pot with some olive oil. We can get into the "how much onion" debate, but seriously, how much do you want to put in? What do you need to use up? I used half a pretty big red onion, but you could use something else too.
And then I made up spices like for fajitas. I'm totally lying. Sous Chef Brian did this. He was in and out of the kitchen while I chopped onions (he is one of those people who is severely affected by the teargas onions emit) and in the background somewhere, quietly sobbing and making a spice blend. It was like this.
and some oregano that didn't make it into the shot.
And he coated two (unphotographed) chicken breasts in it, and threw them in (ungreased) at 400 for 25 minutes until they were cooked through (turning once). Then we took turns shredding them with two forks (because no one likes to do that). No shredding photos, but it went very much like last time.
If you don't do the chicken part, maybe just add spices like this - maybe a total of 1/3 cup of whatever you put on fajitas. Those spices.
We put the chicken (yes, now I've caught on, *we*) in with the onion and garlic and tossed it around a bit on medium, then added a bunch of liquid and semi-liquid things. Veggie stock (maybe 5 cups?) and a can of diced tomato, a tablespoon of tomato paste and a can of black beans (drained and rinsed). I made sure they really were beans this time, and not soup. I also added a finely diced jalepeno.
I brought it up to a boil, then down to a simmer and did the cornmeal thing. Very much like the cornstarch thing, and again, searching for where I first heard of it brought me here. Three tbsp cornmeal with a tad bit of water, enough to make a paste, mixed well then scraped into the soup to thicken. Back to a boil (seriously) and back down to a simmer.
I let it simmer for about 40 minutes and added 3 kale leaves, cut up small. The kale is totally optional (you can do spinach, chard, or no greens). You can also get fun with the veg in the beginning and add diced zucchini, poblanos or bell peppers, corn, etc. Whatever goes with tortillas.
Brian also made up tortilla strips. We usually keep flour tortillas in the house, and I forget how easy it is to make corn chips. Seriously, it's corn tortilla + pizza cutter + salt + oven. Very simple. We put them on a silicone mat at 400 until they were crisp but not burnt, and had started to curl a bit.
When the soup was just about done (about 25 minutes after adding the kale) I added a handful of cilantro and half the tortilla strips. I reserved the other half to top the soup with.
Toppings. We used avocado, hot sauce and tortilla strips, but cheddar or sour cream would have been awesome, or scallions, or whatever. This is "everything" soup. Like an everything bagel, without the poppy seeds.
This made two filling dinners and six fridge or freezer lunch portions.