Tortilla Soup, Rice Pudding, Herb Vinegar

DEAR SOS: The Hotel Bel-Air serves a tortilla soup table-side during lunchtime. Do you think you could get the chef to part with the recipe?


DEAR ELIZABETH: Hotel Bel-Air executive chef Gary Clauson was happy to provide the recipe. It’s served piping hot with fried tortilla strips, avocado, grilled chicken strips, cilantro and shredded Cheddar on the side to add as garnishes.



1/2 pound corn tortillas, or 1 (6-ounce) package fried tortillas

1/4 cup peanut oil

1 teaspoon chili powder, or to taste

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper, or to taste


1 teaspoon paprika, or to taste

1 teaspoon cumin

1 head garlic, cloves separated, peeled and coarsely chopped

2 bay leaves


2 small bunches cilantro, chopped

1 large onion, chopped

8 tomatoes, chopped

1/4 cup tomato puree


6 quarts chicken stock

Juice 2 limes


1 avocado, peeled and diced


4 chicken breast halves, grilled and cut into strips

1 cup shredded Cheddar cheese

Cut tortillas into strips about 2 inches long and 1/2-inch wide. Heat oil in large skillet. Add tortilla strips and fry until golden. Remove and drain on paper towels. (This can be done ahead of time, or use commercially fried tortillas.)

To hot oil add fried tortillas (reserving small bowlful for garnish), chili powder, cayenne, paprika, cumin, garlic, bay leaves and 1/2 of chopped cilantro. Cook over low heat 10 minutes. Add onion and cook 10 minutes longer. Add tomatoes, tomato puree and chicken stock. Bring to boil and simmer 1 1/2 hours over low heat. Strain through fine strainer. Add lime juice and season to taste with salt.


Cool, then refrigerate. When ready to serve, reheat soup. Place reserved fried tortilla strips, diced avocado, grilled chicken breast strips, remaining chopped cilantro and shredded Cheddar cheese in separate containers on side. Allow guests to help themselves to choice of toppings. Makes 10 to 12 servings.


DEAR SOS: Every week I pray that you have found the rice pudding recipe that was in The Times’ old Home Magazine supplement years ago. It was the best I have ever found.



DEAR MARION: Was this it?


3/4 cup long-grain rice

1 quart milk


1/2 cup sugar

2 tablespoons butter

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon


1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 cup raisins

Whipping cream, optional

Rinse rice thoroughly in bowl, then drain. Combine rice and 2 cups milk. Let stand in refrigerator overnight. Next day, turn rice into 1 1/2-quart casserole. Add remaining 2 cups milk, sugar, butter, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg. Bake at 325 degrees 1 hour, stirring occasionally to break up brown “skin” that forms on top.


Meanwhile, place raisins in bowl of hot water. Let stand until softened. Drain raisins, stir into rice mixture and bake 15 to 20 minutes longer, stirring occasionally. Pudding is done when rice is soft and fluffy. Liquid that has not been absorbed will be soaked up by rice on standing. Let pudding stand at least 10 minutes. Stir before serving. Serve with whipping cream. Makes 6 servings.

Note: Pudding reheats well. Stir in some additional milk to moisten when reheating.


DEAR SOS: With the popularity of flavored vinegars and the pretty bottles they come in, do you have any recipes for making them from scratch? The store-bought ones are quite costly. They make great gifts for upcoming holidays too.



DEAR BARBARA: Yes, we do have a recipe. And just in time for adding the wonderful herbs of summer.


1 pint white wine vinegar


2 cups fresh snipped tarragon, basil, dill, chervil, thyme and/or other favorite herbs

Place herbs in wide-mouthed sterilized jar and crush lightly with wooden spoon. Bring vinegar to boil and pour over herbs. Cool at room temperature. Cover tightly and let stand in cool place (not refrigerator) from 3 days to 2 weeks. Strain and refrigerate for use when needed. Makes about 1 pint.

Note: Sprigs of herbs can be added to jar when strained vinegar is transferred to permanent jar.