Monday, February 17, 2014

Green Soup for a Post Valentine's Day Cure

If you were looking for any kind of chocolate, red velvet, caramel-ly, sugary, sweet something on the internet these past couple weeks, you sure didn't have to go very far. The world has been having one major love affair with Valentine's treats.

I'm still doing battle with the love handles my Christmas indulgences fed!

I  had my share of sweet treats this past weekend, so now it's back to a more healthy routine. Although I'm not exactly saintly about it, I am going to the gym at least three days a week and eating more mindfully.

Still, it's taking more effort than it used to. No one ever warned me about the toll a slowing metabolism would have on my waistline. The experts recommend an hour of exercise a day for a woman my age just to maintain weight. I still want to shed a few!

Losing weight is always a problem for someone like me who likes to cook  -- and who likes to eat! This metabolism thing is pretty aggravating.

So as a public service, I'm offering you this gem of a green soup as a great way to -- yes, get your greens -- get filled up and still have the satisfaction of cooking and stirring and concocting great food.

I  have to admit I was surprised how much I really, really like this soup. It's more than good for you. It really does taste good. And it's fun to make. And that's important to a cook.

Slowly caramelizing the onions is key to the soup.

The secret is the slow preparation of the onions which, aside from the greens themselves and a handful of rice, are the only thing that add bulk to the soup. That, plus the zing of a bit of cayenne and a splash of lemon juice, makes it special.

I was a slow convert to this green soup. My sister convinced me. She's a great cook and I trust her instincts -- and taste.

After one trial, I was hooked. I'm usually a little slow at joining popular food trends. By the time I'm catching on, the fad is passe.

I know that green smoothies are very popular, for instance. But they have no appeal to me because I'm more of a soup lover. Warm it up and I'll have it. Eating cold, pureed greens -- even sweetened with fruit -- just isn't for me.
The green soup pre-puree!

This green soup, however, is one that's going to be a new classic in my kitchen.  (Note that I have not included Mr. Rosemary as a new fan.)

You do need an immersion blender to simplify the making of this soup. You can use a regular blender, but that really complicates things and makes too many dishes to clean up for just a soup. Get an immersion blender, please.

Anna Thomas created the recipe and says that you should get the soup perfectly smooth. I've never been able to get it perfectly smooth.I also tried to make a picture of my soup garnished with olive oil, as in the picture below. But my drizzle ended up looking like a silly smiley face, so I nixed it.The only substitution I made was using kale instead of chard. I do imagine that any kind of green, or mix of greens, would be great.

Did I mention that there's only 99 calories for a 1 1/2 cup serving? You're welcome.

Now, off to the gym . . . .

Basic Green Soup Recipe
photo from Eating Well

Basic Green Soup
slightly adapted from Eating Well 
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 large yellow onions, chopped
1 teaspoon salt, divided
2 tablespoons plus 3 cups water, divided
1/4 1 big bunch kale, about 1 pound, thick stalks trimmed
14 cups gently packed baby spinach (about a 12 ounce bag)
4 cups vegetable broth
1/4 cup arborio rice
Big pinch of cayenne pepper
1 tablespoon lemon juice, or more, if you like

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over high heat. Add the chopped onions and 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions begin to brown, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to low, add 2 tablespoons water and cover. Cook, stirring frequently until the pan cools down, and then occasionally, always covering the pan again, until the onions are greatly reduced and have a deep caramel color, 25 to 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine the remaining 3 cups water and 3/4 teaspoon salt in a soup pot. Add the rice and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes.
When the rice has cooked for 15 minutes, add the trimmed kale greens. Return to a simmer,; cover and cook for 10 minutes. When the onions have caramelized, add them to the rice, along with the spinach, broth and cayenne pepper. Return to a simmer, cover and cook, stirring once, until the spinach is tender but still bright green, about 5 minutes more.
Puree the soup in the pot with an immersion blender, or in a regular blender in batches. Stir in the lemon juice. Taste and add more lemon juice if you'd like. Garnish each serving of soup with a drizzle of olive oil

Makes about 8 servings, 1 1/2 cups each