Thursday, May 1, 2008

Food of the gods

Soup ... aaahhhh .... steamy bowls of yummy comfort that can bolster a body to perform great feats. How did Napoleon conquer other nations? Why he ate soup first, of course. And the Trojan War? Sorry Helen, your face didn't launch a thousand ships after all. It was soup those Spartan warriors coveted. What enabled Washington to conduct his famous feat of Crossing the Delaware? Yep, soup again.

Uh, ok, perhaps I'm bending history a bit. But I adore soup. Heaps. I'm Soup Girl. I mean, come on, who doesn't love soup? Well, *sigh* actually 2/3rds of my offspring turn up their noses at any foods that touch, plus Hubby Man isn't a big fan. He's more of a meat/potatoes guy. What cruel twist of fate is that? He's married to Soup Girl! However, less servings of soup for them, means more bowls of goodness for moi and offspring #3. Every week, I lovingly assemble the bounty required to prepare several servings of the wonderful stuff. Is it fancy or hard to make? Nah. Is it good? You bet.

This recipe started off as many good recipes do. I had guests coming over and needed to prepare something wholesome ... just some chicken soup and bread. "Ok", I say. "No problemo." So, off to the fridge I go, pull open the door, and start the up and down cartoon motions of taking stock of the shelf contents. Hmm, carrots? Check. Celery? Nope. Let's see, plenty of cabbage and zucchini. A quick side glance at the counter reveals lots of onions and garlic waiting to be used (I am Italian, afterall). Alrighty then, now I just need some chicken. Could have sworn I just bought some. Where is it? Come on, fridge, just give up one plain old cut up chicken. No dice. However, there is a package of ground chicken. Right bird, wrong format. Dare I make soup with ground chix? Could I doctor it with *wince* canned broth? New territory for Soup Girl, but yeh, I think it can be done.

Not only can it be done, it's awesome. One of those recipes where you don't measure anything, just chop, drop, and stir on instinct. Like Grandma would do. The kind of good where you sit down and don't talk with anyone because it would prevent you from eating. Where you want to pick the bowl up and let the last drop drip into your mouth. I like using the ground chix so much, that whole chickens are relegated to the inside of my roasting pan instead of the stock pot. Here's the loose recipe. Don't be put off by the list ... it comes together in a flash. Really. Use whatever you've got. It's a Chix Veggie soup, but would answer to the name Use Whatever You've Got.

2 T Olive oil
1 medium onion diced
2 cloves garlic, minced with sea salt (old wives trick)
1 clove garlic sliced paper thin
5 carrots sliced or diced in smallish pieces (think: what will fit on a spoon)
1 baby zucchini sliced or diced like the carrot
1 cup finely shredded cabbage (can omit or substitute napa or even bok choy)
1 lb ground chix (or turkey)
2 cans Low Sodium chicken broth (I like Swanson)
1 can of water (add more if you like lots of broth)
4 oz white wine (chardonnay is good)
2 T olive oil
1/4 cup chopped Italian flat leaf parsley (or 1T dried)
scant teaspoon dried thyme
Season salt to taste (Spike is good)
scant teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon dried dill (yep, dill)
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 cup leftover rice or noodles (I like to use "wild" rice)
Dash Hot Sauce - optional (I like it; Offspring #3 eats it plain)

Have all ingredients ready to go. Set a large stock pot on medium high heat. As soon as pan is heated (not smoking), add the oil and immediately dump in the onion, minced salted garlic, and carrots. Stir. Let the vegetables soften a bit, stirring frequently, no more than 3-4 minutes. Dump in the cabbage if using as well as the zucchini and sliced garlic. Let wilt for maybe another 3 minutes, stirring frequently. The goal is to soften, not brown or carmelize. Adjust your heat if necessary to keep veggies from browning. Now comes the fun part. Add the ground chix, stir into the veggies and break it up with a spoon or spatula. Do NOT brown the meat. Immediately add all the broth, water, wine, herbs and seasonings. Bring to a vigorous rolling boil and stir so that the meat is evening dispersed throughout the liquid (like chili). Plop a lid on the pot, turn down the heat, and simmer for about 25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the left over rice, heat through for about 5 minutes, and viola, serve your chix veggie soup with crusty bread. (I usually add a dash or two of hot sauce to my bowl.)

This gels up just as if I had made it with homemade stock; especially when prepared with ground turkey. It's high in fiber and low in salt. Plus, the meat stays on the spoon (an added plus as I'm also Laundry Girl). I get requests from friends for this soup. This concoction is a Soup Girl favorite and is pretty to look at, too. Although, in this case, the best part of the photo is my late grandma's soup bowl. Growing up, every summer I ate many a bowl of pastina or wedding soup out of those bowls. Miss you, Grandma!

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