Quinoa and kale seem to be on everyone’s radar these days–not only for their intensely earthy flavors and hearty textures, but also for their potent nutritional value.
My mother makes a quick and easy chicken soup, using bouillon as her base, adding chicken breast (I used boneless, skinless) for flavor and protein, as well as the usual aromatics–celery, carrots, onion, leek, and whatever pasta or grain she has in the cupboard.
This evening, I was cooking for some guests who were scheduled to arrive late in the evening–long past dinnertime. I knew that despite the hour, since they’d been traveling, they’d be hungry–even if it was midnight.
It brought to mind the time I first went to Italy with my mother (as an adult). After flying overnight to Rome, then driving four or five hours to my uncle’s home in Calabria in the heat of summer, we were treated by my aunt to a meal of chicken soup when we arrived–more specifically, pasta in brodo (followed by the boiled chicken from the soup with salad). I thought it peculiar to be served hot soup on a hot summers’ evening.
My mother explained that Italians traditionally serve a light broth to guests who have traveled a long way to visit–sometimes the broth was made with pigeon (more delicate that chicken), but more often than not, it was made simply with chicken. It was thought that after traveling, one needed something light, yet comforting and filling.
Therefore, I followed the Italian tradition of making soup for my travelers, only tonight, I knew my guests were young athletes with big appetites. I wanted this to be a one-pot meal, so I added kale and quinoa to the same pot, and allowed them to simmer with the broth.
After a half-hour, the soup was done, and allowed to rest on the stove until my guests arrived. This was so delicious (and so plentiful), it ended up feeding us for lunch the following day.
Quick and Easy Chicken Soup with Kale and Quinoa
Serves 4, with leftovers
3 chicken breast halves (either on or off the bone)
1 carrot, peeled and diced
2 leeks, cleaned, split and sliced into 1/4″ half moons
1 potato, peeled (at the last moment) and diced into 3/4″ cubes
1/2 onion, coarsely diced
2 ribs celery, with leaves, sliced thinly crosswise
2 ripe tomatoes
1 bunch kale, stripped from stems (stems discarded), and sliced crosswise into 1/2″ ribbons
2 c quinoa
5 qts chicken broth (may be made with bouillon)
salt and pepper to taste
Place chicken in cold broth (or water).
Add all ingredients except tomatoes, kale and quinoa.
Bring to a boil and dip tomatoes in boiling broth for 10 – 20 seconds. Remove, peel, coarsely dice, and add to simmering soup. At this time, add bouillon or chicken base (if using) and stir thoroughly.
Reduce heat to a lively simmer. Add kale and simmer for 10 – 15 minutes.
Add quinoa and simmer for an additional 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Remove chicken and dice meat into 1/2″ cubes, then return to the soup.
Allow the soup to rest for up to 2 hours (the quinoa plumps and absorbs some of the broth). Great reheated the following day.