Soup. It's the perfect one-dish meal. A little of this, a little of that -- before you know it, dinner is served. It's simple. But perhaps the best thing? Soup always seems to taste best the next day, after the flavors have really had a chance to marry. Make a big enough batch and you have more than one meal covered. Honestly, could it get any more perfect?
Start with the Moroccan chicken soup from Cayenne Cafe (pictured). This isn't your ordinary chicken soup, each bite flavored with bits of carrot and celery, garbanzo beans and cracked wheat. It's rich, yet delicately spiced with notes of cinnamon and curry. Best of all? The whole thing comes together in about 45 minutes.
Craving mushrooms? Have we got a creamy mushroom and roasted onion soup for you. No less than a pound of cremini mushrooms are simmered with garlic, shallots, onion and buttery Chardonnay for an aromatic base in this soup from The Cave at the Ventura Wine Co. Puree the mushrooms with heavy cream for a smooth, velvety finish, then stir in finely chopped roasted onion at the end. A thin slice of Parmigiano-Reggiano completes each serving.
The soup itself comes together in about 40 minutes, though it will take a little advance planning to prepare the roasted onion (roast for about 1 hour at 400 degrees, then cool before chopping -- you could do this a day or two in advance and refrigerate until needed).
Thinking vegetarian? Look no further than Coral Tree Cafe's hearty vegetable soup. Fresh vegetables simmered with barley in a hearty broth, it makes for a perfect one-dish meal. What's more, you might not even notice it's vegetarian. (Of course, you can add some meat or doctor the ingredients to suit your taste.)
Craving chicken? Try Nordstrom's chopped chicken salad. Both tart fresh apple slices and dried apple chips flavor this salad, tossed with sliced onion, lightly spiced candied almonds, julienned strips of chicken and creamy goat cheese. The salad is tossed with a bright Champagne vinaigrette. The whole recipe, including the candied almonds, comes together in about an hour, perfect as a side or a light meal.
For more easy dinner recipes, click through our photo gallery and check out our Dinner Tonight page, devoted to recipes that can be made in an hour or less. Looking for a particular type of recipe? Comment below, or email me at email@example.com.
CAYENNE'S MOROCCAN CHICKEN SOUP
Total time: 45 minutes
Note: Adapted from a recipe by executive chef Noura Elnasser of Cayenne. Cracked wheat can be found at select cooking and health food stores, as well as online.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 red onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 carrots, diced
1 stalk celery, diced
1 cooked boneless and skinless chicken breast, diced (about 2 cups)
1 cup cooked garbanzo beans
1/3 cup diced tomato
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup cracked wheat No. 1 (fine grind)
4 to 5 cups chicken broth, more if desired
1. Add the oil to a large pot heated over medium-high heat until hot. Stir in the onion and sauté until softened and starting to color, 2 to 3 minutes. Stir in the garlic.
2. Stir in the carrots, celery, chicken, garbanzo beans, tomato, bay leaves, basil, curry powder and cinnamon. Season with one-half teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Stir for a few minutes to warm the vegetables.
3. Stir in the cracked wheat and 4 cups broth, and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently.
4. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, loosely covered, until the vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Taste and adjust the seasoning as desired; we added an additional three-fourths teaspoon salt (seasoning will vary depending on the chicken broth used and personal taste). The soup may be a bit thick; add more broth to thin if desired. This makes about 1½ quarts soup.
Each serving: 148 calories; 11 grams protein; 18 grams carbohydrates; 5 grams fiber; 4 grams fat; 1 gram saturated fat; 18 mg cholesterol; 3 grams sugar; 1,186 mg sodium.
CREAMY MUSHROOM AND ROASTED ONION SOUP
Total time: 40 minutes, plus 1 hour roasting time for the onion
Note: Adapted from Gary Daniel of the Cave food and wine bar at the Ventura Wine Co., a retail shop. He recommends serving the soup with a Chardonnay and crusty bread. The roasted onion can be made ahead of time. Roast the onion and allow it to cool, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until needed.
2 onions, divided
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
Salt, freshly ground black pepper
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
1 rib of celery, peeled and chopped
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon minced shallot
1 pound cremini mushrooms, washed and trimmed of any dry ends
1 cup white wine, preferably Chardonnay
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1 quart vegetable stock
3/4 cup heavy cream
Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for garnish
2 teaspoons minced chives
1. Heat the oven to 400 degrees. Peel one of the onions but leave it whole. Rub 1 tablespoon of the oil and a pinch each of the salt and pepper over the onion, then wrap it in foil. Roast the onion until it is softened and lightly caramelized, about 1 hour. Remove and cool.
2. Meanwhile, peel and chop the remaining onion.
3. Heat a medium, heavy-bottom saucepan over medium heat. Add the remaining olive oil and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Stir in the chopped onion, carrot and celery and cook until softened, about 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic, shallots and mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Reserve one mushroom to garnish the finished soup.
4. Stir in the wine, making sure to scrape the browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Stir in the fresh thyme and bring the contents to a gentle simmer. Cook until the mushrooms soften, about 5 to 6 minutes. Stir in the vegetable stock and continue to simmer until the liquid is reduced by half, about 10 minutes.
5. Remove from the heat and purée the soup with an immersion blender, or in batches in a blender. Return the soup to low heat and stir in the cream. Season with a generous teaspoon of salt and a pinch of pepper, or to taste. This makes about 8 cups of soup.
6. Chop the roasted onion into pieces no larger than one-quarter inch. Stir the chopped onion into the soup. Check and adjust the seasoning if desired.
7. Slice the reserved mushroom into 8 very thin, lengthwise slices. Ladle the soup into warmed bowls. Garnish each portion with a thin shaving of the Parmigiano-Reggiano, one-fourth teaspoon of the chives and a thin slice of mushroom. Serve immediately.
Each serving: 179 calories; 3 grams protein; 8 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams fiber; 14 grams fat; 6 grams saturated fat; 31 mg. cholesterol; 456 mg. sodium.
CORAL TREE CAFE'S VEGETABLE SOUP
Total time: 1 hour
Servings: 8 to 10
Note: Adapted from Coral Tree Cafe in Los Angeles.
2 tablespoons oil
2 cups diced carrots
2 cups diced onions
1/2 cup diced red bell pepper
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
3/4 cup pearl barley
1 quart vegetable broth
1 1/2 cups marinara sauce
2 cups quartered mushrooms
2 cups diced zucchini
Salt and pepper
1. Heat a medium, heavy-bottom pot over medium heat until hot. Add the oil, then the carrots, onions, bell pepper, thyme and barley. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are golden-brown, about 18 minutes, taking care that the barley does not burn.
2. Stir in the vegetable broth and marinara. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to a gentle simmer.
3. Cook until the barley is al dente, 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in the mushrooms and zucchini, and season to taste with salt and pepper (amount of seasoning needed will vary depending on the vegetable broth and marinara used). Cover and continue to simmer until the mushrooms and zucchini are just tender, 4 to 6 minutes.
4. Remove from heat, thin if desired, and season again to taste, and serve. This makes about 2½ quarts of soup.
Each of 10 servings: 155 calories; 4 grams protein; 26 grams carbohydrates; 6 grams fiber; 4 grams fat; 1 gram saturated fat; 1 mg cholesterol; 8 grams sugar; 365 mg sodium.