homemade

Tortilla Soup with Sliced Avocado

IMG_0378 Fresh avocados are the perfect addition to brighten up this warming tortilla soup. The creamy avocado flesh contrasts the crisp, baked tortilla strips, and the cool avocado balances the heat from the chilies. This soup is one of my fall favorites and the avocado livens it up!

Growing up, this green super-fruit was not in my family’s produce rotation. When I moved to Los Angeles for college, I was constantly confronted with all things avocado—from guacamole to California rolls. My love for avocados flourished during my tenure in Los Angeles. I even developed one of my favorite go-to dishes: sliced avocado with a sprinkle of creole seasoning, drizzle of olive oil and squirt of lemon juice.

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Avocado trees can't tolerate freezing temperatures, so avocados are not as readily available in NYC as they are in southern California. But when they are in abundance, I partake.

Sliced avocado complements the southwest flavors in this tortilla soup, so it's time to get cooking!

Ingredients

2 tablespoons olive oil + additional for tortilla strips 1 medium onion, finely chopped 3 cloves garlic, minced 1 chipotle chili en adobo sauce, finely chopped 1 tablespoon chili powder 2 teaspoons salt 6 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth 1 cup corn kernels 1 small tomato, diced 2 medium avocados 2 limes 4 flour tortillas (OK to substitute with tortilla chips) 2 medium avocados 1 cup cooked chicken, shredded ½ cup fresh cilantro leaves

Optional Garnishes: Cheddar cheese sour cream

Method

To prepare the baked tortilla strips, preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit (alternatively, you can use tortilla chips).  Stack 4 small flour tortillas and cut them crosswise into ½ inch strips. Place tortilla strips in a rimmed baking sheet. Toss them with enough olive oil to lightly coat them, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Bake in a single layer for 5 minutes. Turn the strips over and bake an additional 3-5 minutes, until crisp and golden brown. (Be careful not to burn them--like I did the first time I made them!) Set the tortilla strips aside while you prepare the rest of the soup.

To prepare the soup, heat the two tablespoons olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the chopped onion, minced garlic and chipotle chili and saute in the oil for about 5 minutes, until the onions soften. Add the chili powder and salt. Cook an additional three minutes. Add the chicken broth and increase the temperature to high to bring the soup to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Add the corn and cook for five more minutes. Remove the pot from the heat.

Stir in the cooked, shredded chicken (if using), diced tomato and chopped cilantro. Squeeze in lime juice from the two limes and stir.

Ladle soup into bowls and top with baked tortilla strips (or chips), sliced avocado, shredded cheese and sour cream.

Pumpkin Stew (Baked in a Pumpkin!)

Image The weather has cooled off, and Fall is officially here! I decided to celebrate the beginning of the Autumn season by making pumpkin stew (in a pumpkin!)  The pumpkin is a great vehicle to take the flavors of all of the ingredients and lock them in--and infuse them with pumpkin. I have been wanting to make a dish inside of a pumpkin for years, and I've finally realized that there's no time like the present.

Pumpkin stew (or any stew, really), is more a weekend gig. I mean, I certainly don't have four hours to watch a pot.  I guess this is where those crock pots come in handy, but a pumpkin isn't a crock pot, and you really do have to watch it to make sure it doesn't overcook.  The stew came out delicious.  My first stew. My first dish in a pumpkin.

I think I have carved a pumpkin before--but it was quite some time ago. At least 10+ years ago.  I wasn't sure of what I'd find when I opened the pumpkin, but it looked a lot like the inside of a cantaloupe--a weird, stringy pulp and seeds.  I did my best to save the seeds (for roasting!), and I gave up trying to "de-string" the pumpkin with my hand. I took a metal spoon and just did my best to scrape out the strings.

The first half of this stew is cooked in a dutch oven (or a pot if you don't have one like me). The second half is baked inside of the pumpkin.  I used a pumpkin pie pumpkin because it was a nice shape, and I knew it would have a delicious fleshy inside.

This is definitely a dish I'd make again (and again, and again!)  Enjoy, and Happy Fall!

Pumpkin Stew Recipe (Serves 5-6)  Adapted from taste of home

5-6 lb. pumpkin; 2 tablespoons canola oil, divided; 1 lb. beef stew meat cut into one-inch cubes; 1 onion chopped, 1 green bell pepper chopped; 2 medium potatoes cut into chunks; 2 medium carrots sliced; 2 garlic cloves minced; 1 teaspoon salt; 1/2 teaspoon pepper; 1 cup beef broth; 8 ounces of diced tomatoes, undrained

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  1. In a dutch oven (or large pot), brown meat in one tablespoon of oil. Add beef broth, potatoes, carrots, green pepper, garlic, onion, salt and pepper. Cover and simmer 75 minutes.  Add diced tomatoes.

  2. Wash pumpkin; cut to 6 to 8 in. circle around top stem. Remove top and set aside; set seeds aside, and loosen fibers from inside.

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3. Place pumpkin in a shallow sturdy baking pan. Spoon stew into pumpkin and replace top. Brush outside of pumpkin with remaining oil. Bake at 325° for 75 minutes or just until the pumpkin is tender (do not overbake). Serve stew from pumpkin, scooping out a little pumpkin with each serving.

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