Thursday, November 10, 2011
Spicy Chicken, Barley, and Sweet Potato Soup
I think that cold snap has officially happened. My toes are chilly. More importantly, my soup cravings are in full swing. Soup has been on my mind even more often than usual because my bestest friend is cooking through a soup cookbook. If only I was living in Chicago and could eat along with her!
Speaking of Jewish women making great soup from scratch...DC-ers, have you ever tried SouperGirl? Sara Polon, the SouperGirl, and her mom are living my dream. They make homemade soup every week and deliver it to locations all over the District, as well as selling it out of her newly-opened store in Tacoma Park. Each week, she emails out adorable and cute descriptions for 2 soups - one pureed and one chunky - which you can place an order for and pick up the following week. Her soups are certified Kosher, frequently if not always vegan, and use fresh, local, and organic ingredients. While I always encourage you to cook at home, if you want to buy something pre-made, her stuff is the good stuff.
OK, I have to admit, I've never actually ordered her soup. I get her emails every Monday, but I'm way too spontaneous in my eating to know what I'm going to want to eat the next week. Plus, I just love making soup. Every week I very seriously think about ordering from SouperGirl, but I haven't quite made the leap yet. Instead, I let her be my inspiration in the kitchen.
On Halloween morning, SouperGirl sent me an email about Soul Warming Barley Sweet Potato Soup. I have always been a believer that the only reason we eat soup is to warm the soul, so I was very intrigued. I did a little google searching and found a recipe that included all the ingredients that Sara used in her soup (plus chicken, which I assume she left out to keep it vegan). The recipe I found called it Spicy Chicken Barley Soup with Sweet Potatoes and Spinach, and I knew it was meant to be. Spicy is basically a synonym for "something the Monkey Scientist would love."
Not only did the Monkey Scientist love this soup, but I did too! I got a little nervous when I was making it because high heat + lots of spices = spice in the air. My roommate and I were coughing up a storm from inhaling too much cayenne. It was actually quite spicy when I tasted it after step 4 (I may have added some extra cayenne beyond what you see below), but when it finished cooking it had mellowed out a bit. This soup is very hearty, especially the next day when the bulgar has soaked up a lot of the liquid. With the perfect amount of spice, sweetness from the sweet potatoes (I may or may not have used yams instead, oops), protein from the chicken, and lots of nutrition from the spinach, this soup is definitely a winner! It makes a great meal on a chilly night, like slippers for the soul!
Soul Warming Spicy Chicken, Bulgar, and Sweet Potato Soup
adapted from Stylish Cuisine
3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 Spanish onion, chopped
1 tsp. kosher salt, plus more to taste
½ tsp. sweet paprika
¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. chili powder
¼ tsp. ground coriander
¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp of cayenne
1 Tbsp. tomato paste
3 garlic cloves, chopped
6 cups low-sodium or homemade chicken broth
2 cups water (+ additional for adding later)
1 cup bulgar, rinsed well
1 sweet potato, peeled and diced
12 oz. boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs, cut into bite-size pieces
5 oz. (1 bag) baby spinach
½ cup chopped fresh mint (I actually left this out)
freshly squeezed juice of 1 lemon
Lemon wedges, for serving
1. Heat the oil in a large soup pot over high heat. Add the onion and salt and sauté until limp, about 3 minutes.
2. Add all the spices and sauté until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
3.Add the tomato paste and sauté for another minute, until darkened but not burned. (If the tomato paste looks too dark too quickly, lower the heat.) Add the garlic and continue to sauté for 1 minute longer.
4. Return the heat to high if you lowered it, then add the broth, 2 cups of water, and the bulgar to the pot. Bring to a boil and let simmer for 30 minutes.
5. Add the sweet potato and continue to cook until the bulgar and sweet potatoes are soft, about 30 minutes or more, adding more water if needed. (I added about another cup here)
6.Add the chicken, partially cover the pot, lower the heat, and simmer about 10 minutes or until the chicken is fully cooked. Add the spinach and mint and simmer until wilted. Add the lemon juice and season to taste with salt (I used smoked salt from Trader Joe's).
Serve with the lemon wedges on the side.