Shortly after the boyfriend left for the west coast, this soup was made with a delicata squash from the last share of the CSA. It was made my way… very spicy. The boyfriend, who is a tester for many experimental recipes, likes spicy food, too. My tolerance for spicy food could be a bit more than his. When I called him about this delicious soup, he was curious to know how a large pot of soup is made for one person in a household.
Being an adaptable person, I’ve had to recall those cooking skills as a single person. It was only a couple of years ago. To answer his question, large pots of soups are made, in which individual portions are placed in the freezer. Whole chickens are brought on sale. They’re cut up, and the parts are individually frozen for future meals. In addition, instead of buying orange juice by the gallons, fresh apple ciders and other juice mixes that cost more per ounce are purchased. I also splurge on naturally sparkling mineral water to dilute the juices. Such drinks are naturally sweet, and the fizz is refreshing. Since, the boyfriend doesn’t like shellfish, in the coming weeks, crab cakes, mussels, and clams will be part of the menu. Does it sound very expensive? When shopping as a single person, the portions are smaller and cheaper.
Why cook a large meal when no one’s at the dinner table? There are many single people who don’t cook. Time, effort and expense are one of many various excuses. Planning weekly menus solves most household dilemmas for not cooking. The boyfriend’s happiness inspires many dishes. However, he has been told that cooking is not always about him. I’ve said this before: Cooking is not a luxury. It’s a necessary life skill.
Currently, my lifestyle is similar to a single person, although it is only temporarily. However, my inspiration for new recipes has increased, because the passion for cooking has always been a soulful adventure. So far, this year, homemade bread was baked for the first time in my life, dinner was made for the boyfriend’s father, and I plan to invite a couple of friends to dinner or desserts. It’s a good time to reconnect with people that I’ve haven’t seen in awhile.
Soups are one-dish meals that are delicious recipes for the single lifestyle. For this Spicy Delicata Soup, chicken breasts from a whole chicken are only used. As a single person, it’s best to use meat as a flavoring in recipes and increase the portion of vegetables and beans to save money. Soups are mostly consumed in the Winter, and salads are portioned into individual containers during the Summer. Both types of meals are served with hearty slice of bread.
I don’t recall that lifestyle of eating cartons of soupy ramen noodles with dehydrated carrots and peas, in which high-sodium seasonings in tiny packages provide a lonely flavor. Often times, after making a large, delicious meal, I call my boyfriend to brag. Although, he finds healthy restaurant to eat his meals, my cooking is a large percentage of why he misses me. Vice versa, among other reasons, he is missed, because I love surprising him with new dishes. We both know our home is where the heart is.
Spicy Delicata Squash and Chicken Soup
3 to 5 dried chilies (ancho, chipotle, etc.)
1 to 2 chicken breasts with skin and bones; season with salt, fresh black pepper, minced garlic and Spanish smoked paprika
1 small red onion; diced
2 to 3 carrots; diced
3 celery; diced
3 to 4 garlic cloves; minced
1 large green bell pepper; diced
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. smoked Spanish paprika
1/8 tsp. crushed red pepper
Salt and fresh black pepper; to taste
1 delicata squash; peeled with seeds removed; cut into 1/2 inch chunks
30 oz. chicken stock
2 to 3 tbsp. red balsamic vinegar
3 tbsp. tomato paste
(Optional) 1/4 cup red wine
1 bunch of thyme; tied with twine
2 to 3 bay leaves
1 bunch of cilantro; divided in half and more for garnish; minced
The juice of one lime
1-14 oz. black beans; rinsed
2 cups sweet corn; frozen or fresh
1. Dehydrate chilies in boiling hot water for 30 minutes to one hour. A plate or a heavy object might be needed to place on top of the water to keep chilies submerged. Afterwards, remove chilies and place the chili water aside (Use the chili water in case there’s not enough chicken stock or the soup needs more liquid). Remove the seeds from the chilies and place in a food processor.
2. Meanwhile, warm olive oil over medium-high heat in a large pot. Place chicken breasts in the pot and sear both sides to a golden brown crisp. Don’t worry if the chicken is not fully cooked. Remove chicken from the pot and place aside.
3. In the same pot, include the onions, carrots, and celery. Saute until the vegetables have slightly soften. Add the dry spices and the garlic. Stir for 30 seconds before adding the green bell pepper and the delicata squash. Add chicken stock, wine, bay leaves, balsamic vinegar, seared chicken breasts and tomato paste to the pot. Cover and simmer the soup for 10 to 15 minutes.
4. When the vegetables have soften, add 2 cups of the vegetables (sans chicken breasts) to the food processor with the chilies (Note: If using a blender, let mixture cool first). Purée until smooth. Return purée vegetables and chilies to the pot. Add half the cilantro and lime juice. Let soup continue to simmer, covered, for at least 1/2 hour.
5. Once the chicken breast have fully cooked, remove from the pot and let cool. Remove the bones and shred chicken breast meat and skin. Return the meat to the pot and discard the bones.
6. Add the black beans and corn. Return mixture to a simmer. Add the rest of the cilantro, reserving more to use as a garnish. Cook for an additional 2 to 3 minutes.
7. Ladle into individual bowls. Top with Cilantro Lime Yogurt and garnish with cilantro.
Cilantro Lime Yogurt
6 oz. unsweetened Greek Yogurt
1/2 to 3/4 cup fresh cilantro; minced
1 small garlic clove; minced
A dash of good quality olive oil
Salt and fresh black pepper; to taste
The juice of one lime
1. Whisk all ingredients in one large bowl. Enjoy. (Note: Use this savory yogurt as a salad dressing by adding more olive oil and a dash of white balsamic vinegar.)
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