Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Vegetarian Tortilla Soup

This is a vegetarian version of Mexican traditional Tortilla soup. Addition of hominy makes this soup a complete meal. 

Blog's Category: International, Soup, Vegetarian


Mexican cuisine is one of my favorite. I like its full-bodied flavors, spiced, bold nature. Tortilla soup is dear to my heart especially, because it reminds me my Ukrainian borsch, but a little spicier, with some typical to Mexican cuisine flavors of cumin and corn tortilla.

I especially adore corn tortilla flavor. Buying pack of fresh corn tortillas at store, smell that unique aroma! 

I added hominy to this version of tortilla soup to emphasize Mexican nature of soup and add one more interesting flavor and texture to a dish.   

What is it?

It is tomato-based soup, with an onion-carrot-capsicum mirepoix, canned hominy and, of course chili powder, cumin and some cayenne pepper for a kick. 
But the best part of this dish is garnish - some cheddar cheese, sour cream, fried corn tortilla strips, fresh cilantro and avocado. Each garnishing element is a must! Actually, the soup is going to survive with some of them taken out of list, and still will be great. Although, for the best experience try all of them.

Taste Description

This soup is very satisfying, flavors are bold and multidimentional - just think of the incredible combination of cooked and fresh ingredients of all sorts, mix of textures and aromas! I'm sure, if you will follow instructions below, you'll love this soup!

How to Serve/Store

Base soup (without garnishing ingredients, can be stored in a fridge for about a week. AS for garnishing ingredients, store toasted tortilla chips in a closed container in a cupboard. Always use freshly chopped cilantro and freshly sliced avocado. 


- If you don't care about vegetarian version, use chopped cooked chicken meat for this tortilla soup. Add it exactly when I add hominy in this recipe.

- You can find large cans of hominy in a Mexican (international) section of your grocery store.

Tortilla Soup

For about 1 gallon of soup:
  • 4 tbs olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 large green bell pepper, chopped
  • 3 large carrots, peeled and grated
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 large can of white hominy, drained
  • 1 large can of whole tomatoes, blended (or use canned chopped or pureed tomatoes)
  • 1 tbs ground cumin
  • 1 tsp (or more) red chili pepper flakes or 1/3 tsp cayenne pepper powder
  • 1 tbs mild chili powder
  • 2-3 tbs sugar (to taste)

    For garnishing:
    • cilantro, chopped 
    • several corn tortillas
    • sour cream
    • avocado, chopped or sliced
    • cheese, grated 

    - In a large pot, pour olive oil and cook onion, carrots and bell pepper for a 3 minutes, stirring.

    - Add garlic and spices and stir for a one more minute.

    - Add blended tomatoes. Cook for a 3 minutes on a medium low heat.

    - Add about 2/3 of a gallon water, bring to a boil. Turn heat down, add drained hominy, salt and sugar and simmer for 15 minutes.

    - Prepare corn tortilla by cutting it in 1/2" strips and frying in a frying pan, on a medium heat, with a little olive oil, stirring constantly, until it's crunchy, golden and fragrant.

    - Pour soup in a bowl, garnish with cilantro, cheese, sour cream, avocado and tortilla crisps and serve immediately.

    - Enjoy!



    Onion is already down there, .. here comes a carrot..
    .. and bell pepper

    .. and minced garlic

    It's hominy (maize), it has a dense starchy texture and has unique distinct flavor. 

    I usually stock up on these plum whole tomatoes.  They have a good use in my kitchen as blended, chopped or whole depending what particular recipe calls for.

    ..and cumin

    .. and chili powder

    .. and finally tomatoes.

    Before turning heat off, always taste your soup. Add sugar to balance tomato acidity and may be some salt and pepper.

    chopped cilantro

    tortilla, cut in strips

    It's your choice how much oil to add for toasting of tortilla. It can be zero up to 4 tablespoons. I like to add about 1 tablespoon.

    Stir constantly to get even "tan"

    Can you smell the wonderful corn tortilla aroma from there?

    For a help-yourself style, serve all garnishing ingredients in a middle of a table just like this..

    cheddar fall..

    Thursday, August 6, 2015

    Orange and Poppy Seed Cheesecake Dessert

    Make healthy, delicious dessert from your homemade ricotta or cottage cheese. Heavenly orange flavor in combination with a tenderly-crunchy poppy seeds, create unforgettable experience for your gourmet taste buds ;) 

    Blog's Category: International, Vegetarian


    Homemade ricotta, or my Homemade Cottage Cheese are ideal for this recipe. But if you are not up to making your own cheese, just grab a container of cottage cheese at your local grocery - it will work perfectly too! 

    This dessert is inspired by well known Ukrainian dish made of cottage cheese called "zapekanka". It is a mix of cottage cheese, eggs, some binding and flavoring ingredients such as flour or cream-of-wheat, vanilla, raisins and such. Then it is baked in an oven and served for breakfast or as a dessert. This Cheesecake Dessert is pretty much the same. For a flavoring and as a filler, I used orange zest and poppy seeds. These additions took a dish on a different level, making it wonderful and healthy gourmet dessert.

    What is it?

    Mix of  homemade cottage cheese with some sugar, eggs, poppy seeds and orange zest, baked in a muffin cups and then covered with a chocolate ganache or dropped in a shallow pool of syrupy liquid from a cherry preserves.

    Taste Description

    You will definitely appreciate wonderful orange flavor and tender crunch of poppy seeds, releasing their unique subtle flavor whenever your teeth smashes them. You will love that soft tender texture with a fun poppy seed "popping" here and there.

    How to Serve/Store

    It's best at room temperature, when cheesecake is tender and melts in your mouth. It will keep in a fridge for a several days. I love take a couple of those cheesecakes, throw on them a couple of tablespoons of roasted hazelnuts and enjoy it for a dessert-style breakfast. 

    Orange and Poppy Seed Cheesecake Dessert

    For about 12 small muffin forms:
    • 4 cups of cottage cheese (or ricotta)
    • 3 eggs
    • 1 cup of sugar
    • 1/3 tsp salt
    • 3 tbs corn starch
    • pinch of salt
    • 1 cup of poppy seeds
    • zest from 1 orange

    For chocolate ganache:
    • dark chocolate bar (about 8oz)
    • 2 tbs butter

    - Using immersion blender, blend cottage cheese with sugar. Add eggs and continue to blend. 

    - Add corn starch and salt. Stir well to combine.

    - Divide mix between two bowls. In one bowl, add poppy seeds, into another - orange zest. Mix well.

    - Half-fill muffin cups with a poppy seed mix. I would highly recommend using silicon muffin cups to avoid sticking. If using metal forms (even if it is non-stick), butter them nicely before pouring the mix into it.

    - Make second layer spooning orange mix on a top of poppy seed mix. If you have any mix leftover - make it one-flavor piece but, for a fun, place raisin, or walnut, or cherry in a middle of it as a bonus.

    - Bake in a pre-heated to 330F oven for about an hour until set. Press lightly with a finger to check if it's done. 

    - Cool down, remove from a form, and flip them over onto a shallow dish.

    - Make chocolate ganache by melting chocolate bar on a double boiler (place bowl with a chocolate over another bowl with a slowly boiling water). When chocolate melts, add butter and stir.

    - Pour hot ganache over a top of each cheesecake.

    - Enjoy!



    Immersion blender does a great job creating very smooth mixture. As a bonus, immersion blender is a piece of cake to clean! 

    This year, my homemade cherry preserves turned out to have a lot of flavorful liquid in it. I used it to garnish these cheesecakes.