Squashing the Dinner Blahs

It’s sometimes tough to put a meal on the table that everyone in the family enjoys equally. If it’s interesting enough for the adults, it’s too complex for one or all of the kids. One simple solution is to make a soup that’s flexible enough to dress up or down according to your needs.

At this time of year, there are great vegetables at the farmers markets that you can incorporate into a soup. Summer squash (zucchini, yellow, patty pan), corn, carrots and beans are bursting with seasonal flavor, so now is the time to take advantage. Chop everything up and simmer in seasoned broth until tender. You easily can add pasta, couscous, barley, quinoa, barley, beans or farro to the soup to add some heft and extra nutrition. If you eat meat, adding some chicken, turkey or pork sausage gives the soup some additional richness.

1 small yellow onion, finely diced

1 tablespoon olive oil

½ pound bulk Italian sausage (optional)

2 quarts chicken or vegetable stock (store-bought is fine)

1 medium zucchini, diced

3 medium carrots, peeled and diced

1 cup corn kernels (can be cut fresh from the cob or use frozen)

¼ pound of fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch segments

¼ cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley

1 teaspoon ground cumin

Salt and pepper to taste

1 cup dried Israeli couscous (or pasta or your choice of grain)

In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the diced onions and stir to sauté until the onions soften and start to turn translucent. Add the sausage, if using, in small bite-sized meatballs. Brown the sausage. Add the stock, all the vegetables, parsley, cumin, and salt and pepper to taste. Stir to combine. Let the mixture come to a boil. Turn down to a simmer. Add the Israeli couscous and stir to make sure they don’t stick to the bottom. Let soup simmer until the vegetables are soft and the couscous has cooked through. Make sure to stir on occasion. Taste for seasoning and adjust as needed. Serve with crusty bread.

Note: If your kids don’t like to see their vegetables, you can make the soup with just the vegetables and broth. You can add one medium potato diced. The potato will help thicken the soup when you puree it. Separately, you can add cooked pasta to it

– Hsiao-Ching Chou