Subscribe for 99¢

Q. We would like the recipe for South Texas Tortilla Soup from Canyon Café in Plaza Frontenac.

Teresa Verner and Rebecca Weiler

A. Dark green poblano peppers are not spicy, but they have a unique taste, with overtones of grassy freshness. In South Texas Tortilla Soup, poblanos provide a bright sparkle of flavor that enhances the chicken stock, tomatoes and other ingredients.

The soup is thickened with diced fresh corn tortillas; do not substitute corn chips or pre-formed taco shells.

A garnish of cilantro and Mexican queso fresco cheese dresses up the presentation. Queso fresco can be found in Mexican markets and many grocery stores that carry international cheeses. It resembles a soft feta in texture, but with a less sharp tang. For a variation, try shredded muenster or Jack cheese.

Canyon Café is part of a six-restaurant chain. This recipe was adapted from the chain's self-published cookbook, "Canyon Café, Sam's Café, Desert Fire Cookbook: Bring the Southwest Experience Home." (The two Phoenix restaurants are called Sam's Café.)

Canyon Café

Plaza Frontenac




Yield: 12 servings (about 1 cup each)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced

2 poblano peppers, seeded and diced

1 medium onion, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

6 fresh corn tortillas, diced

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin

3/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

3/4 teaspoon dried oregano

1 1/2 teaspoons New Mexico chile powder (see note)

8 cups strong chicken broth (see note)

1 1/2 (14-ounce) cans diced tomatoes, undrained

1 cup tomato purée

1/3 cup chopped cilantro

1 pound shredded cooked chicken or chopped seafood, optional

Crushed tortilla chips, crumbled queso fresco (cheese) and/or additional chopped cilantro, for optional garnish

1. In a large heavy pot, heat oil over medium heat; add peppers, onion and garlic. Cook, stirring often, until onions become translucent, about 4 minutes.

2. Add tortillas and stir until they begin to soften, 3 or 4 minutes. Stir in cumin, black pepper, oregano and chile powder.

3. Gradually stir in broth, tomatoes and tomato purée. Increase heat. Bring to a boil, stirring often to prevent the tortillas from clumping.

4. Reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes, stirring often. (Soup may be made ahead to this point and frozen. Reheat, then proceed with the recipe.)

5. Stir in 1/3 cup chopped cilantro. Taste and adjust seasonings. If desired, stir in chicken or seafood; heat through. Garnish each serving with crushed tortilla chips, queso fresco and/or cilantro.

Notes: Chili powder is a combination of spices, including cumin, that is used to flavor pots of chili. Chile powder is ground, dried peppers. The New Mexico chile pepper is a specific variety, and the powdered version is sold in Hispanic markets.

To make "strong" chicken broth, make your own and reduce it by half. For a quicker version, used canned broth and add about 1 to 2 tablespoons chicken base, dissolved in a little water.

Per serving: 86 calories; 2.5g fat (87 percent calories from fat); 0.5g saturated fat; 4mg cholesterol; 3g protein; 13g carbohydrate; 4g sugar; 3g fiber; 1,123mg sodium; 27mg calcium; 225mg potassium.


TO REQUEST A RESTAURANT RECIPE, send the name and location of the restaurant and a description of the dish. Include your name, address (or e-mail address) and daytime phone number.

E-mail requests to or write to

Special Request, 900 North Tucker Boulevard, St. Louis, Mo. 63101.

We cannot guarantee a response.