Perhaps it's the monotonously regular summer menu of salads and cold or room temperature food, but even in the warmest of days, there are times when a hot soup is not only welcome, but the only thing that really satisfies us. There's rarely a summer day, however, when venturing into a hot kitchen to make soup, even a cold one, is welcome.
Luckily, most soups don't take a lot of the cook's time, nor necessarily have to simmer for hours to be good. And yesterday, a break in the heat wave, a rainy afternoon, a quart of broth left over from cooking chicken for salad, and a surplus of late summer produce all seemed to be telling me it was time for stirring up a nice pot of vegetable soup.
Late Summer Herbed Chicken Vegetable Soup
The vegetables here were what I happened to have on hand, so don't feel bound by them. Add whatever you like, even those dabs of leftover vegetables from another meal. I've made this both with and without pasta and it's good either way. Just let your own taste guide you with that.
Serves 2 as a main dish, 4 as a first course or light luncheon dish with a sandwich
4 cups chicken broth (preferably homemade)
4-5 small scallions, trimmed and sliced, white and green parts separated
2 medium or 3 small red-skinned or gold potatoes, scrubbed and cut into bite-sized dice
2 medium or 1 large carrot, trimmed, peeled and cut into small dice
2 medium or 1 large rib celery, washed, strung, and cut into small dice
3-4 healthy sprigs thyme
1/3 cup (raw measure) ditalini, orzo, or other soup pasta, optional
1 medium zucchini or yellow summer squash, scrubbed, trimmed, and cut into bite-sized dice
1 cup diced cooked chicken
1 tablespoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 large sprig sage or 4-5 large leaves, finely chopped
Whole black pepper in a mill
1. Bring the broth to a boil over medium high heat in a 3-quart heavy-bottomed saucepan. Add the white part of the scallions, the potato, carrot, celery, and thyme sprigs (left whole). Let it come back to a boil, adjust the heat to medium, loosely cover, and simmer until the vegetables are crisp-tender, about 3-4 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, if you are planning to add pasta to the soup, bring a quart of water to a boil in a 2-quart pot. When it's boiling, stir in a tablespoon of salt and the pasta. Cook until it is just tender, using the package directions as a rough guide and checking it a minute before the suggested cooking time has lapsed. Drain, lightly rinse, and set aside.
3. While the pasta cooks (if you're using it), raise the heat under the soup to medium high and add the zucchini, chicken, remaining herbs, and scallion greens. Bring it back to a boil, adjust the heat to a simmer, and season lightly with salt and pepper. Simmer until the chicken is heated through and the vegetables are tender, about 4 minutes more. Remove and discard the thyme stems (most of the leaves will have fallen off into the soup). If you're adding pasta, stir it in, then taste and adjust the seasonings, and remove it from the heat. Let it settle 3-5 minutes before serving.