Plainclothes Feast

A weekly peek at one dinner table, in the heart of one home, in the center of the country

Quick Summer Soup

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Whoever invented Daylight Saving Time was delusional.  Somehow, at my house, summer days are almost shorter than winter ones. Maybe it’s because we lack a solid schedule to hold us in our rightful slots.  With my husband and all three kids at home, every hour of the day swirls and bubbles past.  I sometimes think we need to install seatbelts on the sofas, so that we can get the kids to hold still just for one hot minute and watch some cotton-pickin’ television for crying out loud!  Then time could pleasantly slow and stretch and yawn and maybe we could all consider, during commercials or while the closing credits roll, in a rational way, whether there’s something we would like to do besides frantically scurry around, going in and out the back door, tracking in sand and cut grass, smearing peanut butter on the glass doors, and complaining that someone else “isn’t being nice!”

I’ve painted a picture that is far less pretty than the truth, I think.  For the most part, the maniacs play together in highly creative and minimally violent ways–indoors and outdoors in various states of innocent undress.  From time to time, I intervene to force someone to apologize for offenses he or she may or may not have committed.  But mostly, I just listen and watch them rush past, reminding them to wash their hands like they mean it or to put on their sunhats if they are going outside.

On good days and bad, though, time is short, and dinnertime sneaks up on me.  Even when I have a good plan (which I didn’t last week), I often look at the clock and realize that it’s too late for x, y, or z dish, unless we want to push back bedtime…and I can assure you that we do not want to push back bedtime.

In the interest of putting all of our sun-soaked children into their beds well before the summer sun sets, I share with you this quick soup that you can put together in a matter of 20 minutes, using the fruits of your early garden, the cans in your pantry, and/or your leftovers from the farmers’ market.

Summer Garden Soup


1 tablespoon of olive oil

1 onion, chopped

3 garlic cloves, pressed

1 tablespoon chili powder

1 teaspoon cumin

a good pinch of salt

4 cups of chicken or vegetable broth

2 cups of water

1 bunch of swiss chard greens (or spinach)

1 cup of sweet corn kernels (cut fresh from the cob or use good-quality canned corn)

1 summer crookneck squash or zucchini, cut into chunks

1 cup of small pasta (dried ravioletti add an extra burst of umami yumminess, but penne or corkscrews will do fine)

1.  Heat your olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat.

2. Saute your onions and garlic until soft and golden.  Then add your spices and salt and stir well to coat.  Allow the spices to become fragrant and toasty.


3. Add the broth and water and bring to a boil.

4. Add the pasta.  Simmer uncovered until about 5 minutes remain in the pasta’s cooking time.


5. Then stir in the vegetables and cook until they and the pasta are al dente.  Taste it.  It’s going to need salt, so salt it.


6. Serve topped with freshly grated Parmesan.


Now, feed those children and put them to bed!




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