Archives for posts with tag: chard

It’s official, I’m in a soup phase. What can I say, it’s that time of year when the thought of eating anything cold sends shivers down my spine, even though, yes, this is the mildest winter in a while. Even so, a couple months back I started warming up my cereal before eating it (cold milk? no thank you!) and cut back on green smoothies.

So how to still get all the greens I want, with all the warmth I crave? Green soups.

Lucky for me, Anna Thomas paved the way for green soups with her 2009 cookbook, Love Soup. She seems to be considered the godmother of green soups so I dutifully read up on her methods and set out to create my own.

The basic method is you get yourself two big bunches of your favorite greens—chard, spinach, kale, collards, watercress—slowly caramelize two big onions, then add 1/4 c uncooked rice, vegetable stock, the greens, and voila. You finish it off with a bit of acidity (lemon juice, vinegar), pinch of cayenne, salt, and pepper, and puree it all in a blender or with an immersion blender. The rice, especially arborio, adds creaminess and body to the soup (so it’s not thin or watery), without using cream. Serve drizzled with your favorite olive oil and perhaps some crusty bread.

I had two bunches of green kale so that’s what I made this version with, although I’d love to try with chard and collard greens. I made my own vegetable stock on the adjacent burner, although you could use store-bought or veggie bouillon if you’re short on time.

Green Soup – Beginner’s Basic

Serves 8

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 large onions, diced
splash white wine, optional, for deglazing
1/4 rice, arborio works best
3 c water
2 big bunches of greens, washed and chopped coarsely
4 c vegetable broth
pinch of cayenne pepper
2 tbsp lemon juice or vinegar, such as red wine or rice wine

1. Heat the olive oil in a stock pot or dutch oven on low heat then add the onions. Continue to cook over very low heat, with a lid mostly covering the pot to keep in the moisture, 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally. If the onions start to stick or turn dark brown add a splash of white wine to deglaze the pot. Meanwhile, if you’re making your own veggie stock, get this going in another pot on the stove. I use 4 c water and add any veggies I have around such as carrots, onions, celery, a bay leaf or two, black peppercorns, etc., bring to a boil, then let simmer for 45 minutes.

2. Once the onions are deeply caramelized, add the water to the pot, and the rice, and bring to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for about 15 minutes. Add the chopped greens. If you’re using spinach, add the sturdier greens first (like kale or chard), and the spinach 5 minutes later since it wilts quickly. Add the veggie broth and cayenne, and bring to a simmer, cooking for another 5 minutes. Don’t overcook, otherwise the greens become dull and lose all their wonderful color. Turn off the heat, season with salt and pepper, and add your acid (lemon juice or vinegar).

3. You can puree the soup using an immersion blender all at once in the stock pot, or in batches in a stand-up blender. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of sea salt. I like some crostini on the side with a creamy cheese or slather of butter.

Look at the color of these caramelized onions!

And here’s the soup, with Ninja blender in the background, which recently cost me half a fingernail while washing the blade.

Like a lot of folks I know, I recently started drinking green smoothies. Wait, don’t close your browser! To some—I won’t point fingers—that sounds, well, less tasty than something you can chew or grill. I understand.

But I also love greens. Adore even. Ever since I started eating greens that were prepared well. You’ve heard me lament on this site before about all the frozen and canned and non-existent vegetables I ate (or didn’t eat) growing up, so I’m making up for lost time. Kale and chard and spinach and all kinds of lettuces and herbs. A meal isn’t really complete to me without something green on the plate.

I remember being thirteen years old, I had just moved to Middlebury, VT, to live with my dad, and my friend brought me into the Middlebury Natural Foods Co-op. It was like entering a foreign bazaar: the smells, the breads, the vegetables I couldn’t identify, the bulk bins. I’d never seen anything like it in Levittown. Never smelled that co-op smell before.

That same year, the morning after a sleep-over at my friend Arianna’s house in Ripton, her mom gave us breakfast of granola and soy milk. I translated the food in front of me as “cereal and cow’s milk” and poured a big bowl and dove in. After a few bites I remember feeling so full; I either pushed the bowl away or more likely, to be polite, made myself eat the whole thing. This granola stuff was so much more filling than the Corn Pops I ate at home. I wasn’t sure I liked it.

By the time I was sixteen I was a cashier at the food co-op and loving it. All of my  high school jobs in VT in fact were in food services: working in the Middlebury College dining hall, serving ice cream at Baba’s, making sandwiches and serving scones at Harrington’s, and, for a very brief stint, working behind the butcher counter in a grocery store. But by far my favorite was the co-op. I got something like a 20% discount, which went toward Tiger bars, chocolate chip cookies, and occasionally an olive loaf from Bristol Bakery. (These were my gateway foods.)

Well it’s been a fun seventeen years since those early days of choking on granola. I’ve gone through vegetarianism, a brief stint at veganism, and came full swing as a meat-eater again in 2005 while working as a cook at Plantation Farm Camp in California. Now I’m back to eating way less meat, more greens, and starting off each morning with a green smoothie.

I had been doing these off and on for years but nothing ritualistic and with no knowledge of why, except for obvious reasons, these might be good for me. And then recently my friend Melony told me about this book our friend Kyle was really into. Really into. Green for Life by Victoria Boutenko. And since then I’ve found out lots of people I know are also into green smoothies.

The philosophy, in a nutshell, is that the human diet should consist of way more plants, dark leafy greens in particular, than most of us come even close to consuming daily. And that we don’t get the full range of nutrients, fiber, and chlorophyll found in these foods just by chewing (you’d have to chew all day), so that by blending them we do. Juicing is a whole different story and deprives us of most of the good stuff found in the fruits and veggies. Boutenko has some funny and enlightening charts in her book comparing the modern human diet to a chimpanzee’s diet. The thinking is that humans are so close genetically to chimpanzees we could learn a thing or two about what to eat by observing them. And they eat mostly fruits and greens, then a tiny bit of protein, nuts, and fats.

Oh, and good news, greens actually contain a fair share of protein.

But forget philosophy! These smoothies actually taste good, promise. I couldn’t drink them if they didn’t.

Today in Union Square I picked up beautiful organic dandelion greens (wrapped up with the bulb, roots, dirt and all), and gorgeous rainbow chard I couldn’t pass by. Tomorrow morning I’ll do a dandelion-banana-peach smoothie to start the day. Then Amy and I are off to the co-op to try again after last Friday’s frenzy due to the impending hurricane.

Welcome Smoothie for Beginners

Blend well:
1 c chard
1 c spinach
8-10 strawberries, can include stems
1 mango, peeled
1 apple
1 banana
juice of 1 lemon
Yields 2 quarts

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