Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Simple Chicken & Cannellini Bean Soup

This is the soup I often turn to when we are just about to turn to takeout.

Though I love to cook, there are nights that I simply don't want to (or can't) expend one brain cell thinking about what to make. Being somewhat picky about just what we eat, however, leaves our takeout options a bit limited... and that's where this soup comes in. (In all fairness to this little soup, it does get called up on real cooking nights as well).

Soups, in general, are forgiving in this manner. They are adaptable creatures... a perfect go-to when we are, perhaps, feeling not so adaptable.

Most soups start with some sort of sauté... even if it's simply just a bit of chopped onion and dried herbs... before any liquids are added. This starter base is what gets the flavor of the soup humming so it's an important (yet easy) step. As long as you give some thought to this... most anything can be dropped into the pot. Being that this particular night was a don't-want-to-think-about-cooking night, I followed my rote method with this soup... sautéing up some onion, carrot, and celery in a bit of olive oil, then adding a generous sprinkle of dried herbs (parsley, italian seasoning), salt, pepper, and garlic powder to the mix and letting it all kind of warm up together to pop the seasonings a bit. I had some chicken breasts in the freezer, so I defrosted those in the microwave while I continued on with my soup base... adding in some chicken stock, and a can of diced tomatoes. Everything added so far is always available in my fridge and pantry... which is one reason this is a great, quick, no-thought-necessary, go-to meal.

Once my chicken was defrosted enough to handle, I diced it up into small bite-size pieces (easiest to get cooked through quickly) and dropped it all into the pot to simmer away for about 25 minutes.... just until the chicken is cooked through and everything has had a nice chance to mix and mingle. Season with some additional salt and pepper, to taste, and drop in your beans and whatever fresh greens you've got available in your fridge. I often add chopped fresh spinach but had already run through it, so I just chopped up the half bag of mixed baby greens I had on hand and dropped it into the pot to simmer... just enough time for the greens to wilt a bit and the beans to warm through. That's it! It's great served up with a sprinkle of shredded parmesan cheese (also always on hand) and a hot-out-of-the-oven french baguette to share.

This is the kind of soup that will make you happy you didn't turn to takeout... quick, simple, fresh, delicious... and no brain cells expended in the making!

Easy Chicken & Cannellini Bean Soup
serves 4 (as a light dinner)

If you are looking for a heartier fixing, simply add in additional veggies, chicken, beans, and stock; or serve along with a salad. Again... super adaptable! This recipe is meant to serve as a guide (for those that crave more exact measurements), but its beauty and ease is in its simplicity... simply chop and drop as you go, as you prefer.

2 to 3 chicken breasts, diced into bite-size pieces (about 1/4- to 1/2-inch in size)
2 to 3 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 cup diced onion
1 cup diced carrot
3 ribs celery, diced
1 to 2 teaspoons dried italian seasoning
1 to 2 teaspoons dried parsley
1 teaspoon garlic powder
sprinkle of kosher salt and black pepper
1 32-ounce carton chicken broth (I happened to use Pacific Foods brand)
1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes (I used Muir Glen)
1 15-ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
4 to 6 ounces chopped fresh greens (spinach, mixed greens... whatever you have on hand)

shredded parmesan, to garnish

1. Heat olive oil in a large stock pot over medium-high heat and add onions, carrot, and celery. Sauté veggies just until soft, about 2 minutes. Add in italian seasoning, parsley, salt, pepper, and garlic powder; mix well to combine and let sauté together, stirring frequently, for about 30 seconds.
2. Add chicken stock and tomatoes to pot. Simmer for approximately 5 to 10 minutes, just until stock is warm. Add in chicken and continue to simmer for another 20 to 30 minutes, just until chicken is cooked through. Drop in canned beans and greens, simmer for another 5 minutes until greens have wilted and beans have warmed through. Season with additional salt and pepper, to taste. Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with shredded parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.

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