Thursday, January 8, 2015

Alphabet Soup with Tomatoes and Baby Chard

Classic kid food with a sophisticated twist. Or maybe I should say classic grown up food with a child-like twist. Because, you know, I've mentioned that my kids are picky. So if I just served brothy soup with carrots, onions, zucchini, tomatoes, and baby greens, I'd pretty much be eating that 1/2 gallon of soup by myself. But, miraculously, adding tiny pastas in the shape of letters had a somewhat magical effect. Everyone ate it (although Emma had to be coaxed a bit). Everyone didn't quite eat every bite (several children pulled out carrots or greens or whatever offending food they could see), but they still ate their bowl of soup and without complaint, commenting all the while how this was just like Martha (as in the dog in "Martha Speaks"). And, in fact, we ended up having a dinner-table conversation about literary terms such as simile, metaphor, alliteration, and onomatopoeia (which, ironically, is the furthest thing from the "vocal imitation of the sound associated with it" that I can think of), but anyway, it appears that Martha was on to something in eating all that alphabet soup.

It was a lovely dinner. Now, if you haven't eaten alphabet soup except out of a can (like, cough, me until recently), then you're in for a very nice surprise. It's not just blah salty soup with hundred year old alphabet noodles. It's a delicious veggie soup with extra fun thrown in. The broth is chickeny, yet also tomato/Italian-y, and a tiny bit sweet. It's light, but still worthy to be called a meal. And the noodles are cooked in and thus flavored by that broth, so they're great too. We ate it vegetarian, but some chicken or sausage would have rocked too. Also, if you've got fresh basil, that would be amazing.

Alphabet Soup with Tomatoes and Baby Chard
adapted from Give Me Some Oven
makes 6-10 servings
Prep and cook time: 30 minutes
Cost: $3.75
onion: .15, carrots: .40, zucchini: .30, chicken broth: .50 (more if you buy the canned, but I use homemade or the bullion cubes), tomatoes: 1.00, pasta: 1.50, greens: .40

Note: I found my letter pasta at (weirdly) the Asian food store and bought it on a whim. Then it sat in my pantry for months until this idea for a recipe came along. I assume (hope) it'd be with the pasta in a normal store. If you can't find it, orzo will work too.

Another note: This seems way too brothy at first, but as the pasta cooks it thickens. In fact, it thickens quite a bit--sometimes too much. Today for leftovers, it was very thick. I threw in a few glugs of tomato juice (or V8) to loosen it up and that was yummy. (This was added to the pictures above making the broth a little more red than yours will come out if you don't use V8.) So if you find you need it, use some tomato juice or a bit more broth.

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 C diced carrots (I chopped mine quite small so my children would sometimes accidentally eat them instead of picking them all out)
1/2 C grated zucchini (celery would also work)
3 cloves garlic
6 C veggie or chicken broth (I used chicken)
1 can (14-oz) diced tomatoes (I used fire roasted and I think Italian would kick butt, but any will do)
1 1/2 C alphabet pasta (orzo will also work, but you know, then your dogs won't start talking when they eat the leftovers)
few pinches oregano
few pinches rosemary
fresh basil (optional)
salt and pepper to taste (I didn't need any, but it depends on your broth)
3-4 C (loosely packed) baby chard (or spinach or baby beet greens)

Heat olive oil in a large pot. Add chopped onion and cook for about five minutes. Add carrots and zucchini and cook for another 3 minutes. Add garlic and cook for another minute.

Then add broth and diced tomatoes. Cook for a minute or so. Add alphabet pasta and seasonings.

Cook (simmer) for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally until your alphabet pasta is nearly done. Then, 2 minutes before serving, add the chard and cook until wilted.



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