Smoky Chicken, Tomato, Brown Rice, and Corn Soup

I keep wearing my sandals. I can’t quite don socks and shoes as an acceptance that summer is over. I see others walking about town in toe-encasing footwear—some even sporting boots (maybe they just have new ones and are anxious to wear them). But, while I hang onto some remains of summer, trying not to notice leaves are beginning to change colors around me, I am very willing to embrace one harbinger of cooler weather—soup. I love soup. It’s one of my favorite foods. A steaming bowl with some crackers and cheese on the side or a nice piece of crusty bread can’t be beat. A side salad is always good, too.

And since leading nutritionists insist a key to health is to eat more vegetables, it’s also an easy way to include some in your diet. Most of us have such hectic workdays and limited time for cooking, but soup is simple, and with minimal prep time, you can get a delicious meal.

While soup may be easy, you’ll get better results if you build the flavors rather than just dumping everything into the pot at once and turning on the burner. Marie Simmons, author of many cookbooks, including Fresh & Fast Vegetarian: Recipes that Make a Meal, suggests that such things as onions, leeks, carrots, and celery are good sautéed in oil or simmered in broth. Add any dried herbs or spices before the broth is added. The hot oil will bring out the complexity of the spice. Then add the broth or water. Pasta, grains, or beans add additional fiber, vitamins, and protein. In her following recipe, which appeared in Real Food, you can use cooked chicken leftovers or store-bought rotisserie chicken for a quick, easy, and substantial soup. Whether you’re wearing sandals or boots as you cozy up with a bowl and welcome autumn is entirely up to you.

Smoky Chicken, Tomato, Brown Rice, and Corn Soup

Serves 4–6

2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
1 c. chopped onion
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
2 tsp. smoked paprika
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 can (28 ounces) peeled plum tomatoes, with juices
1½ c. cubed leftover cooked chicken
3 to 4 c. reduced sodium chicken broth
½ to 1 c. leftover cooked brown rice, bulgur, quinoa, or other grain
1 c. fresh, frozen, or canned corn kernels
½ c. chopped cilantro leaves and tender stems, divided
¼ c. pitted kalamata olives, coarsely chopped
1 Tbsp. minced jalapeño, or to taste
2 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
½ c. plain low-fat yogurt

Heat the oil in a large, broad soup pot over medium heat. When hot, add the onion and cook, stirring, until golden, about 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook 1 minute. Turn off the heat and stir in the paprika and cumin.

Purée the tomatoes in a food processor. Add the chicken and pulse once or twice or until chopped into small pieces. Add to the pot with the sautéed onion and spices. Add 3 cups of the broth and heat to simmering. Stir in the rice, corn, half of the cilantro leaves, olives, and jalapeño. Heat, stirring, over low heat. Add the remaining cup of broth to thin the soup, if desired.

When the soup is hot, remove from heat and add lime juice. Ladle the soup into bowls and place a spoonful of yogurt in the center of each bowl. Sprinkle the remaining cilantro over the top, dividing evenly.

Nutrition info (per serving) Smoky Chicken, Tomato, Brown Rice, and Corn Soup: CALORIES 209 (77 from fat); FAT 9g (sat. 2g); CHOL 31mg; SODIUM 669mg; CARB 20g; FIBER 4g; PROTEIN 15g

Mary Subialka is the editor of Real Food and Drinks magazines, covering the flavorful world of food, wine, and spirits. She rarely meets a chicken she doesn’t like, and hopes that her son, who used to eat beets and Indian food as a preschooler, will one day again think of real food as more than something you need to eat before dessert and be inspired by his younger brother, who is now into trying new foods.