Toasted Tortilla Soup with Fresh Cheese
and Pasilla Chilies Serves 4 to 6

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 1 hour

1 medium onion, sliced

2 cloves garlic, peeled

1/2 15-ounce can tomatoes, drained

1-1/2 quarts chicken broth

Salt to taste

4 to 6 stale corn tortillas

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1 to 2 dried pasilla chilies, stemmed, seeded and deveined

8 ounces cubed Mexican

queso fresco or other fresh cheese such as farmer's cheese, Muenster or Monterey Jack

1 large lime, cut in 4 to 6 wedges

1. In a medium skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium-low heat. Add onion and whole garlic cloves and sauté until both are a deep golden-brown, about 12 to 15 minutes. Combine sautéed onions and garlic and tomatoes in a blender or food processor and process until smooth. Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in the same skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add the tomato mixture and stir until thick and considerably darker, about 5 minutes. Scrape into a large saucepan.

2. Stir the chicken broth into the tomato mixture, partially cover and simmer 1/2 hour over medium-low heat. Season to taste with salt.

3. Slice tortillas in half, then slice the halves crosswise into 1/4-inch strips. Heat the 1/3 cup vegetable oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add the tortilla strips and fry, turning frequently, until crisp. Drain on paper towels. Cut chilies into 1-inch squares and fry in the hot oil 3 to 4 seconds; immediately remove and drain on paper towels, then place in a small serving bowl.

4. Just before serving, divide the cheese among 4 to 6 bowls and top with the fried tortilla strips. Ladle on the hot soup and serve immediately. Pass the toasted chilies and lime and let everyone add their own garnishes.

Recipe excerpted with permission from Authentic Mexican Regional Cooking from the Heart of Mexico (Wm. Morrow) by Rick Bayless.