A Better Tortilla Soup, Perfect for Cold Days

A recipe straight from Colorado’s Western Slope.

Bin 707 Foodbar is the culinary center of Colorado’s Western Slope, with a chef from the Front Range and a reputation that lures the urbanites of Denver. Industrial-designer-turned-restaurateur Josh Niernberg, along with his wife Jodi, works with local farmers and winemakers to bring the region an unconventional — in the best possible way — restaurant.

Where the coasts and cities of the US have worn thin phrases like “farm to table” and “seasonal cuisine,” that ink is still fresh on the menu of high desert destinations. Niernberg, working with farmers like Scott and Jessica Washkowiak of Field to Fork — an organic CSA selling orchard fruits and annual fruits and vegetables — is slowly, steadily educating diners and lifting the region’s cuisine. Bin 707 Foodbar, for now, is an anomaly in the region and — if Niernberg’s aspirations pan out — a portent of what’s to come.

On a recent fall Sunday night, after walking rows of autumn vegetables at the Field to Fork farm with Scott Washkowiak, Niernberg flipped on the construction lights at his next two ventures, an adjoining taco shop and event space (for private parties and dinners). He’s forming a small food empire in this oil boom and bust town, in line with the likes of chefs in NYC and L.A. After the construction walk-through, he headed back to his small enclave of culinary acuity to present a range of dishes from the fall menu. One of the highlights — and a fair representation of Colorado’s high desert cuisine — is this green chili pumpkin tortilla soup. Niernberg shared the recipe, and this creamy-with-a-backend-kick soup is easy to prepare and perfect to share or store for future meals.

Green Chili Pumpkin Tortilla Soup

Makes Eight Servings

5 cups roasted, peeled pumpkin and squash mixture*
Mirepoix (1/2-inch dice): 2 cups onions, 1 cup carrots, 1 cup celery
1 cup green chilies (roasted, peeled, rough chop)
1/2 lb corn chips
1/2 gallon water
1/4 cup (to taste) salt
1/2 cup (to taste) honey
*Niernberg uses a mix of pumpkin, blue hubbard squash and red kuri squash. You can use just pumpkin, if squash is unavailable.

1. Halve and core the pumpkin and squash and place flesh-side down in a roasting pan with 1 inch of water in the pan. Cover with tinfoil and roast in oven at 250°F for 2 hours or until soft. Peel the pumpkin and set aside. Once the mirepoix is cut, place on a sheet pan and mix with about 2 tablespoons cooking oil and roast at 425°F until deeply, evenly browned (but not burnt).

2. Place the pumpkin, corn chips, mirepoix and green chilies in a large stock pot, cover with water and simmer for 2 hours or until reduced by about 15 percent. Stir the soup every 5 minutes, or it will burn. Let cool, then puree the soup in the blender and strain through a chinois. Add remaining water to desired consistency. Once finished, reheat and then season with salt and honey to taste.

3. Garnish with sour cream, roasted pepitas, olive oil, and a fresh herb such as cilantro or parsley.

About the Chef

Chef Josh Niernberg has a background in industrial design, but gained experience working in kitchens and launching new restaurants in Denver. When he and his wife relocated to Grand Junction, they started their own restaurant, which eventually evolved in Bin 707 Foodbar, the best restaurant on Colorado’s Western Slope. Learn More: Here

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