While rummaging through the 2,675 loose recipes around my house, I found one from 2006 that was whispering my name: a simple soup from the Mean Chef collection, which was perfect for one of last week’s chilly evenings.

(adapted from Mean Chef’s recipe)

3/4 cup orzo pasta
1 T olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 serrano pepper, finely minced
2 chicken skinless chicken breasts, sliced into matchstick pieces
5 cups chicken broth (preferably home-made)
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
3/4 cup of diced tomatoes (I used organic, fire-roasted Muir)
1/4 cup chopped cilantro
salt and pepper to taste

Cook the orzo until al dente (do not overcook).  Drain well and reserve.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and saute the onion and serrano pepper for a few minutes, until the onion is translucent.  Add the garlic and chicken pieces, and saute for a couple of minutes longer.

Add the chicken broth, lime juice, and tomato.   Bring to a boil and simmer gently until the chicken is cooked through.  Mix in the cooked orzo, season with salt and pepper, then add cilantro just before serving.


to print the recipe, click here

Comments: I’d love to say that I always use homemade chicken stock, but it’s not true.  In a pinch I may use packaged stock, because it makes life easier.  But, in two instances I stay with my precious homemade version:  when making soups or risotto.   The flavor of the broth is powerful in these dishes, and your taste buds will appreciate the high road, as illustrated by this soup.

Orzo is my favorite pasta shape, but the same soup also shines with cooked rice. In Brazil we call that version “canja.”   It’s a soup with firm roots in Portugal, and my mom’s basic strategy to fight almost any kind of illness. I guess some things are the same all over the world… 😉

Please don’t skip the lime or the pepper, because without them this simple soup will be bland.  We like the flavor of cilantro, but members of the Cilantro Haters Association may skip it.   I never understood the advice to substitute parsley for cilantro, because apart from color, they have little in common.   But, I suppose a little parsley won’t hurt anything in this soup.



3 / 4 xícara de macarrão orzo
1 colher de sopa de azeite
1 / 2 cebola picada
2 dentes de alho picados
1 pimenta serrano, picada
2 peitos de frango sem pele, cortados em laminas fininhas
5 xícaras de caldo de galinha
1 / 4 xícara de suco de limão fresco
3 / 4 xícara de tomate picado
1 / 4 xícara de coentro picado
sal e pimenta a gosto

Cozinhe o orzo até ficar al dente (não cozinhe demais). Escorra bem e reserve.

Aqueça o azeite em uma panela grande e refogue a cebola e pimenta serrano por alguns minutos, até que a cebola fique translucida.  Adicione o alho e o frango e refogue por alguns minutos.

Adicione o caldo de galinha, suco de limão, e tomate picado.  Deixe que comece a ferver, reduza o fogo e cozinhe suavemente por alguns minutos ate’ que a carne fique completamente cozida.   Adicione o orzo,  tempere com sal e pimenta, adicione o coentro antes de servir.


  1. That looks like some soup! Never thought to make it with lime and coriander, my grandmother’s was of course the version with the matzo balls swimming in half an inch of golden fat on the top. I much prefer the look and sound of yours. The coriander/cilantro hating thing is strange as I definitely taste it as soap sometimes and not others, depending on what the context is


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  4. Traditionally, American chicken soup was prepared using old hens too tough and stringy to be roasted or cooked for a short time. In modern times, these fowl are difficult to come by, and broiler chickens (young chickens suitable for broiling or roasting) are often used to make soup; soup hens or fowl are to be preferred when available…

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