In Washington, alphabet soup is what happens when you start talking about a bunch of agencies without bothering to explain the acronyms. As in: "The DEA and the FDA can't decide whether carpal tunnel should be treated with medical marijuana. Better take the case to OSHA." But this week, in increasingly chilly Boston, alphabet soup had to be taken literally--a warming bowl of chicken soup with semolina pasta letters floating in it.
Alphabet Chicken Soup with Zucchini and Thyme
Get a pot of water boiling, to cook the pasta. Normally, I'd just throw the pasta in the soup to cook, but alphabet pasta takes on a lot of liquid, so better to use water first.
Meanwhile, in a large soup pot, warm to a simmer:
6 cups chicken stock (I made my own, and must admit I'm becoming a convert to homemade stock--something I swore I'd never be. But normal canned chicken stock would be totally fine, too. If you use boullion, add some oil to the pan for a bit of fat.)
Add to the pot:
1/2 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 cup cooked chicken, shredded (I used the leftovers from a roasted chicken, but a large chicken breast, poached and shredded for the occasion would work just as well)
When the water boils, add:
1 pound alphabet pasta
Once the pasta has gone into the water, add to the stock:
3 medium zucchini, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
You don't want to overcook the zucchini. They should retain some bite, and their own burst of juiciness in the final product, so cook carefully and test often. I cut the pieces too big in my version (see above), you should learn from my mistakes and stick with small bites and a very short cooking time.
When the pasta is soft and swollen to full size, drain and then add to the soup pot.
Grind lots of black pepper on top and salt to taste.