yes, that bowl is indeed empty. this crude, crumbly, humble pottery is one of my favorite relics from my time in mexico. somehow the ornate talavera pottery with its bright colors and showy designs just didn't turn my crank once i returned to the u.s. not like this stuff. i suppose it's because it's more representative of what i view to be the "real" life of mexico. in other words, my life in a conservative cowboy town high up in the desert: the mercados crammed full of hanging pig carcases, stinky vats of lard fried pork skin, piles of avocados at 15 pesos a kilo, fresh rounds of crumbly cheese with flies buzzing around, stands with old ladies selling freshly squeezed juices, and, oh yeah, how could i forget the "onion boy". he who strutted around in a wife beater and battered cowboy hat, gratuitously heaving sacks of onions over his head just to show off the perfect triangle of his finely sculpted physique. how many unnecessary onions did i buy, let rot, then go back for more?
so.... rough clay pottery plus onions minus onion boy plus summertime plus bumper crops of tomatoes equals what?. isn't it obvious? it equals the sum of all creation: soup. hot, steaming bowls of tomato-based soup to fortify us during the pinche cold and foggy san francisco summer. this is one of my favorite soups and very, very easy to make. be sure not to skimp on the garnishes as they really make the soup shine. speaking of garnishes i also have a great recipe for vegetarian green posole. maybe i'll post it if this damn fog doesn't clear up soon.
4 cups vegetable stock
3 large or 6 small tomatoes, roasted and peeled (either broil or roast over open gas flame)
2 large cloves garlic, peeled
1 small white onion, peeled and chopped
½ - 1 teaspoon chipotle chili (use either canned, chipotles in adobo sauce, or soak dried chili in boiling water for 20 minutes – remove seed and veins unless you like it really hot)
4 epazote leaves (optional – may substitute ½ t. oregano)
1 tablespoon oil, plus enough to fry the tortillas
4 corn tortillas (or 1 cup crumbled store bought tortilla chips)
1 lime, cut quartered
Mexican crema or sour cream
crumbled queso fresco or mild feta cheese
cut the tortillas into Frito-size strips, fry in hot oil until crispy, and drain well, set aside. in a large saucepan, bring the broth to a simmer. meanwhile, place the roasted tomatoes, garlic, onion, chiles, ¼ of the tortilla strips, and epazote in the blender with just enough broth to allow the blades to turn, and puree. if you have the time and the inclination (try it at least once to see if this extra step is "vale la pena" for you - i generally skip it), in a separate saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon oil, add the puree and cook over medium heat for 10-15 minutes. add the simmering broth, cook another 15 minutes; add salt to taste.
serve the soup with the fried tortilla strips (or, more likely, store bought chips) in the broth and pass the cheese, avocado, lime, cilantro and crema separately, to be added by each diner. the addition of these garnishes, especially the lime and chips really makes the dish, so don't skimp!
by the way, here is a picture of the dreaded fog - just in case you don't believe me...