1. It’s fall!
2. This here’s soup weather.
Not that you can’t eat soup year-round. I do. You should, too. But the recent change in temps is making me crave warm bowls of soupiness even more than usual. Then, I reviewed my recipe collection here and realized it was woefully lacking in the soup and stew department. How I managed to share a whole year’s worth of recipes and only a handful of soups, I do not know, as I make at least one batch a week. Sometimes two. Sometimes I go a little crazy and make 14 servings of my favorite Soupe au Pistou so that we are obliged to eat it twice a day and still have to give some to friends, and then my husband puts his foot down and says No. More. Soup. Which is fine, for a little while, but then my soup pot beckons and I am at it again. Because soup is basically the perfect dish, and here’s why:
- You can make a lot at once (perhaps not 14 servings, but 4 to 8 servings is perfectly normal, as my husband keeps reminding me).
- With just a little butter/oil to get it started, soups can be super-healthy, packed full of veggies and lean protein.
- The flavors only get better the longer the soup sits (to a point, of course) so they are perfect for making ahead for lunches.
- They are easily adaptable for starters or mains, can be pureed or chunky, meat or veggie.
- They are the perfect way to use of random bits of things left over in the fridge.
For all these reasons and more, I am declaring October Soup Month here at Simplicity’s Sake, and will be sharing some of my mainstays in the Soup-and-Stew department.
Up first – while the zucchinis are still out, let’s make this no-fail Thai Chicken and Zucchini Stew!
Thai Chicken and Zucchini Stew
adapted from a Cooking Light Recipe
Time: 1 hour 15 mins (active 45 mins) Servings: 4-5
- 2 T olive oil, divided
- 1 tsp salt, divided
- 1.5 lbs boneless, skinless raw chicken, cut into cubes (light and dark meat)
- 1/2 tsp ground coriander
- 1/2 tsp ground cumin
- Chili peppers, or ground chilis/pepper spice to taste*
- 1 tsp grated lime rind
- small handful fresh cilantro, plus more for garnish
- 2 garlic cloves, crushed
- 1 (1/2-inch) piece peeled fresh ginger, coarsely chopped
- 1 cup light coconut milk, such as Goya
- 1 1/2 cups peeled, grated carrot
- 1 cup chopped yellow onion
- 2-3 cups fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth, depending on how liquidy you want it to be (remember, you can make your own!)
- 3 1/2 cups coarsely chopped zucchini and/or squash (about 2 medium), divided
- juice of 1 lime
- 1/2 cup chopped unsalted, dry-roasted peanuts
- Optional: rice, chickpeas, or grain of your choice**
* I have used various things here – canned green chiles, a jalapeno, ground spicy red pepper (you can see that in this version, bottom right of the photo above). Use whatever you have and adjust to your heat preference.
** The original recipe calls for more broth and includes a serving of rice with each bowl of stew, but I don’t see the need for extra carbs. So, I reduce the broth, omit the rice, and load my bowl up with more of the good stuff! But feel free to add in some rice, or chickpeas, which would really up the protein punch of this dish.
There are a few main steps here; it’s best to prep everything beforehand, so that you can work quickly through the steps without stopping to chop.
First, cook the chicken
Heat 1 T oil in the soup pot/ Dutch oven you will cook your soup in (no sense dirtying another pot!) Add in raw chicken, and sprinkle with salt. You can also add in some pepper, cumin, etc now if you like – a little extra spice never hurt a piece of chicken, that I know of. Once chicken is just cooked, remove from pot and reserve in another bowl, along with any of its juices.
While the chicken is cooking, make your spice and coconut milk flavor base.
In a small food processor or magic bullet, combine spices, lime rind, chile pepper or powder, garlic, ginger, and cilantro and pulse until well chopped. Add in coconut milk as needed to keep the blades going, until the whole cup is added. You should now have a nice creamy, spicy green-flecked liquid.
Now, make the stew!
Re-heat the same soup pot/ Dutch oven over medium heat. Add remaining oil to pan. Once the oil is hot, add carrot and onion and cook 5 minutes or until onion is tender, stirring occasionally.
Add the coconut milk mixture, remaining salt, and pepper. Increase heat to high, and cook for a few minutes or until liquid reduces and begins to brown, stirring frequently.
Reduce heat to medium-high; add chicken broth, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Bring to a boil; stir in 2 cups zucchini/ squash (reserving remaining 1.5 cups for a little later). Simmer uncovered for 15-20 minutes or until veggies are tender.
Remove pan from heat. Now, you need to blend a bit of the soup, and you have a few options – scoop a few cups out and put in the blender/food processor, or put an immersion blender right in the pot and whirr it around.
Either way, once you’ve achieved the proper consistency, return the pan to medium-high heat. Stir in the remaining 1 1/2 cups zucchini/ squash and chicken; cook 10-15 minutes or until thoroughly heated. Right before serving, stir in the juice of 1 lime.
Ladle 1.5-2 cups of soup into each bowl, and top with crushed peanuts and cilantro. Bon appetit!
One year ago…