Saturday, August 22, 2009

Rethinking Soup in the Summertime














I absolutely love to eat a warm bowl of homemade soup for lunch. For most of my life however, hot soups have always been the sort of food I normally only eat on gloomy, drizzly fall days or to take the chill off in winter, especially after some mundane outdoor task like shoveling snow or chipping ice from my windshield. Hot soups are not usually the sort of thing I would make or even consider eating in the middle of a hot, humid day in August.

Someone recently pointed out to me that, living in Florida, there is really not much point in saving soup for the fall and winter, since it is essentially summery year round here. For some reason, this concept hadn't quite hit me yet; after all I have only lived in the Sunshine State for just under two months. It did make me rethink my hot-soup-is-cold & rainy weather food-only outlook. It does at least rain a lot in Florida, even if it is not a particularly cooling sort of rain.

Deb over at Kahakai Kitchen hosts a weekly event, Souper Sundays. Embracing the soup-is good-any-time point of view, I decided to participate this week for the very first time. I started looking through some soup recipes I had been thinking about making for a while, but that I had held off trying. I decided to make an Italian inspired vegetable soup with chicken that I had seen presented on an older episode of Paula Deen's cooking show.

The soup was really easy to make and was rather tasty. I made only a few minor changes to the recipe, although I think next time I might trying using some leftover roasted, shredded chicken instead of bothering with the diced chicken, and I might also add some tiny cooked pasta shapes.

Oh.. and guess what... it even rained for the occasion.

Italian Style Chicken & Vegetable Soup (adapted from Paula's Home Cooking)
(serves about 8)

4 skinless boneless chicken breasts, diced
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 small zucchini, thinly sliced
1 small onion, diced
3 small carrots, thinly sliced
1 tsp fresh garlic, approximately, minced
1 large can (28-30 ounces) chopped tomatoes (Basil, Garlic, and Oregano flavor)
3 1/2 cups chicken broth (about 1 broth box)
salt and pepper, to taste

Heat up a large stockpot and add a small amount of olive oil. Paula tends to add a lot more oil than I ever do, so be your own best judge on the amount - for me, just 1 Tbsp was plenty. Add the chicken pieces and toss around in the oil to coat, then let them cook over medium-ish heat until they are nicely browned on all sides, about 5 minutes. Don't cook them all the way through right now.

Add the zucchini, onion, carrots, and garlic to the pot and give everything a good stir. Paula didn't add any garlic, but I like garlic and I had some lying around, so in it went. Give it just a couple of minutes, stirring often, until you can just start to smell the onions and garlic cooking. At this point, add some salt and pepper to taste, the canned tomatoes and their juices, and the chicken broth. Raise the heat some and bring the soup to just a boil, then reduce the heat to a low simmer, pop on a lid (left slightly ajar), and allow the soup to cook for about 30 minutes to an hour. Give the soup a taste and adjust the seasonings if needed.

Paula served with this Parmesan breadsticks and sprinkled some freshly grated Parmesan cheese over the top of each serving.

Parmesan Breadsticks (adapted from Paula's Home Cooking)
(about 8-12 breadsticks)

1 tube of Pillsbury breadstick dough or crescent roll dough
2 Tbsp melted butter
2 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
2 tsp dried mixed Italian seasoning or Greek seasoning or any dried herb blend you prefer

Preheat oven to 400 F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Set the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and press any seams together with your fingers, so you have a nice big flat rectangle. Get a pizza cutter and cut out 8-12 long narrow strips of dough. Brush some melted butter over the top of each strip, then sprinkle each with some cheese and whichever herb seasoning blend you like. Pick up a strip and twist it slightly so it looks sort of like a long thin corkscrew, then place each strip onto the prepared baking sheet. Bake for 10-12 minutes, or until they are puffed and golden. They will still look quite soft when they are done. Carefully remove to a wire rack to cool slightly before serving.

NOTES: Paula actually used a sheet of puff pastry for these, but at nearly $5 a box for a mere two pastry sheets vs the ~$1.35 for the tube of Pillsbury doughboy dough, I went with the more reasonable option
.

The breadsticks were really soft on the inside, crisp on the outside and not too cheesy, just right with the soup. Pretty good for essentially a doctored up tube of dough.

4 comments:

  1. I have become used to eating hot soup most any day except the really steamy ones. This looks like a really good soup and i love those breadsticks too. Thanks for joining us at Souper Sundays!

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  2. Thank you, Deb :) I have been drooling over many of the soups and sandwiches posted over at your blog for so long, glad I finally had the chance to join in too.

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  3. Oh yum...I love soup on any kind of day! Especially with some yummy bread on the side. Thanks for your kind words...can't wait to read more from you :D

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  4. Thank you for visiting and for your kind words :)

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