Mon 18 May 2009
In the past 29 years, I have rejected and subsequently reaccepted three categories of food in my diet: pie, soup, and Indian food. The latter was a matter of developing a taste for the flavor palette (and the result of the combined, persuasive efforts of many wonderful friends who had my best interest at heart and to whom I am incredibly grateful as I would have otherwise led a life without vindaloo). My vetoes of pie and soup were somewhat less rational. The pie thing was really a cake thing; I greatly prefer cake. Despite the fact that cake is not always available when pie is offered, I felt eating a slice of pie meant displacing the opportunity to eat a slice of cake. Much like my Doc Martens and paisley vest phases, it made sense at the time. I mean, for any given slice of cherry pie, can you really be sure there isn’t a piece of chocolate cake right around the corner? Hmm?
The soup thing…I can’t really explain. It was something about finding the combination of warm, savory, and liquid to be distasteful, though I can’t articulate anything more concrete than that. But the reason I started liking soup again was completely nutbar. At auditions for a production of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe in high school, I watched a line of hopefuls rattle off reasons why they each thought they would be well-suited to inhabit the role of Mr. or Mrs. Beaver. One girl (who ultimately ended up playing the White Witch), exclaimed “Mrs. Beaver just screams ‘soup’ to me, and I live and die for soup!” Thereafter, I liked soup. Nuts, right? I can’t make this stuff up.
But however it had to happen, I’m glad it did. Soup is a great anchor in the home cook’s repertoire. Most soup recipes can be doubled or halved with ease, making the output quite flexible to suit your needs. I like to make a batch and portion one or two servings into several Gladware containers – makes for easy lunches. Best of all, it’s so easy to get a full-bodied soup without adding much fat. Vegetable soups in particular offer a broad canvas for healthful creations that can, conveniently, make short work of any nearly ne’er-do-well produce lingering in your fridge. This little number served to salvage a massive wad of spinach that was starting to think about getting slimy.
As the title indicates, it’s stunningly green. If you’re looking for something a little less TMNT, add all of the spinach to the pot to simmer rather than adding half of it raw at the end.
Shockingly Green Cream of Spinach Soup
Makes 8-10 servings; halve the recipe if you want less
2 T olive oil
3 cloves of garlic, minced or finely chopped
½ medium onion, finely chopped
1 T butter
4 cups broth (your choice, chicken or vegetable)
4 cups milk
1 t nutmeg (I use ground; if you use fresh, use 2 t)
1 lb fresh spinach (a bag of triple-washed baby spinach will work well)
Large pot or dutch oven (for the full recipe listed here, you’ll need something with at least 6-qt capacity)
- Oil, onions, and garlic in the pan
- Boil the liquids
- Simmer with half the spinach
- Blend in batches, adding the rest of the spinach as you go
Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat until it shimmers. (I say this often – if you can’t picture it, put the olive oil in your pan over MH heat and watch the surface change. It will go from smooth to, well, shimmering after a few minutes.) Add the garlic, onion, and butter and stir until the onion is well-coated with oil. Cook until the garlic and onion are very fragrant, and the onion begins to look translucent (approximately 3 minutes).
Add the liquids and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes. Add half the spinach and nutmeg, cover, and simmer for another 10 minutes.
Let the mixture cool for several minutes (or as long as your patience allows – I tend to be hungry when I make this, so I usually jump the gun). You will puree it in your blender, but unless you have a massive, commercial blender you’ll need to do it in batches. Ladle your soup mixture into the blender until it’s about half full. Put the lid on the blender and hold it firmly in place with your hand (you may wish to use a dish towel or pot holder). I cannot emphasize this enough. The force of the blending will make the liquid pop up; keep a firm hand on that lid or experience the massive yuck of cleaning up spinach lava off both your counter and yourself. The counter may not mind, but you will.
Blend until smooth. Add a big handful of the remaining spinach and blend again until smooth. Transfer the contents of the blender to a container big enough to hold the whole batch and repeat the process until you’ve blended the whole shebang. Stir well and serve. Add a sprinkle of feta or a dollop of sour cream and it will be even more lovely.