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What do we eat when we're not eating macaroni and cheese?
Leftover macaroni and cheese.
When that's (finally) gone, it's time for something lighter and brighter. Something spicy enough to clear out the sinuses. And something Matt can easily reheat for a quick bite before heading out to teach his nighttime class at NYU. (I'm sure the girls would all have crushes on him while he explains Matlab wearing his cute little corduroy jacket...if there were any girls in these sorts of classes.)
I am not going to claim that this recipe is one bit authentic. But it's slightly better than the recipe my mother picked up at Trader Joe's once: dump a container of salsa, a can of beans, a can of corn, and some broth in a pot, stir. And it really does the trick, quickly and cheaply—about five dollars a person, maybe less if you don't have to shop in Manhattan.
You could make a vegetarian version with veggie broth, though I used a container of turkey broth that's been in my cupboard awhile. I know! I'm all out of homemade stock. But given the smoked chiles and the kick of acidity from lime and tomatillo, this is flavorful enough with the boxed stuff. Not that I'd stop you if you have real stock to spare.
If you're not a huge fan of spicy, I'd dial down the chili powder and red pepper flakes but keep the chipotle, which gives the broth a lovely smokey flavor. And fast. Sometimes you just need the kind of dinner that goes from pantry to table in half an hour. We ate huge bowls full along with sweet corn bread (I know, how gauche) until we were stuffed.
Quick Chipotle Tortilla Soup
2 small onions, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, smashed and sliced
1 tablespoon paprika
2 tsp ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon dried oregano
dash red pepper flakes (optional)
1 qt low-salt stock or broth
3 chipotle chiles in adobo (about half a can), chopped
2 14-oz or 1 28-oz cans fire-roasted diced tomatoes, including liquid
1/4 cup water (I just add this to the empty tomato cans to clean out the remains)
1 can cannelini beans, rinsed and drained
10 oz frozen corn kernels (one package)
3 tomatillos, chopped
1/2 red pepper, chopped
juice of two small limes
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
handful cilantro, chopped
several handfuls tortilla chips
queso fresco (if unavailable, use mild feta or jack cheese)
In a large dutch oven or heavy soup pot, saute chopped onion in olive oil until translucent. Add garlic, paprika, cumin, coriander, chili powder, oregano, and pepper flakes if using. Stir and saute until fragrant, about one minute. Add stock, chipotles, tomatoes, water, and beans. Simmer ten minutes to let flavor mingle. Add corn, tomatillos, red pepper, and lime juice, simmer an additional 15 minutes. Stir in cilantro and taste. Go light on the salt, since the tortilla chips will add a bunch. Slice avocado and divide between bowls, saving a little for a garnish. Put a handful of crumbled tortilla chips in each bowl. Ladle soup on top, and top with additional cilantro, avocado, chips, and crumbled queso fresco. Serve with lime wedges.