Souper Tuesday: Sweet Potato and Kale Tortilla Soup

It’s been a while since I wrote a real Souper Tuesday post. And who would have expected that today –  almost the end of April, and in the South, at that – we’d have perfect soup weather?

The high today was supposed to be 79. This morning, I dressed both kids in shorts. Fortunately, we all wore long sleeves, because it never warmed up.

But honestly, I’m kind of glad about it. It gave me an excuse to make soup.

Today’s soup comes from a fantastic cookbook called Feast: Generous Vegetarian Meals For Any Eater and Every Appetite.


I’d recommend this cookbook no matter what. But it just so happens that I have a personal connection to it that makes me even happier to spread the word. The author, Sarah Copeland, is not just a fellow native of Rockford, Illinois, but also a schoolmate and, most notably for the purposes of this post, a middle school basketball teammate.

Today I paged through our high school yearbook, where Sarah is well-represented: yearbook staff, homecoming court, graduation speaker. (I am on separate pages in elaborate 16th century costumes for Madrigal choir and  a’50s sweater-set on stage in Bye Bye Birdie. You know, the cool stuff.)

Sarah has gone on to have an impressive career as cookbook author and food director at Real Simple, with a handsome husband and adorable daughter to boot (check out her site, Edible Living, for proof). She’s also a really nice person.

I’ve seen Sarah’s recipes on all sorts of food blogs. They all feature beautiful photographs of the cooking process and the artfully arranged final product. I don’t know if Sarah realized this when giving me permission to share her recipes on my blog (and I hope this doesn’t make her regret it) but this post will not have that. Don’t get me wrong; I would if I could.

But instead of trying to badly imitate those sites, I’ve had to find my own niche. Say, recipes interspersed with fuzzy, harshly-lit middle-school photos. Like this one, of our conference-winning middle school basketball team.


I am conveniently behind the camera. Okay, to be fair, here’s one of me in uniform.

basketball me

But enough reminiscing.

I requested Feast for Christmas, and my mom picked up a copy at Sarah’s hometown book-signing. I made the Swedish pancakes (a must for any cookbook writer from Rockford, and aptly delicious) over the holidays. But after that, the book sat on my coffee table for a solid two months. It is just so pretty to look it, with an elegant design and gorgeous photography. I didn’t want to sully it with the unavoidable dog-ears and grease splatters and stickiness that are the hallmark of any beloved cookbook.

But finally last month, I moved Feast from the coffee table to the kitchen. There’s been no turning back. I have several recipes I’d like to share with you, but seeing as it’s a cool and drizzly Tuesday, I’m starting with this one.

Sweet Potato and Kale Tortilla Soup.jpg

Reprinted with permission from Sarah Copeland from Feast: Generous Vegetarian Meals for Any Easter and Every Appetite (Chronicle Books).

Serves 4 to 6

  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for frying
  • 1 yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 or 2 jalapeno chiles, seeded and minced (I skipped this to avoid hearing “too spicy” from the kids)
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 3/4 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 large sweet potato or garnet yam, cut into bite-sized cubes
  • 5 to 6 cups vegetable stock or water (I used a combination)
  • One 14 1/2 oz. can diced tomatoes
  • Sea salt
  • 1 bunch kale, stemmed and chopped
  • 4 small corn tortillas, thinly sliced
  • Full-fat plain or Greek yogurt for dolloping
  • Queso fresco for sprinkling (I used crumbled goat cheese)
  • Fresh cilantro leaves for sprinkling
  • 1 avocado, peeled, pitted and chopped (optional)
  • 4 radishes, thinly sliced (optional; I didn’t use them)
  • 4 to 6 limes, cut into wedges

Step 1. Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and just golden brown, 5 to 8 minutes. Add the garlic, jalapenos, chili powder and cumin and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the sweet potato, stock, and tomatoes with their juices and bring to a boil. Add 1/4 tsp salt, cover loosely, and reduce heat to medium low. Simmer until sweet potatoes are completely tender, 30 to 35 minutes. Uncover pot, add the kale, and cook until just wilted, about 3 minutes.

Step 2. Meanwhile, line a plate with paper towels and set near the stove. In a small, shallow skillet, heat 1 inch olive oil over medium heat. To test the temperature of the oil, drop a tortilla strip into the skillet; the oil should sizzle and the tortilla cook to a pale golden brown. If it turns dark brown quickly or the oil is smoking, reduce the heat. Working in batches, fry the tortilla strips until golden brown, 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer the tortilla strips with a slotted spoon to the paper towel-lined plate and immediately season with salt.

Step 3. Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with fried tortilla strips, yogurt, queso fresco, and cilantro, plus additional toppings such as avocado and radishes at your whim. Serve warm with lime wedges.

This soup is divine.  I first made it two weeks ago while my mom was visiting. The five of us drained the pot quickly. It’s healthy and hearty. It’s comforting (“the chicken noodle soup of Mexican cuisine,” as Sarah describes it in her notes). It’s vegan if you want it to be. (Though personally, I consider the cheese and yogurt toppings to be must-haves; I love how they melt into the broth and make it creamy and tangy.)

The most exciting part for me? Frying the tortilla strips. As I mentioned in a previous post, I recently started baking corn tortillas for tostada shells. They were pretty good. But frying the tortilla strips for this soup was really fun, and resulted in something really tasty. Because, let’s be honest: a baked tortilla shell is to a fried one what “low-fat” brownies are to real brownies. An acceptable substitute, but no comparison. I’ll confess that tonight I made extra to munch on as I cleaned up the kitchen.

So go try the soup, and tell me what you think. Or, even better, go buy Feast for yourself. As 12-year-old me would have written in a review of Sarah’s cookbook: it’s a slam dunk.