What’s your idea of heaven on earth? Not in a heavy philosophical sense, but what would your dream world look like? In my utopia, the clouds are made of cream cheese frosting. Fresh coffee appears in a mug on my nightstand every morning (splash of cream, please). Daylight lasts until 9 pm every night. Cookie lives forever by my side and I only have to go to one grocery store to get everything on my list.
Better yet, the ingredients magically appear in my kitchen when I need them. That would be beyond amazing. I spend so much time tracking down the right ingredients for blog recipes between the three grocery stores that I frequent. It’s exhausting.
I got a little taste of what my heaven would be like this week when I received a box containing ingredients and recipes for three wholesome dinners courtesy of Blue Apron. I picked up the box at the UPS Store and worked up an appetite carrying it all four blocks back to my apartment. Once I finally got home, I tore into the box and found a giant head of fresh escarole on top. Greens! Delivered! I was starving and wasted no time getting to work on dinner.
All three recipes seemed like they could be made in well under an hour, but I chose the quickest one, the white bean and escarole chili. As instructed, I prepared the vegetables in advance, which made everything flow easily. (Note to self: prep more for easier cooking.) The onion and garlic that I chopped were sizzling when I poured pre-measured amounts of cumin and coriander into the pot. Dang, that was easy.
I got my first taste of teff, too, which is an ingredient I’ve been meaning to try. I learned about teff from the recipe card while the soup simmered away on the stove. (FYI: teff originated in Ethiopia and provides all of the essential amino acids). And just like that, dinner was ready. It was absolutely delicious. The card said the soup yielded two servings, but it made enough for four servings for me. Grocery delivery might be the closest I can get to heaven on earth.
Blue Apron asked me to share one of their many vegetarian recipes with you today and I chose the tortilla soup. Of all recipes that call for chicken, tortilla soup might be the only one that I’ve missed since giving up chicken and beef over 3 (or 4?) years ago. Giving up meat required an adjustment period as I found other foods to replace my old standbys. Most of the substitutions were not exact replacements. Chicken fingers are no longer part of my diet, and to make up for lost protein, I found myself eating more beans and eggs over time. My plates became more colorful and more interesting.
Tortilla soup was the one meal that got away. Now, I’m glad I’ve found a homemade replacement for the salty bowls of chicken tortilla soup that I used to order at chain restaurants. My version is more fresh and flavorful, too. That just seems to be the way meatless meals go.
- 1 dried smoked chili pepper or 1 poblano pepper
- Olive oil
- 1 medium white onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced.
- 1 to 2 medium jalapeños (optional, use one for medium spicy soup and two for spicy soup)
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 14-ounce can crushed tomatoes or chunky tomato sauce*
- 32 ounces (4 cups) vegetable stock
- 14-ounce can hominy, rinsed and drained (optional)
- 14-ounce can black beans, rinsed and drained
- Sea salt
- 6 corn tortillas (6-inch, taco-sized)
- 1 avocado
- 2 to 4 radishes, sliced into super thin rounds
- 2 ounces queso fresco or feta cheese (optional), crumbled
- 1 handful cilantro leaves, chopped
- 1 lime, sliced into small wedges
- Prep work: Preheat the oven to 475 degrees Fahrenheit. Stack the tortillas and slice them into ½-inch-wide, 2-inch-long strips. Remove the seeds and membranes from the jalapeno (and poblano, if using) and chop the peppers. Wash your hands. Pit, peel, and medium dice the avocado, then squeeze some lime juice over the avocado to prevent browning.
- Bake the tortillas: Coat a baking sheet with a thin layer of oil. Toss the tortilla strips in the oil to coat and arrange the strips in a single layer. Bake 6 to 8 minutes, or until golden brown. While the strips are hot, season them with salt.
- Toast the chili pepper: Place the dried chili pepper directly on the oven racks. Bake for 30 seconds to 1 minute, or just until the pepper is warmed through. When cool enough to handle, cut the pepper open and remove the seeds. (Wash your hands afterward and avoid touching your eyes!)
- Make the soup: In a medium pot or Dutch oven, heat some olive oil on medium until hot. Add the onion, garlic, jalapeno and poblano peppers (if using). Cook 4 to 5 minutes, or until softened, stirring occasionally. Stir in the cumin, then the canned tomatoes and vegetable stock. Simmer for about 3 minutes, then add the hominy, black beans and the seeded chili pepper. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes, or until slightly thickened, stirring occasionally. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Serve the soup: First, discard the dried chili pepper. Place some of the avocado, radishes, tortilla strips, and queso fresco (or feta) at the bottom of 2 to 4 bowls. Divide the soup between the bowls. Top the soup with the remaining avocado, radishes, tortilla strips, and queso fresco (or feta). Garnish with some cilantro and serve with lime wedges and hot sauce, if desired.
- Recipe adapted from Blue Apron's tortilla soup with hominy and queso fresco recipe.
- Recipe yields 4 moderate servings.
- *I used Muir Glen's chunky tomato sauce. It comes in a BPA-free, 28-ounce can. I saved the leftover sauce for pizza but I probably could have just added it to the pot.
- To make this recipe vegan/dairy free, just skip the feta cheese.
- To make this soup gluten free, buy certified gluten-free corn tortillas.
If you’d like to give Blue Apron a try, you can get 30 percent off your first box with this special link. Offer ends November 30, 2013.
Here are some more vegetarian Blue Apron recipes to check out:
- Warm Winter Sweet Potato Salad on Naturally Ella
- Roasted Vegetable Kebabs with Curried Chickpeas and Yogurt Sauce on Oh My Veggies
- Pumpkin Vegetable Potage with Toasted Farro on A Thought for Food
- Ligurian Chard with Pine Nuts and Feta on Veggie Belly
- Butternut Squash Mac ‘n Cheese on I Heart Vegetables
Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by Blue Apron. Thank you for supporting the sponsors who allow me to serve up more recipes. Opinions are my own, always.