The Mailbox: Teri Watson

Published: Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 3D

Three wishes

I would greatly appreciate it if someone could help me with recipes for hash browns, homemade pretzels and thick as well as creamy cream of potato with bacon soup. Thank you.

– Patricia Chudzik, Rancho Cordova

Harira soup, please

I love the harira soup served at El Morocco in Pleasant Hill. I have tried to recreate it with no luck. I've looked up some recipes for it, but they all include chickpeas and they just don't sound like the harira soup I love. El Morocco's version only has lentils with a spicy tomato broth.

I love the soup, but with the price of gas, I can't justify driving to Pleasant Hill on a regular basis. I hope someone can help.

– Karina Cobos, Sacramento

El Torito's sopa de tortilla (sopa azteca)

Prep time 45 minutes

Cook time: 50 minutes

Serves 8 to 10

Bill Ferrier of Woodland enjoys the chicken tortilla soup served at Vince's Mexican restaurant in Woodland. He was hoping for their recipe or one similar. Although we haven't received Vince's recipe, we did feature a creamy chicken tortilla recipe in the Mailbox recently.

Today's recipe comes from Carol Rose of Woodland who says it's a lot of work but well worth the effort. She served it as part of a Mexican-themed party.

Lee Healy, public relations director for El Torito Restaurants Inc. in Irvine, writes: "We take it as the highest compliment when guests have enjoyed a dish so much at an El Torito that they wish to duplicate it at home."


7 cups chicken broth

1 medium yellow onion, diced

2 carrots, peeled and diced

2 stalks celery, diced

1/2 bell pepper seeded and diced

1 potato, peeled and diced

1/4 cup tomato paste

1 bay leaf

2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

1 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano

Salt to taste

White ground pepper, to taste

2 medium boneless, skinless chicken breasts, poached and shredded

1 zucchini, diced

2 medium-sized tomatoes, diced

4 corn tortillas


1 1/2 cups shredded Jack cheese

8 to 10 slices avocado


Combine broth, onion, carrot, celery, bell pepper, potato, tomato paste, bay leaf, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper. Season to taste and bring to boil. Simmer 20 minutes.

Add chicken, zucchini and tomato; bring to a boil and simmer an additional 7 minutes. Remove from heat. Remove bay leaf.

Cut tortillas into thin strips. Fry in hot oil until crisp. Drain on paper towels and set aside. If you are pressed for time, use packaged restaurant-style tortilla strips.

To serve, place tortilla strips in each bowl. Cover with shredded cheese and ladle in soup. Top with slice of avocado.

Per serving: 307 cal.; 21 g pro.; 21 g carb.; 16 g fat (5 sat., 5 monounsat., 4 polyunsat., 2 other); 45 mg chol.; 845 mg sod.; 46 percent calories from fat.

Cilantro crema

Prep time: 10 minutes

Makes about 1 1/4 cups

Melinda Frost of Rancho Murieta was looking for a sauce recipe to serve over tamales. She was using enchilada sauce and now she would like to try something different.

Last week the Mailbox featured a tomato-based tamale sauce for Frost. Today we have a sour cream-based recipe from Michelle Smathers of Lincoln. Smathers and her sister were making tamales for the first time this past Christmas Eve. She asked friends for advice and was given this recipe, which was thoroughly enjoyed by Smathers and her family.


3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

2 tablespoons chicken stock

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

1/4 teaspoon salt

One 8-ounce container of sour cream

1 large garlic clove, minced


Combine all ingredients well. Chill thoroughly before using. Top tamales with crema.

Per tablespoon using low sodium chicken broth: 24 cal.; 0 g pro.; 1 g carb.; 2 g fat (2 sat., 0 monounsat., 0 polyunsat.); 8 mg chol.; 35 mg sod.; 0 g fiber; 83 percent calories from fat.


If you have recipes in reply to Mailbox reader requests, or questions or comments, write to: Mailbox, c/o Taste, The Sacramento Bee, P.O. Box 15779, Sacramento, CA 95852. You also can email or fax (916) 556-5625. Please include your full name, your city and phone number.

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