Tortilla Soup with Pinto Beans

Servings: 6

3 large dried New Mexico chiles (or pasilla or ancho chiles, see note below)
1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes, preferably fire-roasted
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, peeled
1/2 teaspoon Mexican oregano (optional)
1/4 teaspoon chipotle chili powder (or to taste)
4 cups vegetable broth or no-chicken broth
4 cups water
3 cups pinto beans, cooked
salt to taste
6 corn tortillas
1 large lime, cut into 6 wedges
4 cups chopped spinach, chard, or kale leaves (packed)
1 ripe large avocado, cut into 1/4-inch cubes (optional, but very good)

1. Toast the chiles. If you have a gas stove, you can hold them with tongs over the flame one at a time for a few seconds until fragrant. But if like me you use an electric stove, put them in a dry skillet over medium heat and press them flat for a few seconds on each side. (See Notes below for using chile powder instead.)
2. When the chilies are cool enough to handle, stem and seed them, tear them into pieces, and put them in a blender along with tomatoes and their juice.
3. Heat a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until beginning to brown, 4 to 6 minutes, adding water by the tablespoon if it starts to stick. Pour it all into the blender along with the chipotle powder and process until smooth.
4. Return the pot to medium heat. When hot, add the puree and stir nearly constantly until thickened to the consistency of tomato paste, about 6 minutes. (Careful–watch for hot, bubbling “eruptions”!) Add broth, water, oregano (if using), and drained pinto beans. Bring to a boil, then adjust heat to maintain a simmer. Simmer for 30 minutes.
5. While the soup is cooking, prepare the tortillas. Preheat oven to 375F. Cut each tortilla in half (can be done in a stack if you have a sharp knife). Then cut each half into 1/4-inch wide strips. Place the strips in a single layer on a baking sheet and sprinkle with salt, if desired. Bake for about 15 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from oven and allow to cool uncovered until soup is ready.
6. Add spinach (or chard or kale) to the soup and season with salt to taste, depending on the saltiness of the broth. Cook, stirring, until the greens are wilted, about 2 minutes for spinach, longer for chard or kale.
7. Ladle the soup into 6 soup bowls. Divide avocado and tortilla chips among the bowls. Serve warm, with lime wedges.

Using dried chiles gives this soup a great flavor, but if they are unavailable, you can try using a pure chile powder, such as Ancho, instead. No need to toast, just add it to the blender with the tomatoes. Start with 1 teaspoon and add more as needed. Be sure the chile you are using is mild, unless you want it spicy!