Hands on time: 25 minutes
Start to finish: 1 hour
Soup. Simple soup. It sustains, revives, strengthens, cures and most of all, fills you up on cold winter nights. Broth and vegetables with a little bit of meat, a steaming bowl of soup is probably the most healthy and thrifty of meals not to mention that you can throw all those wondrous ingredients together in a pot and walk away to other chores while it simmers to deliciousness all by itself.
My friend Betty Rosbottom has written a lovely new soup book titled Soup Nights (Rizzoli) that includes all the classics plus newfangled options that I can’t wait to try. I’m not a newcomer to soups and it has been quite a few years since Meredith Deeds and I wrote 300 Sensational Soups back in 2008 but I remember how many soup bowls passed through my dishwasher and how fun it was to come up with new renditions of old time favorites. It is obvious from the table of contents that Betty had fun reimagining soup for this book as well not to mention, salads, sides and even desserts.
As she says in her introduction “Soups reward us with a certain joie de vivre too often absent in our frenetic daily lives.” I couldn’t agree more and actually look forward to winter and hauling up a big black Le Creuset French oval pot from summer storage to rest on the back burner of the stove for the duration.
If the table of contents doesn’t make you salivate, the photography will definitely make it hard to decide what to simmer up first. I chose the Colorado Chicken Soup to feature here because it’s one of those recipes culled largely from the pantry staples with easily substituted ingredients. This is one of the wonders of soup; that you can substitute ingredients so easily and still have a standout meal. I thought that the cooked chicken added at the end could easily be exchanged for turkey that may lurk in your fridge a day or so after Christmas when you are looking for something delicious to do with it. I may even add a little kielbasa to heft it up when my boys come for dinner.
A can of tomatoes, chilies and black beans are easily added to the fresh onion, carrot and celery (which one should always have in the fridge) and the dried oregano, cumin and smoked paprika can be substituted with dried basil and chili powder if you must. But if you can find smoked paprika, buy a small jar and use it as you would plain paprika with a sprinkle here and there. I especially like the tang that the canned chilies add to this soup. Who would have thought?
The pesto-like topping of pepita and cilantro is brilliant and I’ll be using it on many other dishes as well. We’ll be eating this soup or a close version of it throughout the winter. Viva la soup and congratulations, Betty, on yet another beautiful cook book!
2 tbsp olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
2/3 cup finely diced carrots
2 large cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp Spanish smoked paprika
6 cups chicken broth or stock
One 28-oz can diced tomatoes with juice
One 4-oz can chopped mild chilies and liquid
4 cups shredded cooked chicken ( 1 rotisserie chicken from grocery is perfect)
One 15-oz can black beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups fresh or frozen corn
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup roasted pepitas or pumpkin seeds
1/3 cup packed cilantro leaves
In a large heavy pot over medium-high heat, heat the oil until hot. Add onions, celery, caroots and garlic and sauté until the vegetables are slightly softened, about 4 minutes. Add the oregano, cumin and smoked paprika and stir 1 minute. Add the chicken broth, tomatoes and chilies and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and simmer 15 minutes.
Add the chicken, black beans, and corn and simmer 5 minutes more. Season the soup with salt and pepper. (The soup can be prepared two days ahead. Cook to this stage then cool, cover and refrigerate. Reheat, stirring often over medium heat.)
Place pepitas and cilantro in a food processor and pulse until finely minced, scraping the bowl as needed.
Ladle soup into bowls and garnish each serving with a generous spoonful of the pepita mixture.
In the glass: I’d like a glass of Beaujolais with this soup. Look for something floral and fruity from Georges Duboeuf or Joseph Drouhin.
In my ears: Tedeschi Trucks Band