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A ‘souper’ way to eat your greens

Jennifer King Ferreira • Mar 11, 2020 at 10:00 PM

The color green is definitely in vogue for the month of March. Spring is about to emerge, St. Patrick’s Day is on the horizon, and early greens are appearing at the markets. We are about to leave behind the winter squashes, hearty stews and body- warming soups. March means bringing on the green and rebirthing our spring dishes. But it certainly doesn’t mean leaving glorious soup behind! Since the color green is known to represent nature, life and hope, now is a perfect time to rethink and restructure our March menus.

Throughout history, countries around the world have latched onto green as cultural symbols. Ireland claimed it long ago as their national color. Erin go Bragh! Green was also a sign of victory in ancient Greece, a sign of honor for the Scottish Highlanders, and a sacred color for Muslim pilgrimages. Egyptians made it a revered symbol and loved to paint their temple floors green. And did you know that brides traditionally wore green in the 1400s?

Green has long been thought to stimulate creativity by getting our imaginations percolating. In the artist’s world, green has both warming and cooling effects and is known as the color of harmony and balance. They say that Leonardo da Vinci insisted that water was green, and Monet’s joyous use of green lets us know that all is well with the world.

So, what are you waiting for? The many vibrant shades of green represented in our early vegetables are ready to make statements at your table. What better way to show off spring’s verdant artist palette than to go green with some new soup recipes! These are some of my favorites that will leave your friends and family green with envy.

I have always loved the Moosewood Restaurant Cookbooks. The soup sections found in their books are some of the best — especially for vegetables! Years ago, I came across their template for making perfect cream of vegetable soups in the Moosewood Restaurant Low-fat Favorites. The recipe calls for making a homemade low-fat soup base, which can be turned into all kinds of wonderful creations with your favorite veggies. The secret is adding potato and certain other veggies to the base to enhance the flavor and thicken the soup. This easy base can be used in all your inventive “veggie endeavors.” Different vegetables offer different shades of greens. I even make a curried carrot soup with this base that is the best! These two green soups are perfect for a spring table. Try using your own twist with this base.

Soup Base

2½ cups chopped onion

1 garlic clove, minced or pressed

3 cups diced potatoes, skin off

1 cup chopped celery

3 cups water or stock (I use chicken or veggie stock to add more flavor)

2 cups buttermilk (to be added after completion of recipes below)

Salt to taste

Spinach Soup

10 oz. fresh baby spinach

¼ tsp. nutmeg (I use more)

2 Tbsp. chopped fresh basil (or 1 tsp. dried)

1½ tsp. minced fresh thyme (or 1/2 tsp. dried)

Salt or adjust herbs to taste

In a soup pot, combine the onions, garlic, potatoes, celery and water/stock to make the base. Bring to a boil, then cover, lower heat and simmer for 20 minutes. When base is finished, add your ingredients for the spinach part and simmer 10-15 minutes more, until vegetables are tender. Take off and let cool a moment. Working in batches in blender or food processor, puree the soup with buttermilk and return to pot. Add salt to taste, reheat and serve. Garnish with lemon wedge sprinkled with nutmeg.

Another of my favorite cookbooks for veggie recipes is Mrs. Chard’s Almanac Cookbook: Hollyhocks and Radishes by Bonnie Stewart Mickelson. This was published in 1989, the year my daughter was born. So many of the recipes have become mainstays in our household. Her green soup recipes are simple and delicious — from Cucumber Mint to Spinach and Lemon. Bonnie gives some wonderful garden tips and even info on how to prepare spring treasures, such as fiddleheads, wild leeks and morels. Traditionally, we think of Brussels sprouts as a winter veggie. However, currently, they are the rage for roasting and grilling year-round. The delicate flavor and color of this Cream of Brussels sprouts Soup will please your taste buds.

Cream of Brussels Sprouts Soup

1½ lbs. Brussels sprouts

3½ cups chicken broth (or vegetable)

3 Tbsp. butter

3 Tbsp. flour

2 cups milk

Grating of nutmeg

½ cup heavy cream or half and half (optional)

4 drops Tabasco sauce or to taste

Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Cut an X in the stem-end of each sprout and trim away the tough, outer leaves. Bring the broth to a boil in a large pan. Drop in the sprouts and simmer, covered, until tender — about 10-12 minutes.

Puree sprouts in a blender or processor, along with half of their broth. Set remaining broth aside.

In large saucepan, melt butter then stir in flour with a whisk. Cook, stirring, for a minute or so until smooth and thick. Stir in remaining broth, milk, pureed sprouts and nutmeg. Simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes. Add cream if desired, Tabasco and salt and pepper to taste. Note: I omit the cream and prefer a dollop of sour cream on top.

Jennifer King Ferreira grew up in Kingsport, where she received her first cooking experiences from her grandmother, Genevieve Shivell. She is the past owner of the Abingdon General Store and Plum Alley Eatery, a gourmet store and restaurant in Abingdon, Va., and is the former director of the Cooking Along the Crooked Road Culinary Program.