While our splendid new kitchen is in the building stages, our neighbor Doreen offered us the use of her even more splendid kitchen when we need it. What we have discovered is that it's more enjoyable to cook and eat together. She supplies the pots, pans, dishes and stove, and we supply the makings. She is a wiz at dessert, too, so she often contributes the sweet at the end of the meal. We don't impose on her every day but it's fun when we do.
This time, we made a fresh chicken vegetable soup. We started with a recipe from Sunset magazine which we had both seen and wanted to make. This soup. Doreen and I chopped companionably each of the ingredients, while My Beloved prepared a shrimp appetizer, and our Cora and Doreen's Sandy milled around our feet, hoping for spills. What emerged was a very fresh and springlike soup - I might have called it Zuppa di Primavera, except it had carrots in it.
We did do a few substitutions - snow peas for snap peas as my market didn't have the latter this week. Half-and-half for the heavy cream for a lighter finish, but we all agreed that we'd use the heavy cream next time, as directed. It was wonderfully colorful and fresh, with crisp peas, tender poached chicken, and a hint of licorice from the tarragon. Most soups are simmered for a long time to draw out all the goodies from the ingredients; this one's magic was all about the freshness of the vegetables - the crunch of the peas, the just-yielding firmness of the carrots.The wide noodles provided a little heft and the fresh parsley gave it an extra zing of green. It needed salt and pepper at the table but was otherwise quite delicious.*
Having eaten so healthfully at dinner, we felt we could splurge on Doreen's delicious peach pie with the cobbler top and a big scoop of vanilla ice cream. A great ending to our dinner of stone soup. We like our version of stone soup and are finding that, contrary to tradition, too many cooks actually enhance the broth.
*The recipe made a big pot of soup, so My Beloved and I finished it off a couple of days later. Reheated quickly in the microwave, the broth had had time to get to know the veggies and was even better. When I make this again, I will likely make it one day and eat it the next. The veggies were still al dente but that broth had gained depth and character. I'm also going to try a light sprinkling of Parmesan cheese next time.