I used to work with a woman called Nora (last name forgotten). She was Mexican, I think, and spoke both English and Spanish. We had a soup kitchen at work as a fundraiser to raise money for our annual Christmas party. Nora brought a soup so delicious I had to ask her for the recipe. This was what she scribbled on a note:
At first glance this wasn’t much to go on, but it turned out to be exactly the right directions…. if you had tasted the soup, you’d know how it should turn out.
NORA’S FIDEO SOUP
- 1 tablespoon oil
1/2 of a 7-ounce packet of fideo (tiny vermicelli noodles, commonly sold in the Hispanic products section of supermarkets)
1/2 a white or yellow onion, chopped
5 or 6 cloves garlic, minced
2 or 3 tomatoes, chopped (canned are ok)
Heat the oil in a large pot over low-to-medium heat and add the fideo. Stir the noodles as they will brown quickly. Don’t let them burn or you’ll have to start over. Add the onions and garlic and stir for a few minutes, then add the tomatoes. Pour in 1 quart of chicken broth and bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Taste for salt and add as necessary. Add fresh chopped cilantro to taste.
You will find the fideo expand considerably after the soup cools, so it will probably be necessary to add more broth.
If the soup needs more oomph, add salsa, peeled green chiles, oregano, red pepper flakes, cumin, a can of Rotel, or whatever you think would be delicious. Careful – you can always add more, but you can’t add less, so add a little at a time and taste as you go. Spicy-hot ingredients like chilis tend to get hotter as they marry into the other ingredients.
While this is warming on a cold day, it isn’t so heavy that you couldn’t serve it as the first course of a formal dinner.