Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Cold Weather, Time For Hearty Homemade Soup

WHEN I SLAVE AWAY IN THE KITCHEN, I consider myself more a concocter than a great cook. I'm just dumb or foolish enough to try about anything once and believe in going by the spirit rather than the letter of any recipe law. I use recipes to give me a general direction. After that, I prefer to strike out on my own, rarely nitpicking with measuring paraphernalia. I prefer instead to throw in handfuls of this or that and taste as I go. I suppose the description I would use is to improvise. I cook like a pianist who plays by ear.

But enough about me. I'd like to give you a general idea of how to make this here chicken vegetable soup that's so soothing in cold weather. It's easy and can be served/garnished with all sorts of fun things to make it different each time you bestow it on family or friends:

I begin by sauteing some chopped onions, green peppers (and sometimes celery, garlic, leeks and fennel) in olive oil in a big pot. As this cooks, I begin to throw other ingredients in to brown including but not limited to sliced zucchini, summer squash, sliced or canned tomatoes, and frozen or fresh sliced okra. The okra is really important if you're a Southerner like me.

Let these things cook a bit and then pour in a big thing of chicken stock (if you cooked the chicken from scratch) or broth (if you didn't). I prefer to buy the low-sodium broth in a paper cartons at Whole Foods. Then I like to add sea salt as needed.

If the broth is too strong, then I add a little water, or if not, I may add more broth and water and taste as I go. The last two big ingredients I add are fresh kale which I cut up with my kitchen scissors before tossing in. And the chicken which I also cut with scissors to medium sized bites. Put as much or as little as you like with both. I like lots of kale which is a great winter tonic and chicken.

Let all this simmer at as low a temperature as you can for a while, maybe 30-40 minutes. If you like the way it tastes, smells and looks you can then add more seasonings like sea salt, herbs and of course lime juice, or lemon. I prefer lime and like to serve a quarter of lime when each bowl comes to the table.

I like to make a big batch of this soup at once because it just gets better every day you serve it. The problem is, people rarely leave that much to serve the next day.

The really fun part of this is what you put with it. My favorite accompaniments include: lime and avocado slices with French bread; a dollop of really good plain yogurt with cream at the top and some cornbread; sliced raw onion and cheddar cheese on saltine crackers; and finally ladled over brown rice. They're all really good and will satisfy even the most hearty of appetites.

You'll notice I don't cook this with a lot of potatoes as I'm not a starch person. Potatoes always make me sleepy and they're very fattening. So I leave the starchy stuff to others. Sometimes I throw in green beans or Brussel sprouts, but by and large, I use the recipe above. In truth when you try it, you're only limited by your culinary imagination. Make it your own. Meanwhile, bon appetit!


gcotharn said...

If you have grandkids, you and they would enjoy watching a DVD of Ratatouille. My niece and nephew and I much enjoyed it in the theater.

Unknown said...

YUMMMM! Anything soup with lime in it speaks to me! It has even been cold enough here in FL to enjoy some good homemade chicken soup!

Rita Loca said...

That looks delish. Since it is the middle of summer here, I will put it away for a few months.

Webutante said...

Thanks for DVD tip, G. When my new little 2 month old grandson gets a little bigger, I'll be sure to get it. Or maybe just watch it sooner.

Pam, I too think lime in soups and stews makes every better!

Anonymous said...

Looks are deceiving. However I will take your word that it's delicious. I'm more into cabbage as an ingredient rather than squash. Limes sound interesting. At present my soup is widely acclaimed as it is. However, having said that, next time I make soup just for myself and not for the cast of dozens I normally feed, I shall add one or two of your unusual items for taste and experimentation. And possibly the lime.

Anonymous said...

Cabbage in recipe = Russian/German concotion. Good though, I'm sure. Oh and don't forget the Tabasco.