Baja California, Mexico! Have you been? Unfortuately it’s been a few years since I’ve been down there. We loved Ensenada – a couple decades ago we rode our bicycles 50 miles from Rosarito to Ensenada. That ride is still going strong, in its 31st year. And we always love Los Cabos, with it’s great beaches, restaurants, nightlife and fishing. In Guerrero Negro, where the whales come in the winter to give birth, you can experience them up close in the lagoon.
Fish tacos have been a specialty in Baja, no wonder, as it is a long thin spit of land surrounded by water. Traditionally, the tacos are local fried fish served on a corn tortilla, with shredded cabbage, onion, crema, and lime. That’s the way I remember them sold from street vendors in Ensenada back in the early 80’s. Speaking of Ensenada, have you been to Hussong’s (est. 1892), the oldest cantina in the Californias?
Baja-Style Tortilla Vegetable Soup
This soup recipe came about from a trip we took to Mexico years ago. It’s evolved over the years, the original recipe was made simply with chicken broth and only onion and anaheim chile. I think the current incarnation is really flavorful, authentic tasting, and healthy too!
Sauté chopped onion, celery, and carrots in olive oil until softened. Then add finely chopped chiles (serrano or the milder anaheim) and minced garlic, stirring and cook about 5 more minutes. Add ground cumin and dried Mexican oregano, these herbs are important for the authentic flavor.
Add vegetable broth and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer for about 10 minutes. I am a fan of Wolfgang Puck Organic Vegetable Broth.
Corn tortillas are cut into strips then fried in canola oil. Drain on paper towels and sprinkle with a bit of sea salt. The corn tortillas contain no cholesterol and no lard. The fried tortillas are a key component, a bag of tortilla chips is an unworthy substitute!
Then add a good amount of shredded cabbage to the soup, and cook until the cabbage is just softened (don’t over cook).
Lastly, add peeled seeded tomatoes to the soup and turn off the heat. Add a small amount of salt if necessary. Add the juice of one lime. Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with tortilla strips, diced avocado, cilantro leaves, lime quarters, thinly sliced serrano peppers and queso blanco.
Queso blanco is a creamy, soft, and mild unaged white cheese that originated in Spain and spread to Mexico. The name queso blanco is Spanish for “white cheese.” It is made by heating whole fresh milk to near-boiling, adding an acidifying agent such as vinegar, stirring until curds form, then draining the curds in cheesecloth for three to five hours. It has been compared to Indian paneer and to a mild feta, and is considered one of the easier cheeses to make, as it requires no careful handling and does not call for rennet or a bacterial culture. Queso blanco is traditionally made from cow’s milk. I like this cheese in soup, as it does not melt, but it does soften in the hot broth.
The vegan version of this soup (sans cheese) is also posted on our brand new blog, The Great VEGA’N VEGETARIAN Project, the brainchild of Cynthia Nelson of Tastes Like Home blog, where contributors from around the globe share vegetarian creations. I am so happy to be a contributor to the new blog which launched this past weekend. Please stop by soon! And if you would like to contribute to The Project (you do not need to have a blog) we would love to have your input. Go here.