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Soothing Cilantro Soup

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With the arrival of our cooler weather, I have been craving soup and decided it was time to brew up one of my favorites – Cilantro Soup. Despite the name, Cilantro Soup is really a zucchini soup with lots of cilantro to add some kick. My friends David & Beverly gave me the recipe years ago and I have been a devotee ever since. It is a great dish on its own , makes a nice accompaniment to a Mexican buffet and it freezes well.

CILANTRO SOUP
Adapted from Mexico the Beautiful cookbook

1 bunch cilantro
1 lb small zucchini cut into chunks
oil for frying
4 day old corn tortillas cut into small squares
6 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup butter
1/2 onion, minced
2 tbsps corn starch
2 serrano chiles
salt
1/2 cup thick cream
8 oz queso panela
Serrano chiles chopped

Cook the zucchini in a covered saucepan with salted water for 20 minutes or until crisp tender.  Drain in a colander.

While the zucchini are cooking, heat 1/2 of the oil in a small skillet. When hot, add tortilla pieces a few at time and fry them turning at least once for about 3 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon and drain on absorbent paper. (KW note: you can skip this step and just crumble tortilla chips in at the end if you don’t want to mess with frying the corn tortilla strips.)

In a blender, puree the zucchini in the chicken stock. When perfectly blended, add the cilantro and blend until smooth. (KW note: The first time I did this, I made a tremendous mess in my kitchen. Now, I have a hand blender –the kind you immerse in your pot and blend. Highly recommend as a way to not have stock and zucchini all over the floor.)

Melt the butter in a large saucepan, add the onion and sauté until transparent. Add the pureed mixture, the cornstarch stirred in a little cold water, the whole chiles, and salt if needed. Simmer covered over low heat for 10 minutes.

Stir the cream in the soup if you wish and heat a few minutes more or until very hot. Serve the fried tortillas, cheese and chopped chiles in separate dishes on the side to be added to the soup as desired. (KW note: If you are watching your calories, but still want a creamy flavor, skip the cream and serve sour cream as one of the garnishes. Guests can add a spoonful of sour cream to get that creamy flavor and a little tang.)

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