Do you like soup? I do. Soup, with some toast or crusty bread, is a fine meal. Even better: soup so hearty and delicious and healthy, that it is a meal all on its own. This soup falls into all of those categories. It is comforting and delicious, and with the grilled chicken and black beans, it is easily a substantial weeknight dinner.
This Tortilla Soup comes from my mum. It’s had so many additions (corn, black beans), subtractions (tomato paste, jalapeño), and variations, I can’t recall what the original intention of the recipe was. I do know, that this version as written below, is the absolute best. It is full of flavour, nicely seasoned, and hearty from the carrots and beans.
Eight years ago (!) I was 20 years old (!!!) and interning for my current place of work. I lived at home. I loved my internship. And I worked super hard. Part of my late nights at work was because of my new work friend who also worked late, partly because I was learning and loving my job, and partly because I was trying to prove myself – badly. My memories of that time is coming home from work, the lights off in the kitchen, my mom laying on the floor by the fireplace, and this soup waiting for me, always with some quesadilla wedges. And always with my dad sitting with me at the counter while I ate, asking questions about my day and wanting to hear what I was up to at work. I know other delicious things waited for me on those long nights, but eight years later my thoughts always go back to this soup and those conversations.
When I was a late teen and even into my university years, I don’t remember really enjoying cooking or even being very good at it. It wasn’t until I had my first apartment, with my first real job, that I started cooking dinners or breakfasts for Marcus and me. There isn’t much that I make that Marcus doesn’t give the thumbs up for, so with his encouragement and some recipe wins, I began to love my little kitchen.
Marcus does this thing when he really likes something I’ve maked or baked, where he’ll give it a dollar value. Like “I would pay $5 for this scone”, or “you could sell this soup for $11”. And this spaghetti, this light, delicious shrimp pasta, Marcus would pay $17 dollars for!!
So, in the spirit of full disclosure, as I type this I am sitting on a balcony in New Zealand with a lovely, crisp glass of Sauvingon Blanc next to me. Marcus and I are visiting our dear friends, Tyler and Manders, and are on holidays currently in Nelson, New Zealand. We haven’t met up with our friends yet, instead doing a bit of exploring on our own. And it is not very often that Marcus declares something the best of something he’s ever had, ever.
What happened is this. Last night, after a long drive of getting ourselves to Nelson, which includes a farmers field (another story altogether), I looked up great restaurants online and decided we must go to this particular restaurant, Hopgood’s. It was a bit too early in the evening for a meal, so we tucked ourselves in for a good beer until dinner time. Marcus ordered potato wedges. No longer hungry. End of story. I then made him run across the street to the restaurant I wanted to try, to make reservations for the next evening, which was tonight.
We went to Hopgood’s tonight. And it compares to everything great in Marcus’ culinary scale: Nicolai’s on Santorini, Greece. I heard many, many time tonight, “this is better than __, or I like this just as much, or even more than __”. It is that good. Sooo good. We had bread (of course, my blood runs Campbell). We had crab cakes. Marcus had duck. I had lamb. And in a shocking twist to anyone who knows Marcus, he has chocolate mousse. We then managed to roll ourselves back to the hotel.
There are very few foods I dislike. Bell peppers? No thanks. Canned green chiles? Can’t do it. Fruit and chocolate together? I’ll pass. And store-bought ranch dressing is near the top of this dread list. It’s too mild, too weak, too heavy, too…meh. All hope is not lost for the sad category of ranch dressing. This ranch has brought it back to life.
I first heard about the Pioneer Woman and this ranch dressing specifically about 8 years ago. A good friend of mine from work had mentioned she asked for a Pioneer Woman cookbook for Christmas, which Santa brought her, and she had made this ranch recipe. It was sooo good, I kept hearing, so I asked for the recipe and made it straight away.
Let’s be clear. I live in Canada. It is not tomato season. It is not basil season. Yet, it’s always bread season? Also, I don’t think this is what most expect from a traditional bruschetta, as there’s no fine dice (although you totally could go that route) and there’s some mozzarella in the mix. So, yeah – that’s a lot of disclaimers before I even share one of my all time favourite recipes!
It’s true, when tomatoes and basil are in season, this is probably even more wonderful. But when the squashed basil at the grocery store doesn’t look half bad, I encourage you – buy it! It is so summery and fresh and peppery. This is happy, bright food. My family makes this recipe. I think the original recipe came from a cooking class they did without me – not sure how that happened? – but we’ve all been making and adjusting and loving this recipe for many years.