Garlicky Green Soup
Happy new year!
Hope everyone had a nice new year’s eve and a wonderful 2014. And whether or not those things are true for you, I hope you all have a wonderful 2015!
I know I’m the only one keeping count, but I wanted to share with you that this is my 200th blog post! It’s taken me 3½ years to write 200 posts containing over 200 recipes.
I don’t always feel struck with original-recipe inspiration, and I don’t always feel like sitting down at my computer to write another blog post as the next Thursday approaches, but I think my regular posting schedule (originally twice a week, then once a week, then every other week…) has helped me keep it going. And when I look back through my blog to see all of my favorite recipes collected in one place (and accompanied by your comments!) then that makes it all worthwhile.
Now before you run away to elsewhere on the internet because you’re afraid I’ve launched into some militant January health-kick, let me assure you that I’ve been making and eating this garlicky green soup all through December, right along with all of the cookies and pies that Decembers usually bring. And I plan to keep making and eating this garlicky green soup all winter, right along with cookies and pies (and I kind of want to start experimenting with mini baked donuts…).
This soup is vegan and chock-full of dark leafy greens, but it’s also rich and inviting, thanks to generous amounts of olive oil, and a flavorful base of cooked onions, garlic, and leeks.
All of the leafy greens — and a tiny amount of Arborio rice — get cooked down in a little vegetable broth before being blended up to a velvety smooth puree. The (essential! …despite the fact that I forgot to photograph it) finishing touch is a squeeze of fresh lemon juice just before serving.
As I repeat over and over again to Paula, while eating it, I love this soup! And I have to say that the ease with which it lets me eat my greens and feel somewhat virtuous is an added bonus. I am not really much of a green smoothie — let alone a green juice — person, especially during the wintertime when I want warm, comforting meals, sipped with a spoon, not chilly ones slurped through a straw. And even in warmer seasons, I think it’s generally true of my tastebuds that I’d simply prefer to eat my greens with the savory combination of olive oil, garlic, and salt, rather than alongside anything sweet like apple juice.
I barely adapted this recipe from the original — Anna Thomas’s recipe for Basic Green Soup, found on the Splendid Table website. I swapped kale for chard, added cilantro, scallions, and (optional) leeks, and most importantly quite a bit of garlic to amp up the flavor.
I got the idea to add cilantro and scallions from another version of the same recipe (on Food52). That recipe calls for a Yukon Gold potato instead of the Arborio rice. Paula was excited about the potato idea, so we tried it, but I found the resulting soup to be somewhat bland, and with a texture that wasn’t quite as nice or smooth compared to the rice version.
Since it seems that nearly any greens or herbs would go well in this soup, I also tried making a version with za’atar and a small bunch of fresh mint. I loved it on the first night (but no more than I loved the mint-less cilantro version), but if you try this, beware: Paula was the one who first noticed that after a day or two in the fridge, the mintiness of the leftover soup started to grow distinctly stronger until it was practically overpowering and verging on unpleasant. So green soups with fresh mint should probably be consumed on that first day — at a big dinner party, for example.
Without fresh mint, and reserving the lemon juice until just before serving, this garlicky green soup will last up to three or four days in the fridge, or could be frozen then defrosted in the fridge overnight. It’s delicious with buttered toast or fresh homemade bread for dipping.
The only thing I have against the recipe I adapted this from is that it kind of glosses over the steps of adding the chard/kale and the spinach to the pot, and makes them seem practically instantaneous — you might even get the feeling from reading other green soup recipes that this soup is relatively hands-off, but it’s just the opposite! (Unless you own an industrial-size stockpot…) There is SUCH a large volume of greens that need to go into the pot gradually — otherwise they simply won’t fit — that I find myself pretty much constantly lifting the lid to stir the last handful of wilted greens into the broth and to add another big handful of fresh greens to the pot, for about 30 minutes. Luckily this 30 minutes of active time overlaps exactly with the 30 minutes of keeping an eye on the onions, which will be cooking away in a little olive oil in a pan next to your soup pot, and needing the occasional stir.
So it’s all active time, but it’s all done in less than an hour. (I’ve tried to write an honest description of how the timing works out in the recipe below, and discovered that honesty = wordiness in this case; the other recipes that say to simply add the spinach and broth to the pot, as if in one fell swoop, are a lot more concise.)
Print this recipe. (PDF)
(Serves 8-10; Makes 11-12 cups)
Active and Total time: 50 minutes.
~ several Tbsp. olive oil
~ 1 onion, diced
~ 4 cups vegetable broth (added gradually)
~ 2-3 cups water (added gradually)
~ ¼ cup rice (use Arborio or medium-grain Jasmine, but not long-grain rice)
~ 1 bunch scallions, roughly chopped
~ 2 medium bunches of curly kale, leaves torn or chopped (and stems discarded)
~ 20 – 24 oz. spinach leaves (about 12 cups, loosely packed)
~ small pinch of sea salt and black pepper, or to taste
~ ¼ tsp. cayenne pepper, or more to taste
~ 5-6 cloves of garlic, minced, or more to taste
~ squeeze of fresh lemon juice for each bowl, to serve
~ 2 leeks, rinsed and sliced, with most/all of the dark green parts discarded
~ 1 bunch cilantro, roughly chopped (including stems)
~ 1 Tbsp. za’atar (blend of thyme, sumac, salt, and sesame seeds)
~ 1 serrano pepper, finely diced
How to make it:
1. In a wide pan, heat olive oil over low heat and cook diced onions slowly — stirring occasionally so they don’t burn and adding more oil if necessary — for 30-35 minutes or until completely soft. If using leeks, add them to the onions after about 15 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, in a large stockpot, combine a few cups of broth and/or water (reserving the rest to add gradually later on), the rice, and the white parts of the chopped scallions (reserving the green parts). Cover and bring to a boil.
3. After the rice has been boiling for about 10 minutes, lower the heat to bring it down to a steady simmer, then gradually start adding the torn kale leaves to the stockpot. Each time you add a handful of leaves, pour a little more broth/water over them, then replace the lid so that the leaves will steam and start to wilt. (And each time you open the lid to add more leaves, first stir the steamed/wilted ones into the soup.) Once you’ve added all of the kale, and it’s shrunk down to make enough room, then start to gradually add the spinach — and finally the cilantro and scallion greens — in the same way. Add the rest of the broth/water if any is still left, and turn off the heat once all of the greens have cooked down.
4. The soup will now be fairly dense-looking, with a very high greens-to-broth ratio. Season with salt, pepper, and cayenne (and optionally za’atar and/or diced serrano), and stir to mix well.
5. Once the onions are done cooking, and all of the greens have been added to the soup, transfer the onions and the olive oil from the pan to the stockpot. Then add another tablespoon of olive oil to the pan and heat over medium-low. Fry the minced garlic in the oil, letting it sizzle for 2-3 minutes, but being careful not to let it brown, then transfer the garlic and oil to the soup, and stir to mix well.
6. Blend with an immersion blender until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning, adding more salt and pepper if desired. Serve warm with a squeeze of fresh lemon juice added to each bowl (or add the lemon juice straight to the pot of soup if you plan to consume it all on the first night). Optionally garnish with a drizzle of olive oil. The soup is also nice accompanied by buttered toast or any kind of fresh bread.
Print this recipe! (PDF)
Related recipe posts:
|Lemony Lentil Spinach Soup||Hearty Miso Soup||Japanese Kabocha (Pumpkin) Leek Soup||Kale Curry with Homemade Paneer|