This is one of those recipes that just feels very, well, culinary. Put on your chef's toque and let's get started!
Cut 3 (6-inch) corn tortillas into 1/4 inch strips, and place in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake in the oven at 400 degrees for 8 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.
Heat a medium saucepan over medium-high heat and coat the bottom with cooking spray. I love the one I found at Whole Foods because even though it has "butter flavor" it makes sure to specify that it is "vegetarian, from a non-dairy source", and carries the certified Vegan sticker. (From Spectrum: http://www.spectrumorganics.com/?id=89)
Add 3/4 cups + two tablespoons coarsely chopped onion, and 2 whole, peeled garlic cloves; saute for 7 minutes until golden. Place the onion mixture plus one cup chopped tomato in a blender and blend until smooth. Leave the mixture there for a minute, because you need the saucepan for another use!
Recoat the bottom of the pan with cooking spray, and add one dried ancho chile. Saute for 60 seconds. Remove from pan and let cool, then remove the stem and chop. Set aside 3 teaspoons of the chile for this recipe. If you have any left over, reserve it for another use. I was a tad confused at this step of the recipe, because my chile stayed very hard and brittle, and was easier to "crumble" into pieces that chop with a knife. However, I'm assuming this is probably the way it should have been because, later on, the recipe said to sprinkle each serving with the "crumbled toasted chile." Here's hoping!
Now, pour the pureed onion mixture back into the pan, still over medium-high heat, and simmer it for 15 minutes, stirring frequently. At the end, it should be nearly the consistency of tomato paste. Add 3 cups of vegetable broth, along with one teaspoons of dried epazote. Bring the mixture to a boil, then partially cover, reduce heat, and cook for thirty minutes.
Epazote? you ask. I was excited, too; a spice I'd never heard of before! Turns out epazote is popular in Mexican cuisine, and has a pungent, licorice flavor to it. I was afraid I wouldn't be able to find it, but need not have worried. Mine came care of Penzey's Spices in Grand Central Terminal (incidentally a great place to stock up on all sorts of spices...)
Once the thirty minutes are up, strain the mixture through a fine sieve over a bowl and discard any solids. Ladle 3/4 cup of soup into each of three bowls. Top each with 2 tablespoons 'cheese', 1 tablespoon diced avocado, 1/3 cup of the tortilla strips, one teaspoon of the dried chile, and 1 lime wedge. Each serving has 170 calories.
Fresh cheese, or queso fresco, is another popular ingredient in Mexican cuisine. The U.S. version is "soft, mild, and crumbly." The vegan version is the feta block from Sunergia foods. http://www.sunergiasoyfoods.com/html/soy_feta.html
I went with the Mediterranean Herb flavor.
corn tortillas $0.89
"fresh cheese" $3.69
The Vegan Pantry
- Vegan yogurt - Whole Soy http://www.wholesoyco.com/
- Vegan milk - Silk http://www.silksoymilk.com/
- Vegan Feta - Sunergia http://www.sunergiasoyfoods.com/
- Vegan Cheese - Galaxy Foods http://www.galaxyfoods.com/
- Vegan Eggs - Ener-G http://www.ener-g.com/
- Vegan Butter - Earth Balance http://www.earthbalance.net/product.html