On Saturday Mike and I trekked across town to Harpoon Brewery’s Octoberfest. Octoberfest. Really? Already? The date caught me a little off guard. It was the clearest day in a while – bright and sunny, but chilly! So it was the perfect time to pack into the brewery grounds with eleventy thousand revelers to drink beer, eat bratwurst, yell over the German music, and wait in line for the port-a-potties. The place was literally a sea of people, with currents circulating toward the beer tent and around by the Sausage Guy carts, skirting the stages and avoiding the keg throwing contest. To get from one place to the next, forget walking. You had to merge between bodies, letting yourself get carried in the tide, hopefully in the direction that you intended. The up side: all the body heat. That (and the beer) kept us warm on one of the first chilly evenings of fall.
Another way to stay warm? Spicy ancho tomato soup. Puree tomatoes with an ancho chile, onions and garlic, fry with coriander and a pinch of cumin, add broth and simmer for 15 minutes. Eat with lime juice, tortilla chips and plenty of crema. Mmmmm. Even better with a grilled cheese sandwich.
1 tablespoon olive oil
28-oz whole peeled tomatoes
1 onion, roughly chopped
2 or 3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
1 small ancho chile, seeds and stem removed*
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
3 cups broth or water
salt + pepper to taste
crema (or sour cream)
queso fresco (or feta, or goat cheese)
Cover the ancho chile with very hot water and soak for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, reserve the tomato juice from the tomatoes, set aside. Puree tomatoes with the onion and garlic. Warm the olive oil in a heavy pot over a medium flame, then add the cumin and coriander, frying for about 10 seconds or until very fragrant. Add the tomato puree with a big pinch of salt. Cook until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 10 minutes.
Discard the soaking water and puree the softened chile with the reserved tomato juices. Add to the pot. Add the broth and bring the soup to a very low simmer for 15 minutes. Taste and add more chile, salt or pepper if needed.**
Serve with queso fresco and crema to cut the soup’s heat. Lime juice and cilantro add bright, fresh notes. Crumble tortilla chips over the top for texture.
*If you don’t have an ancho chile, you can substitute 1 teaspoon of very good chile powder. If you’re worried about the heat level, start with 1/2 an ancho or 1/2 teaspoon chile powder and add more at the end if you want it hotter.
** You need to add the salt early on (when you start cooking the tomato puree) so that the flavors will develop. If you don’t, the soup will taste very flat and be impossible to fix at this point.