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Tortilla soup from the tap

May 11, 2010

“Bottled water comes with a whole lot of environmental impact that can be avoided by a turn of the faucet.” Jenny Powers of the NRDC

Tortilla soup

I believe the culprit is Perrier. Yes, I’m sure that is who started it all.  That cute French sparkling water that innocently seduced our country into the billion dollar business of bottled water.  Last year Americans spent 15 billion dollars on bottled water. Bottled water has now become more expensive than gas, averaging 5 bucks a gallon.

So why is bottled water so popular?

Most people who drink bottled water do so for the taste. They feel that it has superior taste and quality to regular tap water. Unfortunately, that is all in our heads.

20/20 recently did an experiment on the taste difference of bottled water.  They took 5 of the most popular bottled waters and then water from a drinking fountain in Central Park and asked New Yorkers, in a blind test, which one they liked best.  The drinking fountain water came in third, edged out for first and second by a slim margin.

The other reason people drink bottled water is because they think it is safer. Actually the opposite is true. Tap water is more regulated than bottled water.  On top of that most bottled waters are tap water. Dasani bottles their water from the water supply of the city where the bottling plant is located.

Then there is the messy business of where are all those plastic water bottles going? It is estimated that only one in six water bottles gets recycled.  In the USA alone, there are estimated over 2 million water bottles being discarded every hour. That is enough to cover 8 football fields, every hour!

The solution to all of the above is to… drink your local tap water. It’s cheap, it’s clean, and it tastes great! Well, most of the time. With a little carbon filtering we have the most perfect water. Just remember a bottle that takes just three minutes to drink can take up to a thousand years to biodegrade.

Tortilla soup is a lovely way to make water into a wonderful meal. The crunchy texture of the tortilla strips, the hot chicken broth for the soul, and the endless garnish possibilities, all make it a brilliant soup.  This is a great soup to make in the spring when sweet radishes and California avocados are in season. I highly recommend you make your own chicken broth for it.

A friend taught me a great way to make broth. Freeze your chicken carcasses from other meals, and bits and pieces of veggies you wouldn’t use otherwise, in a bag in the freezer. When you’re ready to make broth, throw all those goodies and some herbs in a large pot full of water and simmer for about 2 hours. (Or you can toss it all in the crock pot and set on low for the day.)  Drain out all the solids, discard, and ta daa! I add a split jalapeño chili pepper and some cilantro to it if I am intending it for tortilla soup.

Tortilla soup

adapted from a recipe by Alice Waters

For the tortilla strips

4 corn tortillas cut into ½ inch strips

Wee bit of cooking spray

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly spray the tortillas on both side and cut into ½ inch strips. Lay them on a cookie sheet without layering them. Bake in the oven till they are nice a crisp but not burnt! Takes about 10 -12 minutes. Let them cool and store in a plastic zippy till you use them.

For the soup

1 ½ quarts of chicken broth

2 chicken breasts

1 tablespoon of olive oil

1 mild fresh chili pepper like poblano

1 onion, sliced up

2 or 3 garlic cloves, minced

1 14.5 ounce can of no salt tomatoes, chopped

Or 2 large fresh tomatoes, peeled and chopped

¼ cup of chopped cilantro

1 to 2 teaspoons of cumin

1 teaspoon of coriander

1 to 2 teaspoons of dried oregano

Juice of 1 lime

1 chipotle pepper in adobo sauce, minced

Sea salt and pepper to taste


Chopped cilantro

Thinly sliced radishes

Avocado cubes

Crumbled cotija or queso fresco cheese

Pickled Onion

Chopped green onions or garlic

Get out your very favorite soup pot and pour in the chicken broth and bring to a simmer. Add the chicken breasts and cook at a bare simmer for about 15 to 20 minutes till they are done. Turn off the heat and pluck the chicken breasts out and let them cool on a plate. When they get cool enough, shred them up to your desired chunkiness.

Meanwhile, in a nice heavy skillet, sauté the chili pepper, onion and garlic in the olive oil till fragrant and soft. Add them to the chicken broth with the shredded chicken and the rest of the ingredients. Check your spices to see if they are just right. Let that wonderful mix simmer for 15 to 20 minutes while you prepare the garnishes and tortilla strips.

Serve up this delicious soup in lovely bowls with the garnishes on the table for folks to dress up their own. Mui delicioso!

3 Comments leave one →
  1. May 15, 2010 4:09 pm

    I’ve always thought it very sad that it takes twice as much water to make the bottle than what it takes to fill it. It seems like using disposable water bottles is quickly becoming as unlikeable as kicking a baby seal, though – so maybe there’s hope?

    Tortilla soup looks great! I might have to make this soon.

  2. January 2, 2013 9:10 pm

    That’s not a very fair test. NYC water is some of the best in the world, and I don’t say that simply out of provincialism. When I visit my grandmother in California, I literally count the days until I can go home and get good, cold water out of the tap again – hers is the most awful thing I’ve ever tasted, and I’ve eaten durian.

    • ziabaki permalink*
      January 2, 2013 10:41 pm

      California water is bad bad. That is so funny how you said it was the worst thing you have ever tasted and you have had durian! Too funny!

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