Family table

Mexican-style vegetable soup

(Sally Vargas for The Boston Globe)
October 28, 2009

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Serves 4

Make this colorful, filling vegetarian soup - with tomatoes, corn, zucchini, black beans, and rice - in about 30 minutes. Add a squeeze of lime, leaves of fresh cilantro (or parsley), along with warm tortillas, and you have a satisfying weeknight supper. To save time, start cooking the onions with oregano (the Mexican variety is ideal here, if you can find it) while you prepare the golden bell pepper and zucchini. The best and quickest way to warm tortillas is one at a time over a medium gas flame. Place a tortilla directly on the burner for a few seconds, or until it starts to puff slightly. Using tongs, turn it and let it heat for a few seconds on the other side. Total time over the flame is 15 to 20 seconds; charred edges add terrific flavor. You can also use an ungreased skillet over medium heat to do the job. To make quesadillas to serve with your soup, fold the warm tortillas in half and fill with a rounded tablespoon of grated cheddar. Warm in a toaster oven until the cheese melts.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano (Mexican oregano, if possible)
1 yellow bell pepper, cored and cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1 medium zucchini, cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
Salt and black pepper, to taste
1 can (15 ounces) diced tomatoes
1 can (15 ounces) black beans, rinsed and drained
6 cups water
1/3 cup long-grain white rice
2 limes, quartered
1/4 bunch fresh cilantro, stems removed
4 tortillas, warmed and wrapped in a napkin (for serving)
1. In a soup pot over medium heat, heat the olive oil until it shimmers. Add the onion and oregano and cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes or until the onion starts to soften.

2. Add the bell pepper, zucchini, corn, salt, and black pepper. Cook, stirring often for 5 minutes more, or until the vegetables begin to soften.

3. Add the tomatoes and their liquid, beans, water, and rice. Bring the soup to a boil, lower the heat, and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally or until the rice is cooked through. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and black pepper, if you like.

4. Arrange the lime wedges on a plate with the cilantro. Ladle the soup into bowls and serve with limes, cilantro, and tortillas. Sally Pasley Vargas