Satisfying Summer Soup

by Marina Chotzinoff

I had a ripe plantain. I had black beans. It seemed obvious to pair them in fried and soupy matrimony. But then I browsed the garden and came in with a zucchini and arm load of kale. Once the notion of soup fluttered through my brain, there was no more brainstorming. I envisioned caldo de bolas, a complex, brothy soup with plantain dumplings stuffed with richly seasoned beef. But it is too summery for something that brown and beefy so I decided to lighten it up with chicken and lime and green vegetables. And this is my not-very-good photo of how that turned out.

Serves 6 (with extra chicken)
1 whole chicken
2 leeks (I usually use the light green to darker green parts I have previously frozen, but two small leeks chopped work too)
2 carrots, cut into chunks
2 celery stalks, cut into chunks (I am allergic so I use fennel stalks which are also good)
1 gallon water
2 sprigs each parsley and cilantro plus more for garnish
2 medium onions, 1 quartered, 1 finely diced
1 green pepper, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 can tomatoes (I use fire roasted)
1 tablespoon peanut butter
1/2 ounce raisins, chopped
1/4 teaspoon each cumin and coriander
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon
2 ripe plantains, peeled
1/2 cup flour
1 egg
1 zucchini, chopped
1 bunch kale, stemmed, thinly sliced
lime, cilantro and jalapeno for garnish

Place chicken, leeks, carrots, quartered onion, celery (or fennel), cilantro, parsley and water into a large pot. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook for an hour skimming any foam that surfaces. Remove chicken to a bowl and maintain simmer while preparing the filling. Place the plantains into the broth and simmer about 15-30 minutes until tender.

Once chicken is cool enough to handle, remove all meat to a bowl and return bones, skin and wings to soup and simmer another hour. Then strain and skim soup and set aside. Chop the meat of one breast and one leg. Reserve remaining chicken for another use.

Saute green pepper and diced onion in 2 T oil until starting to brown. Add garlic and cook another minute. Remove half of mixture to a bowl and set aside. Add 1/2 cup chopped tomatoes (and juice) to pan and strain remaining tomatoes over a bowl. Stir chopped chicken, raisins, peanut butter, cumin, coriander, cinnamon and 1/2 cup broth from soup into pan. Stir until thickened. Cool.

Mash plantains until fairly smooth and stir in egg and enough flour to hold together. Take a piece of dough a little smaller than a golf ball, flatten a bit and stuff 1 T of filling into the center. Push the filling down gently while you fold up the edges of dough to encase the filling in a ball. Complete with all dough. You will have some filling left over.

Heat soup pot again ove medium high heat and add reserved pepper and onion, zucchini and kale. Stir until just starting to brown. Add chicken broth, strained tomatoes and season to taste with salt. Heat to simmer then very gently lower dumplings into soup. Cover and simmer about 10 minutes until dumplings float. Ladle into bowls and garnish with lime wedges, cilantro, and jalapeno slices (the added heat is nice).

The tomatoes add just enough umami to deepen the broth without making it heavy and the slightly sweet dumplings give way to a surprising array of flavors. In all honesty it is a bit of a pain in the butt to make, but I always think it is worth it when I sit down to eat. And you could very easily use already made (or purchased) broth and meat and cut the time in half.

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