My Grandma Mary had a limited repertoire of dishes but each and every one was delicious and cooked to perfection. One of my favorites was her chicken soup with matzoh balls (though she called them knadels.) Her recipe was very basic -- chicken (from a roasted chicken which was one of her other delicious meals), matzoh balls, onions, dill, celery, and big chunks of carrot that my brother affectionately referred to as "fat carrots" as a little boy.
A few years ago, I had some health problems and it was then that I rediscovered the healing, soothing powers of chicken soup. It was the single best thing for me at the time - nourishing, yummy, mild... I still make it all the time to combat illness, ward off depression, and to make dark, gloomy winter days a little warmer.
Since I make chicken soup far more often than I roast a chicken, I've perfected a relatively quick method of preparing it that is nutritious and delicious, if a bit less authentic than my beloved Grandma Mary's chicken soup was.
There are two magic ingredients that save both time and labor -- prepared chicken stock and boneless skinless chicken breasts. I use the organic, free-range kind of both even though the chicken breasts cost a pretty penny. It's well worth the added cost to know that the chicken lived a relatively pleasant existence and that I'm not contributing to environmental degradation, antibiotic resistance, etc., etc. Not to mention that the organic, free-range chicken also just tastes much better and is healthier for you and your family!
Okay, enough ranting about organic poultry products...back to the recipe. You can make this soup with other types of pasta or with matzoh balls (I use a mix for those -- again, it's not very authentic but it is pretty easy and the result is quite tasty). It's a pretty flexible recipe so you can also play around with the veggies and the herbs if there's something you'd like to substitute or include.
It's wonderfully nourishing and comforting. Enjoy!
Chicken Vegetable Soup With Orzo
- 3-4 medium to large carrots, sliced into one-inch rounds
- 1 large or two small-medium onions, diced
- 3-4 ribs of celery, washed and chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
- 1/4 cup fresh dill weed, washed and chopped
- 1/2 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, washed and chopped
- 1/4 cup fresh cilantro, washed and chopped (this is not very traditional but I find it a very nice addition)
- 2 quarts chicken broth
- 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts chopped into whatever size chunks you desire
- 1 cup of orzo or egg noodles, cooked and drained (you can also cook the pasta in the soup but it will absorb a good deal of the stock so you may want to add a little additional liquid)
- 2 Tbsp butter
- 1-2 bay leaves
- Sea salt to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper to taste
1. Melt the butter in a soup pot and add the onions, carrots, celery and bay leaves. Sautee the vegetables until they begin to soften - about 5 minutes.
2. Add the chicken broth and cook on medium high heat until the liquid begins to simmer - 5-10 minutes. Add the chopped herbs (saving enough parsley to use as a garnish) and the chicken breast and cook for another 5 or so minutes, until the chicken is cooked through and no trace of pink remains.
3. Add the pasta and the salt and pepper to taste.
4. Sprinkle with the chopped parsley and serve. Goes well with a hearty salad and slices of warm crusty baguette or rolls with lots of butter.