There are times in life when every part of your daily routine, the things you count on for a sense of normalcy, go out the window. In the last four months I got married, left the country, came home and quit my job, moved from DC to San Diego, and started my own business. While these have all been wonderful and exciting adventures, I highly recommend spacing them out over a year, or two, or maybe three!
Somewhere along the way I stopped cooking most nights. J and I have eaten more tacos and pizza than I’m proud to admit and while eating tacos and pizza are one of the primary joys in life, I’d prefer we enjoy them in some semblance of moderation.
These are industrious days. J is starting a PhD program and I’m learning a new craft – self employment – while setting up our home and keeping us fed on a limited budget. When I’m feeling overwhelmed I think of Yeat’s immortal lines,
“Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world.”
Later, I laugh and settle on a more upbeat mantra to survive the chaos - “Mama Said There’d be Days Like This.”
Chaos demands soup. Soup is the center. Soup is our path back to vegetables, home-cooked meals, and leftovers.
Behold the comfort soup triad; lentil, tomato, and chicken.
My favorite lentil soup is from Melissa Clark’s In the Kitchen with a Good Appetite although I often use Molly Wizenberg’s adapted recipe on Orangette. If you cook one soup this fall, make it this one. It’s not your average lentil soup – it’s a lighter balance of earthy red lentils and bright lemon juice and cilantro. This soup makes great leftovers so I like to make it on a Sunday and pack bowls for Monday and Tuesday lunches.
Ina Garten brings tomato basil soup to the next level by roasting the tomatoes and adding a healthy does of red pepper flakes. I buy ugly tomatoes from that farmer’s market at the end of tomato season (ask for seconds towards the end of the day) and make double batches of this recipe to freeze for easy dinners. I’d suggest using a stick blender in place of a food mill as it provides a chunkier texture, which I prefer, and is less messy. Also, you can cut the basil down to 2 or 3 cups if it’s too pricey or hard to come by.
Our favorite brothy chicken soup is posole. A traditional posole can take more than eight hours to prepare and the broth is often left to simmer overnight. This is not a traditional posole. This is a 45 minutes from walking in the door to sitting down to eat kind of posole. This recipe scales up beautifully to feed a crowd and can be riffed on to make red posole (add 1 whole chipotle pepper in place of pickled jalapeno and a small can of diced tomatoes) or green posole (roast tomatillos and blend them before adding or simply add jarred tomatillo salsa). Garnish to your heart’s content and enjoy!
- 1 tablespoon oil (I use olive oil, grapeseed would also work)
- 2 skinless chicken breasts or 4 chicken breast tenders
- 1 small onion, diced
- 1 jalapeño sliced lengthwise then cut into half moons, remove seeds if you prefer less heat
- 4 garlic cloves, smashed
- 1 25 oz can hominy, drained
- 1 small can of whole pickled jalapeños (we like the La Costena brand because it has carrots which we also add to the soup)
- 6 cups of low-sodium chicken broth
- 1 bay leaf
- 1-1.5 cups chopped cilantro
- 1 avocado, sliced
- 4-6 radishes, sliced
- Lime wedges
- Sea salt
- Ground coriander
- Black pepper
- Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in an enamel cast iron pot. Season both sides of the chicken with sea salt, ground coriander, and oregano. Sear both sides until golden brown and then remove the chicken and set aside. It is alright if the chicken is not completely cooked through
- Add another tablespoon of oil to the pot. Add the onion, garlic, jalapeno, and one teaspoon of sea salt. Cook for 4 minutes or until soft.
- Add 1 whole pickled jalapeno (and carrots if desired!) along with 1 teaspoon of the pickling liquid. Drain the hominy and add it to the mixture. Stir to mix ingredients.
- Add six cups of chicken broth, a teaspoon of ground coriander, a bay leaf, more sea salt, and ground black pepper. Simmer uncovered for 15 minutes. This is a good time to prepare your garnishes.
- Chop up the chicken and add it to the soup. Simmer uncovered for 10 more minutes. Serve with garnishes, tortilla chips, and hot sauce of your choosing.