- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Shopping a farmers market in late summer and early fall is a heady experience. This window, halfway between the fresh warm-weather perishables and the robust crops of the cooler period to come, offers a mouthwatering range of possibilities.

Despite the endless choices, I usually opt for soup. This is the dish that accommodates everything I crave from the market, ranging from tomatoes to sweet potatoes. When using fresh vegetables, I can make as little or as much as I like. Add one ear of corn or several, depending on what I purchased.

What’s more, when nutrition experts suggest eating more vegetables, I can take satisfaction in veggie-rich soups.

Although the recipes I’m sharing have different vegetable combinations, they have the same basic steps. Start by cooking aromatic vegetables, such as onions or shallots in oil. Add vegetables, any poultry or meat, broth and any starch, including cooked rice or pasta.

The smaller you chop the vegetables, the faster the cooking time. Season the soup, then allow about 10 minutes for the flavors to blend. You can also add minced fresh herbs at the last minute for an aromatic garnish.

If you want the vegetables to star as the main attraction, simply omit the chicken in the following dishes. Substitute vegetable broth for chicken broth.

Corn, chicken and sweet potato soup

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 large shallot, minced

1 small jalapeno chile, minced

Kernels from 1 ear of corn

1 cup small dice sweet potato (about half a small sweet potato)

2 medium tomatoes, peeled, cored and diced

1½ cups chicken broth

1 cup cooked, chopped chicken

1/4 teaspoon ground cumin

½ teaspoon salt or to taste

1/8 teaspoon pepper

2 teaspoons finely chopped cilantro

Heat oil in large pot. Add shallot, chile and corn. Cook over medium heat for 3 minutes or until shallot is tender. Stir in sweet potato, tomatoes, broth, chicken, cumin, salt and pepper.

Partially cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until the sweet potato and corn are tender. Sprinkle on cilantro. Makes 2 servings.

Chicken, corn and rice soup

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/4 cup chopped red onion

1 celery rib, trimmed and finely chopped

Kernels from 1 ear of corn

2 medium tomatoes, peeled, cored and diced

1 cup cooked chopped chicken

1½ cups chicken broth

½ cup cooked rice

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

1 tablespoon minced fresh basil

Heat oil in large pot. Add onion, celery and corn. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes or until onion is tender.

Stir in tomatoes, chicken, chicken broth, rice, salt and pepper. Stir in basil.

Partially cover and simmer for 10 minutes or until corn is tender and flavors are blended. Makes 2 servings.

Bev Bennett is the author of “30-Minute Meals for Dummies” (John Wiley & Sons).


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