Introduction: Chicken Vegetable Soup

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This is a super-easy stew style chicken and vegetable soup that makes use of summer's best (and most prolific) vegetables.  It's really an excellent way to showcase all the fantastic summer produce available in your garden or at your farmers' market.  Flexible, too - add, remove, or substitute most any fresh vegetable that strikes your fancy.

Of course, you can still make this soup in the winter - just substitute frozen or canned vegetables as necessary.  But it's really at its peak at the height of summer when you can make it with the freshest of veggies.

Step 1: Tools and Ingredients

- big soup pot
- cutting board
- vegetable peeler
- knife

- 4 onions
- 3 pounds boneless/skinless chicken thighs (12-16 depending on size)
- 4 small or 2 large zucchinis (NOT those scary giant ones)
- 12 mushrooms (any type you like; I used ~1" white button mushrooms)
- 6-10 tomatoes, or 1 large can chopped tomatoes
- 3 ears of corn, cut off the cob
- 3-5 cloves garlic
- handful fresh herbs (basil, oregano, thyme, etc) or ~1 teaspoon dried
- 1 teaspoon allspice
- salt & pepper to taste
- 2 Tablespoons cider vinegar (or balsamic, or red wine, or whatever you like)
- 2 Tablespoons heavy cream (optional)

Note that you can and should add/substitute whatever is growing well in your garden/area.  Fresh peas, spinach, kale, herbs, etc are all wonderful additions to this soup.  Also, feel free to take out anything you don't like.  None of these veggies are essential!

Step 2: Saute Onions

Coarsely chop your onions, and add to the pot with a bit of olive oil or butter and a pinch of salt.  Cook over medium heat until onions are soft and translucent.

Step 3: Saute Chicken

Coarsely chop your 3 pounds of chicken thighs, and add to the onions.  I usually get 6-9 roughly 1" chunks from each boneless skinless thigh.  Saute with onions until chicken is no longer pink.

Please don't bother to remove the fat!  This is the tasty part of the chicken, and provided your chicken was well-fed and treated properly the fat is likely good for you.  Fat = flavor, and the veggies need it to bring out their best.  And yes, of course you can use boneless/skinless chicken breasts, but there's a reason they don't taste as good as chicken thighs.  Skip the bread and pasta, not the tasty fat.
/dietary rant.

Step 4: Add Hard Veggies

Coarsely chop and add the harder veggies.  This includes the mushrooms, zucchini, and anything else you're using (peas, kale, etc) that has a low water content and takes longer to cook.

Saute with the meat and onions until the veggies have started to soften up.

Step 5: Add Soft Veggies

Coarsely chop and add the softer veggies.  This includes tomatoes and corn; anything with a higher water content (spinach, etc) that is likely to cook more quickly.

Saute until these veggies have softened as well.

Step 6: Add Seasonings

Your soup is almost done!

Grate the garlic directly into the soup using a microplane grater, or else chop it VERY finely and stir into the pot.  Then add your allspice, fresh or dried herbs, and vinegar or Worcestershire sauce.

Simmer until all new ingredients are combined, roughly 3-5 minutes.

Finish with 2T of heavy cream, taste, and adjust seasonings.  You'll likely need more salt, as these fresh veggies seem to just suck it up somehow.

Step 7: Serve

Serve immediately!  It's an excellent simple one-pot dinner, and great when paired with a simple green salad, with fresh fruit for dessert.

You want to make sure everyone is eating the soup as soon as possible after you've declared it properly seasoned, as these veggies aren't getting any fresher.  There's a tangy, vibrant taste to just-mixed-in fresh herbs that isn't the same after a longer simmer.

That said, this also makes excellent leftovers.  It stores and microwaves well, and the flavors will mingle in interesting ways after a night in the fridge.  You may want to reserve some additional fresh herbs to sprinkle over the top, or maybe squeeze a slice of lemon if you prefer that super-fresh taste, but otherwise it's only going to get better with time.


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