In the cold depths of a grey winter, when the snow seems to endlessly fall and the icy chill surrounds mercilessly both day and night, the soul longs for warmth and comfort in the way of hearty and cozy sustenance, and little provides that better than a hot, hearty bowl of home-cooked soup.
When one pulls an empty bowl out of a cupboard, and knows exactly with what hot, rich, tangy, cheesy and savory liquid one is about to fill that bowl with, there is a brilliant moment of immense anticipation of the divine goodness that is to come as steps are taken towards the large pot that sits beckoning on the stove, waiting to be gleefully dipped into.
Lid is lifted, steam unfurls, and ladle is plunged into the depths of a piping-hot and delectable velvety-ness, then lifted out full of good content—hearty, life-sustaining content—and excitedly poured into that empty bowl that eagerly awaits to proudly hold and keep such important treasure.
How it longs to be filled with what is good, and what sustains.
How it desires to do the job of being the best vessel that it can possibly be in that moment, which is to simply be filled with food that is good, and that does good for a soul that needs it.
That is its divine and simple purpose, after all.
And in many ways, I see myself as an empty bowl.
I see myself as a vessel that is ready and willing to be filled with a food that sustains, a food of the spiritual kind, that I can joyfully hold and have at the ready to then, in turn, gladly share.
And so I bring myself and all that I am to the One that has made me in order to be filled to the brim with life, love, kindness, compassion, and gratitude—the food of the spirit—just as a simple bowl goes to be filled with that which feeds and strengthens the physical.
You see, a soup that is prepared with copious amounts of love, and infused with the freshest, most flavorful and healthful ingredients, is a soup that does something mysteriously wonderful for the body: it warms it, comforts it, and sustains it.
And so it is as well when we come to our Creator to be filled with His love, His wisdom, His guidance, and His tender care; our spirit leaps within us, and we begin to see Him in all things, and taste Him in every bite of life.
What more cozy, sweet, delicious, and savory thing could there be but for a bowl to be filled with that which sustains?
What, in life, could there be of greater value?
May we all consciously choose to be filled with that which is of substance, and that which will nourish both in the moment and over time; and may we each learn what it truly means to bring our vessels—the empty bowl—to the One who will always fill us to our very brim with the best and most deliciously divine and sustaining soup.
Taste what's good and pass it on.
Cheesy Grilled Chicken Parmesan Soup with Fusilli Pasta and Fresh Basil
by Ingrid Beer
Yield: Serves about 6
• Olive or canola oil
• 1 onion, diced
• Black pepper
• 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
• 1 teaspoon dry oregano
• 6 large cloves garlic, pressed through garlic press
• 2 tablespoons tomato paste
• 2 (28 ounce) cans San Marzano whole tomatoes
• 2 ½ cups hot chicken stock
• ¾ cup grated parmesan cheese, plus extra for garnish
• 1 tablespoon chopped flat-leaf parsley
• 1 pound chicken tenderloins (or skinless, boneless chicken breasts), uncooked
• 8 ounces dry fusilli pasta (about half of a 1 pound package), cooked according to package instructions
• 8 ounce fresh mozzarella ball (the kind packed in water), crumbled or grated
• ¼ cup julienned fresh basil
-Place a large pot over medium-high heat, and drizzle in about 4-5 tablespoons of the oil; once hot, add in the onion, a couple of pinches of salt and pepper, the Italian seasoning, and oregano, and saute for a few minutes until lightly golden and tender.
-Add in the garlic; once it becomes aromatic, add in the tomato paste and stir that in to incorporate, and allow it to cook for about 30-45 seconds, just to cook out the raw flavor.
-Next, add in the canned tomatoes and the chicken stock, and stir to combine; bring this to a vigorous simmer, then reduce the heat and simmer gently, uncovered, for 20 minutes.
-White the soup simmers, sprinkle the chicken with some salt and pepper; place a grill pan onto medium-high heat, and grill the chicken for a few minutes on each side, until cooked through; allow it to cool until it can be handled, then slice into strips or chunks; set aside.
-Once the soup has simmered, puree it using a hand-held immersion blender (or even a regular blender, but work in batches since it's hot); then, sprinkle in the ¾ cup of parmesan cheese and the chopped parsley, and whisk to blend well; check to see if any additional salt/pepper is needed.
-To serve, add some of the cooked pasta to an oven-safe bowl; ladle over some of the soup, then top with some of the chicken and about ¼ cup worth of the fresh mozzarella, plus a teaspoon or two of parmesan, and broil just for a moment or two to melt the cheese; serve with a little sprinkle of the fresh basil over top.