Category Archives: Soups

Summer Chicken Soup

Final Product

Summer Chicken Soup (Green)

Saturday was one of those days that was so hot and so humid that all I wanted to do was be inside, in a frigid air conditioned space, not thinking about the oppressive heat/humidity of the season. I don’t mind a few hot days in the summer, but it is not my default; I don’t walk out into the summer heat and say, “ahhh, this is perfect.” I like the chill. I like the shoulder seasons – spring and fall. More than anything, I like an excuse to eat soup.

My boo was feeling under the weather on Saturday – hadn’t eaten anything all day by the time I saw him, so when I asked what would make him feel better, I rejoiced when he said “I dunno…chicken noodle soup?” I immediately thought about onions, celery, carrots, some herbs, and big fat egg noodles. Then a trickle of sweat rolled down my back and I remembered – it’s freaking summer, not one of the other three seasons here in Chicago when it is appropriate to eat old fashioned chicken noodle soup.

My mind started racing – what is reasonable here? What can capture that good-hearted feeling without seeming out of place in the heat? I consulted my homecook resources – I texted some of my best friends. What would they do? It took them a little while to respond, and I was hungry, so I had already started the shopping list in my head and on my phone (using the the Clear app, which I cannot recommend enough), but the result was a list of summer chicken soup recipes that shall be the source of inspiration in the next couple of weeks:

  • Asian-inspired, taking cues from Vietnamese pho, using ginger, garlic, lemongrass
  • Tomato-based, with some spice
  • Vichyssoise (not technically “chicken” soup, but I was glad of the reminder to make it)

I ended up doing what seems easy – swapping out the traditional ingredients in the old-fashioned soup for what’s more in season right now – kind of updating an old fave. Leeks instead of onions. Fresh peas and zucchini instead of carrots and celery. Fresh basil instead of thyme.

The result was maybe a little heavier than I wanted, but I think I can attribute that to the stock. I started with store-bought chicken stock (my go to: Kitchen Basics, though I may rethink this) and added bone in, skin-on chicken (two breasts, two leg quarters) to cook through, fortify the stock, and be the protein for the final soup. I probably should have used skinless chicken, since the usually welcome richness of the fat felt like too much for this version. Regardless, the result was delicious.

If anyone is interested in a full recipe, please let me know, but for the time being, here are a few prep notes:

  • Per my friend Crissy’s suggestion years ago, I always cook pasta for soups separate to ensure that the noodles don’t get too mushy in leftovers. This technique also helps to cool down the finished soup as you are serving it so you can eat it almost immediately.
  • To ensure that the zucchini didn’t get too soft in the cooking process, I cut them in generously sized chunks; I think this adds a nice bit of texture to the final soup (see photo, above)
  • Clean leeks are happy leeks, and I can’t reiterate this enough. Once you eat a single pot of soup where you didn’t take time to clean them of sandy grit, you’ll see what I mean. I am here to tell you how to avoid this unfortunate circumstance without having to experience it in the first place.
    • First, trim off the tough, fibrous green tops – you can use these to flavor stocks, but they never really cook up nicely enough to eat in soup or otherwise
    • For this soup, I cut the leek lengthwise and then into quarter-to-half-inch halfmoon slicesDirty Leeks
    • Break up the slices into a colander sitting a bowl of cold tap water – be sure that this combination is large enough to allow the leek pieces to separate and get cleanClean Leeks
    • Let sit for a few minutes and then pull the strainer out of the bowl of water; you’ll probably notice a bit (or a lot) of grit and sand in the bowl of water and NOT in your soup. Hurrah!

Curried Lentil and Rice Stew

Since we are going headlong into soup season, I thought I would share this recipe for a quick-cooking supper, based on both my basic recipe for Indian curry dishes and on a soup that the Bun likes to get for lunch from one of the eateries near his office.  It may not look like much, but this dish, with its combination of brown rice, brown lentils, and red lentils, qualifies as a complete protein.  Where I am not exactly sure how the chemistry of this works, I do know that the combination of legumes and whole grains is not only good for you, it is delicious.  With the heat of the chilies and the depth of the curry powder, this stew will warm your belly and your soul, which is much needed in the forthcoming cold months.

If there is interest, I might start a “Meatless Mondays” regular post.  I read recently that this concept started during wartime, to save on resources and ease the pain of the pocketbook.  Seems like a good idea to me, and I love the challenge of creating a satisfying meal that does not focus on meat.

Roasted Tomato Soup

Tomatoes at the Ready

I know, I know.  When tomatoes are the freshest they ever are, who would make soup out of them?  Me, that’s who.  Don’t get me wrong, I love salsas and gazpachos and panzanellas and capreses just as much as the next tomato lover, but there is something deeply satisfying about making soup out of a beautiful bounty of tomatoes of many varieties.  It is sort of like distilling the summer down into a pure essence.  A little cream just enhances the flavor and helps you transition to the cooler months.  With the right equipment, this is a super simple recipe – the special items you’ll need are a good blender and a fine mesh strainer.

Preheat your oven to 475°.  Find the largest baking sheet you own.  Envision that baking sheet when you go out to your garden or to the local farmers market and get as many tomatoes as you think will fit onto the sheet.  To make a half recipe, you can cut each tomato into halves or quarters to fill the baking sheet (see my pic).  Once you have them situated on the sheet, drizzle with a few tablespoons of olive oil (just enough to give them a sheen) and season with salt and freshly ground black (or white) pepper.  Tuck a few sprigs of thyme, basil, oregano, or tarragon (super summery!)—a combination of herbs works best—in between the tomatoes and scatter 7-10 cloves of skin-on garlic over them, as well.  Place the whole tray into the oven and roast on high for 10-20 minutes, cooking with your nose during this time; if you start to smell burnt tomatoes, turn the oven down before you get to 20 minutes.  You want some roasted flavor, but not a burnt mess.  If the tomatoes can withstand the high heat, then give them a full 20 minutes before you turn the oven to 250º for 45 minutes to an hour.

After the slow roasting period, the blender and the mesh strainer come into play, in that order.  Once the tomatoes cool a bit, pull the stems of the herbs out from amongst them, as well as the garlic cloves, which should be soft enough that you can just squeeze the garlic out of the skins and into the blender.  Add the tomatoes to the blender in batches, being careful when pureeing them (they’ll still be quite hot).  I always put the lid on and then hold a clean towel over the top to prevent any accidents.  Blend the garlic, tomatoes, and herbs until they are a smooth puree, then strain them into a soup pot big enough to hold them and still have room for a little more liquid (straining will remove any seeds or skins).  Depending on how “comforting” you want your soup to be, you can add a half to full cup of half and half, light cream, or heavy cream once you bring the puree back to a simmer (the amount of dairy should be just enough to change the color from red to pink).  Stir, taste for seasoning, and ladle into bowls or mugs.  Serve with grilled cheese sandwiches, of course.

Serving Suggestion