Bring spring into your home and clean out the crisper drawer at the same time with a bowl of light and tasty Green Soup - and maybe you'll attract some leprechauns, too. (Skip to recipe.)
Every year when our kids were growing up, they'd set out their leprechaun bait on the evening before St. Patrick's Day, hoping to receive a visit from those elusive little creatures. Each child would put a shoe on the front door mat and tuck a potato into it before they went to sleep, in hopes the leprechauns would come and turn those lumpy potatoes into gold. It usually worked, because in the morning there it was - a loonie in their shoe. The potatoes, if not solid gold, had been turned into a gold-coloured coin, and the kids were a dollar richer.
But of course, leprechauns being leprechauns, they couldn't just leave it at one magic trick. Those mischievous little fellows must have been giggling and cavorting around downstairs while we slept peacefully in our beds. They'd always leave another little reminder that they'd been there, for in the morning our milk was green! Yup, they'd get into the fridge and turn that milk green - right in the carton, if you can believe it!
Our kids would have a glass of green milk with their breakfast, speculating on how the leprechauns had done it again and discussing how to spend their loot at the dollar store.
Now that there are no little kids in this household anymore, the leprechauns have moved on and spend their time getting up to tricks and trouble in other homes where kids still live. I guess we're lucky they leave us alone, though a nugget of gold wouldn't go amiss now and then, if they felt so inclined. (Just putting that out there in case they're listening.)
So we'll just have a bowl of this delectable green soup instead, and celebrate the coming of Spring. The bright herbs and silky greens, interspersed with the pop of sweet green peas, do a little spring dance in your mouth. A nice crusty slice of tasty Irish Soda Bread slathered with creamy butter would certainly go well with it, don't you think?
(Recipe for gluten free Irish Soda Bread, plus photos of my trip to Ireland on St. Patrick's Day here.)
My leeks and greens look a little past their prime (it was time to clean out the crisper drawer, for sure), but a good trimming and they come to life again in this light and fresh green soup. Thickened with a tart apple, and subtly flavoured with background hints of lemon and star anise, plus up-front pops of dill or parsley, this Green Soup sings with complex spring flavours. It's wonderful as a first course for a fancy dinner, or with a big hunk of bread for a weeknight dinner, and it's on the table in less than half an hour.
Okay, so Spring isn't really here yet in the North. My big leprechaun was still shoveling snow yesterday, but maybe tomorrow?
We'll think of Spring, and meanwhile have a bowl of this sprightly green soup while we wait.
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Kitchen Frau Notes: I always have a container of frozen dill and one of parsley in my freezer. They're wonderful to use in recipes like this, because who always has fresh herbs on hand? When buying fresh dill or parsley, buy an extra bunch. Rinse them and shake off the excess water, then lay the bunch onto a clean kitchen towel. Spread them out evenly over the towel, then roll them up jelly roll style. Pop the roll into a plastic bag, seal, and refrigerate for 24 hours. This will absorb most of the moisture. Then chop the herbs finely and put them into a plastic bag or empty yogurt container and freeze. When you need some fresh herbs in cooking, break off a chunk or scrape some herbs loose with a fork. This doesn't work well with all herbs, as some get black when frozen (like mint or basil), but works very well for parsley and dill.
Save the Swiss chard stems in a zip top bag in the freezer - along with other vegetable scraps, to use when making your own soup stock.
Green Soup with Leeks, Leafy Greens, and Peas
- 2 tablespoons ghee or olive oil
- 3 medium leeks (or 2 cups diced onion)
- 2 stalks celery
- 1 tart firm apple (like Granny Smith or Pink Lady)
- 10 oz (300gms) chopped greens (4 cups tightly packed), like spinach, chard, or romaine lettuce - or one 10 oz/300gm package frozen spinach
- zest of 1 lemon (preferably organic)
- ½ teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
- ½ teaspoon white pepper
- 4 cups chicken broth (or veggie broth for vegan)
- 2 star anise pods
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 cup (130gms) frozen peas
- 2 tablespoons chopped fresh (or frozen) dill or parsley
- to garnish for serving (optional): a few defrosted peas, a dollop of Greek yogurt, a thin slice of lemon, a few parsley or dill leaves
In a Dutch oven or large heavy-bottomed pot, heat the ghee or olive oil over medium heat.
Slice the leeks and celery stalks thinly and add them to the pot. Core and chop the apple and add it, too. Cook until translucent, about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Remove the thick stems from the Swiss chard, if using, and coarsely chop the leaves. If using spinach or Romaine lettuce, coarsely chop the whole leaves.
Add the chopped greens, lemon zest, salt, and white pepper to the leeks. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until the greens are wilted. Add the chicken or vegetable broth and the star anise and bay leaf. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes.
Fish out the bay leaf and star anise pods. Purée the soup using an immersion blender or pour it into a standing blender. Purée it to your desired consistency, either completely smooth, or still with some small flecks of green showing. Return the puréed soup to the pot.
Add the frozen peas and fresh herbs. Heat just until a few bubbles break the surface. Taste and add more salt if needed (it depends on how salty your broth was to start with.)
Serve with garnishes, if desired.
Makes 6 cups (1.5l), serving 4 to 6.
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