I think grey rainy days were divinely designed for homemade soup. The kind where you throw everything in the pot and let its warmth draw everyone to the kitchen. The problem is grey days in June are not quite the same as grey days in November. At this point we aren't preparing to hibernate. Spring soups need to be lighter and fresher than their cozy autumn cousins. This soup is the gastronomical equivalent to driving around with the windows down while the heater blasts warm air on your feet. In other words perfect for a "soft" Spring day.
Merguez sausage was a new ingredient for me. I picked it after reading the spices blended with the chicken. Spices like turmeric and cumin that add bright warmth and a little smoke without the heat of chilis and peppers. The flavors are traditional in North Africa and the Middle East, cuisines I am less familiar with. To highlight the sausage and make the broth really sing I added more of the Merguez spices and let them work their magic.
Going for a fresh garden feel I used nearly a wheelbarrow full of fresh vegetables and cut them into bite sized pieces. In larger pieces the veggies softened a bit without becoming mushy and lifeless. The large white beans also stayed tender and provided a great hearty element to make the soup feel substantial enough for a cool day. In fact this could be an excellent soup with the addition of some chickpeas and a vegetable stock in place of the chicken.
Once all the components were combined in the pot I let it simmer on low for most of the afternoon. Its bright warmth wafted through the house while The Little Helping napped away the grey afternoon. By the time we sat down for dinner we were already feeling the mood boosting effects of a simple meal that just "hits the spot." We paired the steaming soup with cold beer while the late day sun worked to break through the cloud cover.
Two bowls and a piece of seed encrusted toast later the Spring soup had succeeded in driving away the moist gloom inside, if not out.
Chicken Merguez Garden Soup
This dynamic Spring soup artfully balances hearty cold weather components with flavors reminiscent of distant sunny destinations.
- 1 ½ cups of white beans soaked overnight or 4 cups of canned
- non-stick spray or olive oil
- 1 large onion coarsely chopped
- 1 - 2 tablespoons of chopped garlic
- 2 cups of carrots peeled and chopped into approximately 1 in. x ½ in. "bite-size" pieces (about 4 large carrots)
- 6 cups of low sodium chicken broth or 4 cups of concentrated stock with 2 cups of water
- 6 cups total - bite-size pieces of zucchini and yellow squash
- 5 unpacked cups of kale chopped or torn into 1 x 2 in. pieces
- 3 links or ⅔ of a pound of Merguez Chicken Sausage* cooked and cut into bite-size pieces
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric
- ¼ teaspoon caraway seeds
- ¼ teaspoon cumin
- juice of ½ a large fresh lemon - at least ¼ cup
- salt as needed
- The night before making the soup, soak 1 ½ cups of beans in 8 cups of water.
- Wash and chop all the vegetables and drain the beans before beginning the soup.
- In a large soup pot spritz a couple sprays of non-stick spray or drizzle a few teaspoons of olive oil and add the onions and garlic.
- Sauté the onions and garlic over medium hight heat until the onions begin to soften and become translucent. About 5 minutes
- Add the carrots and cook covered in the pot for about 5 minutes until the carrots are just beginning to soften.
- Add the broth and the soaked or canned beans. Cover pot and allow soup to simmer for about 30 minutes.
- While the soup simmers cook the sausage in a sauté pan over medium heat just until the juices run clear. Remove the sausage from the heat and let rest for 5 or more minutes and cool enough to handle. Once sausage has cooled cut each link into bite-size half circle pieces. Add the sausage pieces to the soup pot with any juices that may have accumulated on the cutting board.
- Add turmeric, caraway, and cumin with the sausage pieces.
- Cover pot and let simmer an additional 30 minutes. Reduce heat if needed to keep the soup from boiling and broth from evaporating.
- 30 minutes prior to serving add the zucchini, yellow squash, and kale. Pour in freshly squeezed lemon juice. Taste soup and add salt and additional spices if needed to punch up the flavor.
- Serve the soup immediately or cool over an ice bath and store in the refrigerator for 2-3 days. As with many soups the flavor deepens when stored a day or two. Soup may also be frozen for 3-4 months.
*If your grocery store butcher case doesn't carry a Chicken Merguez Sausage try using a smoked turkey sausage and increasing the spices a teeny bit at a time.