- The Washington Times - Tuesday, October 10, 2006

On a chilly Sunday afternoon, treat yourself and the people around you to a bowl of light, savory soup as a comforting snack.

If you have children hanging out at your home, they might enjoy helping you prepare it, so it can be a delightful project on its way to becoming something wonderful and nutritious to eat.

One of the best ways to make soup-snacks, if you didn’t have the foresight to make an entire batch yesterday (or to make and freeze one last week), is to assemble a selection of simple ingredients, which can be individually customized, in a single serving bowl, and then to ladle in some hot broth. It’s very direct, and very satisfying in all ways.

One of the things that makes this kind of endeavor more accessible than ever these days is the ubiquitous presence of truly delicious broths available unrefrigerated in quart boxes in just about any supermarket.

Flavorful, and often even organic, these broths (vegetable, chicken, and other varieties) take the mystery out of home-made soup and enable you to put some together in minutes flat.

A really nice touch is to add a spoonful of basil pesto to each bowlful of soup, reminiscent of a traditional soupe au pistou.

If you remembered to make extra when basil was at its seasonal peak, go ahead and use it for this.

You could also use a good commercial variety of pesto, most of which are quite acceptable. Even more fun can be had by setting up a little pesto-making factory in your kitchen, with a bunch or two of late-season basil and a blender.

Children really enjoy “helping” with this, and it is a good way to steer them away from sugary, nutritionally empty snacks and toward a greener sense of culinary appreciation.

Here are some tips for making this recipe with children.

Make sure the macaroni, chickpeas and pesto are at room temperature before beginning the project, so they won’t cool down the broth too much.

Children love removing basil leaves from the stems but might need to be reminded to save the former and discard the latter.

An effective and satisfying way to remove garlic skin is to put the clove on a cutting board and let your child smash it with a can of soup.

It works best if your child holds the empty measuring cup over the food processor and you pour the oil into the cup. When the cup is full, your child can dump the oil into the processor.

Children can push the buttons on the processor. (It’s easiest for them to use their thumbs.)

They can also scrape out the pesto with a rubber spatula once the blade has been removed. It must be made very clear that they should never touch the blade.

Only an adult should handle or serve the hot broth.

For safety’s sake, warm the soup, rather than heating it to a very high temperature. It does not need to be cooked.

Pesto-macaroni soup

1 quart good-quality vegetable broth

3 packed cups basil leaves

1 medium clove garlic

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

Salt to taste (a few shakes)

Black pepper to taste (a few grinds)

2 cups cooked macaroni

1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

Place the broth in a saucepan over medium heat.

Meanwhile, remove the basil leaves from the stems, discarding the stems, and placing the leaves into the food processor to make the pesto. (This step is important, and many small children will tend to do just the opposite namely, toss away the leaves and save the stems. I have no idea why.)

Smash and peel the garlic. Add it to the basil, and blend until uniform. Add the cheese, oil, salt and pepper, and blend again until it forms a thick paste. Transfer to a bowl.

Place macaroni and chick peas in individual serving bowls, then ladle warm broth over the top.

Add a spoonful of pesto to each serving, and then stir it in.

Eat and enjoy.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.


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