Food & Drink

How to win in January: Bold soups that fight off the cold

This lemon chicken soup with quinoa and kale takes inspiration from the Greek lemon and egg-based dish avgolemono.
This lemon chicken soup with quinoa and kale takes inspiration from the Greek lemon and egg-based dish avgolemono. Tribune News Service

No matter where you live, January requires comfort. Many of us suffer from PHL (post-holiday letdown), some of us feel beat by broken New Year’s resolutions, and others struggle with cold feet. Literally.

Soup to the rescue, I say. Simmering cauldrons of goodness pay off in spades – from their homey aromas to some substantial nourishment. I like to spend wintry Sunday afternoons making large batches of various soups, then packaging them in to-go containers for family members. Honestly, I don’t know who benefits more, the cook or the recipients. Plus, cooking gets me out of snow-shoveling duties.

Soup recipes need not be complicated to satisfy. My simplest soups combine packaged broth and pre-cut or frozen vegetables cooked to tenderness and pureed with a spice blend such as curry powder or chopped fresh herbs. Speedy, broth-y versions can be as uncomplicated as a gentle heating of cooked meat or chicken and vegetables in seasoned stock. For texture and variety, stir in canned beans or cooked pasta. This type of soup takes a stunning turn when served topped with a fried egg and a splash of hot sauce.

This soup captures my heart for sentimental reasons, as well as its bold flavor. The amped-up version of the classic Greek avgolemono soup recalls our gathering of friends at a favorite Greek restaurant. The addition of chicken, quinoa and kale transforms the traditional egg-lemon broth into a full meal.

LEMON CHICKEN SOUP WITH QUINOA AND KALE

Preparation time 20 minutes, cooking time 30 minutes. For a speedy version, substitute 2 to 3 cups cubed or shredded fully cooked chicken for the raw chicken in step 1.

6 cups chicken broth

1 1/2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breast halves or chicken tenders

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 ribs celery, diced (generous 1 cup)

2 orange or yellow carrots, ends trimmed, peeled, diced (1 cup)

1 large onion, chopped (about 2 cups)

1/2 cup white quinoa, rinsed

3 large eggs

1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, about 3 lemons

1/4 teaspoon white pepper

2 cups baby kale or baby spinach leaves

Salt to taste

1. Heat chicken broth to a simmer in a large shallow saucepan over medium heat. Add chicken. Simmer, covered, over low heat, turning once, until chicken is almost opaque throughout, about 5 minutes. Let stand off the heat in the broth, 5 minutes. Transfer chicken to a plate to cool; reserve broth. When chicken has cooled, cut into bite-size pieces.

2. Heat oil in a large (3-quart) saucepan over medium heat. Add celery, carrot and onion; cook until translucent, about 10 minutes. Stir in the reserved broth and the quinoa. Heat to a boil; reduce heat to low. Simmer, uncovered, stirring often, until quinoa is cooked through, about 20 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, whisk eggs with lemon juice and pepper in a medium bowl.

4. Stir diced chicken and kale into the soup. While whisking, ladle about 2 cups of hot broth into the egg mixture to warm it. Then, pour the egg mixture back into the soup pot and whisk to blend and heat through, about 2 minutes. Season to taste with salt, usually about 1 teaspoon (depending on saltiness of broth). Serve hot.

Nutrition information per serving: 308 calories, 11 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 156 mg cholesterol, 21 g carbohydrates, 4 g sugar, 31 g protein, 393 mg sodium, 3 g fiber

Makes 6 servings.

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