Author: Bevin Wallace
Even when the weather is balmy, I make soup often. Making soup the easiest way I know to use up wilting produce and turn disparate items (some sausage, a chicken breast, leftover cooked grains) into a harmonious, nutritious, and satisfying meal. And now that school is here for real, there is nothing more comforting (and reliable) than a pot of soup on busy weeknights. It’s easy to throw together without too much thinking required, and it will just get better as it simmers on the stove waiting for family members to return from study groups, work, sports practices, and whatever other activities seem to keep everyone so busy these days.
The inspiration for this soup was the two giant pots of basil growing in my backyard. I know they won’t be overflowing with divine-smelling leaves for much longer. Aside from the pesto, there’s a lot going on in this one-pot wonder: It’s got chicken, quinoa, and a rainbow of veggies, including lots of kale. I love kale in soup; it just gets better the longer it soaks in the broth. My family loved this soup, and I finished off the rest of it for lunch a few days later and it was still delicious.
Heat oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add onions and sauté for 3 mins. until slightly soft. Add garlic, celery, and carrots and cook for 5 more minutes, stirring frequently. Add broth and water and bring to a boil. Add chicken thighs and reduce heat to simmer, cover, and cook for 30 mins. After 30 mins. add quinoa and cook for 15-20 mins. more. Remove chicken with tongs and set on a cutting board to cool. In the meantime add the kale, zucchini, and pesto to the pot. Cut the chicken into bite-size pieces and put back in the soup. Simmer for a few more minutes until the veggies are to your liking. Taste and season with salt & pepper.
Rinse and dry basil leaves using paper towels or a salad spinner. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the basil leaves, salt, garlic, pine nuts, and ¼ cup of the olive oil. Process the mixture, drizzling a little more oil in as the machine is running. If you’re going to eat it fresh, add grated Parmesan, only stir it in by hand instead of adding to the food processor. If you’ll be storing the pesto, don’t add the cheese until you’re ready to eat it.