Moroccan chicken soup

Moroccan chicken soup from Cayenne Cafe comes together in less than 1 hour. (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times / May 31, 2012)

Soup. It's the perfect one-dish meal. A little of this, a little of that -- before you know it, dinner is served. It's simple. But perhaps the best thing? Soup always seems to taste best the next day, after the flavors have really had a chance to marry. Make a big enough batch and you have more than one meal covered. Honestly, could it get any more perfect?

Start with the Moroccan chicken soup from Cayenne Cafe (pictured). This isn't your ordinary chicken soup, each bite flavored with bits of carrot and celery, garbanzo beans and cracked wheat. It's rich, yet delicately spiced with notes of cinnamon and curry. Best of all? The whole thing comes together in about 45 minutes. 

Craving mushrooms? Have we got a creamy mushroom and roasted onion soup for you. No less than a pound of cremini mushrooms are simmered with garlic, shallots, onion and buttery Chardonnay for an aromatic base in this soup from The Cave at the Ventura Wine Co. Puree the mushrooms with heavy cream for a smooth, velvety finish, then stir in finely chopped roasted onion at the end. A thin slice of Parmigiano-Reggiano  completes each serving. 

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The soup itself comes together in about 40 minutes, though it will take a little advance planning to prepare the roasted onion (roast for about 1 hour at 400 degrees, then cool before chopping -- you could do this a day or two in advance and refrigerate until needed).

Thinking vegetarian? Look no further than Coral Tree Cafe's hearty vegetable soup. Fresh vegetables simmered with barley in a hearty broth, it makes for a perfect one-dish meal. What's more, you might not even notice it's vegetarian. (Of course, you can add some meat or doctor the ingredients to suit your taste.)

Craving chicken? Try Nordstrom's chopped chicken salad. Both tart fresh apple slices and dried apple chips flavor this salad, tossed with sliced onion, lightly spiced candied almonds, julienned strips of chicken and creamy goat cheese. The salad is tossed with a bright Champagne vinaigrette. The whole recipe, including the candied almonds, comes together in about an hour, perfect as a side or a light meal.

For more easy dinner recipes, click through our photo gallery and check out our Dinner Tonight page, devoted to recipes that can be made in an hour or less. Looking for a particular type of recipe? Comment below, or email me at


Total time: 45 minutes

Servings: 6

Note: Adapted from a recipe by executive chef Noura Elnasser of Cayenne. Cracked wheat can be found at select cooking and health food stores, as well as online.

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 red onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 carrots, diced

1 stalk celery, diced

1 cooked boneless and skinless chicken breast, diced (about 2 cups)

1 cup cooked garbanzo beans

1/3 cup diced tomato