If you’re anything like me, you tend to overindulge during the holiday season – we’re not even to New Year’s, yet – and then regret it later. I know that after rich, decadent meals and equally sinful desserts, all I want is a Big Salad, à la Elaine Benes. My body craves vegetables, leafy greens, and no meat whatsoever. Let me introduce to you the Green Soup.
There are many variations of this soup out there on the Internet, but this one is mine. When you make yours, feel free to follow my lead, or throw in a few different veggies (whatever you have leftover in the fridge). You can omit the vinegar and use lemon juice instead; you are welcome to add a little cream instead of Greek yogurt (or leave out the dairy altogether); and please add any herbs you have laying about, though I wouldn’t use rosemary, as it can overwhelm a dish. What I’m saying is this soup is flexible and forgiving.
I used a combination of Swiss chard, spinach, and cilantro for my greens. Kale would work nicely here, as well as mustard greens, or even a bit of peppery arugula. Instead of just using one type of onion, I opted for half a red onion (leftover in my fridge), 1 1/2 yellow onions, and a medium-sized leek. Again, it’s all a matter of taste with this soup. If you prefer a certain type of onion, use that. I enjoy the flavor combinations those ingredients provide. I added about 4 garlic cloves, along with a small(ish) potato and 1/4 cup Arborio rice to use as thickeners.
The great flavor of this soup is pushed along by the slowly caramelized onions, leeks, and garlic – this takes roughly 30 minutes, but is well worth the wait. All in all, the prep work for this soup was a little time-consuming, but don’t let that deter you. Also, don’t obsess about chopping all your ingredients to perfection – you’ll be puréeing this soup later on.
This soup is best if it can be puréed in a blender, but if you only have an immersion blender or food processor, that’ll do just fine. You won’t have the silky consistency of a puréed soup, but the flavor will still be there. I served this soup with an open-faced turkey, arugula, and provolone sandwich with mustard, and a glass of cold Grüner Veltliner.
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for garnishing soup, if desired
1/2 medium red onion, chopped
1 1/2 yellow onions, chopped
1 medium leek, white and light green parts cut into half moons, rinsed thoroughly and drained
1 teaspoon kosher salt, divided
2 tablespoons, plus 3 cups water, divided
1/4 cup Arborio rice
2-3 tablespoons Sherry vinegar
4 medium garlic cloves, chopped
1 small to medium potato, cut into 1/2-inch cubes and steamed (or boiled) until fork-tender
1 pound Swiss chard, ribs removed, roughly chopped, rinsed thoroughly and drained
12 ounces fresh spinach, roughly chopped, rinsed thoroughly and drained
1/4 cup packed cilantro leaves and stems, rinsed thoroughly and drained
4 cups (1 quart) vegetable broth
2-3 tablespoons vinegar-based hot sauce
2-3 tablespoons Greek yogurt (omit if vegan)
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in skillet over high heat. When oil is shimmering, add onions (not leeks or garlic yet, they’ll burn) and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Cook, stirring frequently until onions develop a brown color, roughly 5 minutes. If they develop color too quickly, or start to burn, remove pan from heat for a moment and turn heat down to medium-high. When browned, reduce temperature to low, add 2 tablespoons water, Sherry vinegar, leeks, and garlic. Place cover on skillet; cook, stirring frequently until pan cools down a bit, then only stir occasionally, remembering to cover pan, until the onions, leek, and garlic are reduced and develop a golden brown color; roughly 25-30 minutes.
In the meantime, add 3 cups water, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and Arborio rice to soup pot. Bring to boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer until rice is tender, about 12 minutes.
When rice is cooked, stir in chard greens. Return to a simmer, cover, and cook greens for at least 10 minutes until tender. To the caramelized onions add a bit of the chard simmering water; stir onions to loosen up any browned bits on the bottom of the skillet, and add to chard and rice along with the vegetable stock, spinach, cilantro, potato and hot sauce. Return pot to a simmer, cover and cook, stirring once, until spinach is tender but still green, roughly 5 minutes.
At this point, you will purée the mixture. If you have a blender or food processor, you’ll probably have to do it in batches. If you have an immersion blender, purée it right there in the soup pot. Once the mixture is fully puréed, return to soup pot and set heat to low (to warm through). Now is the time you’ll taste and adjust the seasoning. If you think it needs more acidity, add a bit more vinegar, if you think it could be spicier, add more hot sauce. If you want to add the Greek yogurt, do it now and stir the soup until the yogurt is blended in.
Garnish each bowl with a drizzle of olive oil (if desired) and a sprig or two of cilantro.