Fall | Soup

Tortilla Soup and a Food Styling Workshop

chicken tortilla soup recipe

This weekend I went to the Food Styling and Photography Class put on by Food Fanatics. Denise Vivaldo and Cindie Flannigan taught the food styling portion and Matt Armendariz of MattBites.com taught the food photography.

I had a blast. Denise, Cindy and Matt were so cool. If I didn’t have to make a living I’d be following them around. They all love what they do and it shines through.

The first day we had several demonstrations on preparing food for the camera. So many tools and secrets to making the food photograph well. I am going to write a post about the class.

Sunday was the photo shoot day. We each picked a dish to photograph and had the luxury of selecting props from Matt’s amazing prop collection. It inspired me to go home, clean the garage and organize all my kitchen and linen items so they can be more accessible. Of course, I also want a new camera, a photo studio and a better knowledge of how to work my camera!

I have been struggling with how to photograph soup so I brought my Tortilla Soup to photograph. Thanks to their tips and trade secrets I have a beautiful photo of one of my favorite soups.
Tortilla Soup

Adapted from The Pastry Queen Cookbook

8 plum tomatoes
4 Tbsp olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
6 cloves garlic, minced
1 red bell pepper, diced (about 1/2 cup)
2 tsp chili powder
2 tsp ground cumin
4 cups chicken stock
1 dried ancho chile pepper
1 (28-ounce) can peeled tomatoes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Cayenne, for heat (optional)
3-4 cooked, shredded chicken breasts
8-10 oz corn, fresh or frozen (thawed)

For garnish:
1 Avocado, peeled and sliced
Tortilla chips or strips
1 plum tomatoes, diced
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
Sour cream

To make the soup:

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Slice the plum tomatoes in half. Spread 1 Tbsp of the olive oil on a baking sheet or pizza pan and arrange the tomatoes on top, skin side up. Drizzle the tomatoes with another 1 Tbsp of the olive oil. Roast the tomatoes for 35 minutes, until the skins wrinkle and the tomatoes are slightly brown around the edges.

Heat the remaining olive oil in a heavy-bottomed, 4-qt soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and bell pepper and saute about 5 minutes, until the vegetables become soft. Stir in the chili powder and cumin and cook for 1 minute. Add the chicken stock, 1 cup water, and ancho chile. Bring to a boil over medium heat, then cover, decrease the heat and simmer about 15 minutes, until the ancho chile softens.


Remove the chile from the soup and pull off and discard the stem. Cut the chile in half and discard the seeds, if desired. (Leaving the seeds in makes for a spicier soup, I left them in.) Place the softened chile, the canned tomatoes with their juices and the roasted tomatoes (included as much as possible of the juices and browned tomato bits) in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Puree the chile-tomato mixture about 1 minute. Transfer the chile-tomato mixture to the soup and continue simmering, covered, about 1 hour.

Add salt and pepper to taste and ground red pepper (if using) along with the cooked chicken. If using fresh corn, cut the kernels from the cobs, add the corn to the soup and simmer for 5 minutes. If using frozen corn, add it to the soup and gently heat until corn is hot. (If freezing, stop here and allow the soup to cool before transferring to “leftover” containers and freezing. It keeps for at least two months).

Ladle the soup into medium bowls. Lean 3 to 4 slices of avocado against the edge of each bowl, partially sticking out of the soup. Arrange the tortilla chips or strips in a similar way. Sprinkle each bowl with a handful of diced tomatoes, some cilantro, and shredded cheese. Top with a spoonful of sour cream. Serve immediately or cool to room temperature.

For more heat – add 1 chipotle pepper to the food processor with the tomatoes and chile.