Sunday, May 10, 2009

Spinach Soup for a Spring Sunday

I've mentioned this soup more than I've mentioned anything else of late, so I thought the time had come to just write about it. It's particularly fitting since it's a cool and windy (and sunny) Sunday--perfect soup weather. (Good for spinach-loving mothers too.)

I wrote last year about never having even heard of green garlic anywhere and then seeing it everywhere. Not only was it available at the farmers' market, it was also written about in two different sections of the NY Times within the span of a couple of weeks--the "Food: The Way We Eat" column in the magazine and in Melissa Clark's "A Good Appetite" column in the Wednesday food section. And now that I know all about green garlic, I'm contemplating what my next green garlic recipe is going to be--it's a tossup between this souffle (green garlic and chive, with gruyere) and this double garlic soup

But the first place I read about it was in Orangette, where Molly wrote about a spinach and green garlic soup that she'd invented after eating something similar at Zuni Cafe in San Francisco. It's a simple soup--green garlic, stock, spinach, a little butter. I added a diced potato of my own volition. What I liked in particular about this batch is that the green garlic was all extra from the garden, the equivalent, really, of weeds. When you plant garlic, it's easy to lose track of a buried clove or two, and whatever's left in the ground obligingly comes up the next year. I was able to get a good bunch of garlic this way, saving what I planted on purpose for later.

It did, I will admit, require a lot of washing. But the other thing I liked was that I decided to make some stock (a double batch, so I'd have some left for risotto as well), and the green part of the green garlic was a perfect addition.

The stock making adds an extra step, but otherwise the soup is very simple--saute the green garlic in butter and olive oil, add stock (and the potato, if you're using it), simmer. Then add the spinach, turn off the heat, let sit briefly and then puree. And that's it. And then you have a soup so green that it has no choice but to be good for you. A seasonal soup, best eaten in May when the lilacs are out. Somehow, it tastes better that way.

Spinach and Green Garlic Soup
adapted from Molly Wizenburg at Orangette

2 Tbsp. olive oil
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
½ to ¾ lb. green garlic, thinly sliced (white and pale green parts only)
1 qt. vegetable or mild chicken broth
8 to 10 oz. baby spinach leaves (regular spinach will suffice as well)
1 potato, peeled and diced (optional)
1 Tbsp. crème fraîche

Warm the olive oil and butter in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the green garlic and a pinch of salt, and cook, stirring frequently, until it is soft and translucent. (Molly says, "Also, as the garlic cooks, you should notice that its scent changes from raw and sharp to sweeter and more mellow; that’s what you’re after.") When the garlic is ready, add the stock and the potato, if you're using it, raise the heat a bit, and bring it to a boil. Then adjust the heat to maintain a gentle simmer, and continue to cook for about 15 minutes. Add the spinach, and immediately turn off the stove. Let it sit for 5 minutes – not too long, or the spinach will lose its color – and then, working in batches, purée the mixture in a blender. (If you have an immersion blender, that wondeful invention, there's no need to do it in batches.) The soup should be a rich shade of green and very smooth.

Return the soup to the pot, and place it over low heat to rewarm gently. Add 1 Tbsp. crème fraîche and another pinch or two of salt. Taste, and adjust seasoning as necessary.

Serve warm or hot, with a drizzle of olive oil or a dollop of crème fraîche, if you like.

Yield: 4 servings


Anonymous said...

Wow, this soup looks really good! I might just have to try it.

Anonymous said...

Ooh, this looks good. I think I'd better trot down to the wreck of last year's garden and see whether there are any garlic shoots left.


Anonymous said...

OK. I am in blog heaven...a blog-a-thon?!! After a long, long time of checking in monthly yearning for a post, imagine my glee when i found not one but 13!!
I'm putting on some tea and ignoring my kids--i've got reading to do!! -ttb