Sunday, June 5, 2011

Spring Greens and Rice Soup

So it's spring and summer's right around the corner. I'm loving that the summer farmer's market is open again. We moved a few months ago, too so now the market is in the park just a block from our place. It's pretty awesome to walk over there first thing in the morning on Saturdays and get some fresh produce for the week. Right now there's a plethora of greens and not a huge selection of much else. It makes sense, unless people are growing in a greenhouse it's not the season for harvesting many things for a bit. I'm not complaining, though, I love greens of any sort. It's amazing what wonderful varieties there are to choose from.

So many beautiful, local, organic lettuces are available right now. It can get tiring having salads all of the time, though, as delicious as they can be. Did you ever think of cooking the salad greens? I know, I know. It sounds kind of weird. I thought that at first, too. But, really, when you think about it, what's the difference between steaming some chard or spinach and steaming some spring greens that you'd typically use for a salad? I definitely recommend trying it sometime. You can get such a wonderful varieties of flavor into your greens this way.

I especially like adding some salad greens to soups, much like one of my favorites, the Spring Greens and Rice Soup. I got the idea for this soup from reading something online that talked about adding romaine and butter lettuce to a soup. I was intrigued and immediately concocted this recipe. It's the perfect soup for spring or summer. It's not heavy at all and you can alter the flavor profile by changing the lettuces that you decide to use.

Using risotto rice instead of regular white or brown rice makes the soup taste a bit creamy. It adds quite a bit of awesome to the pot. I would suggest not substituting a different kind of rice. You want the creaminess in the broth and the softness of the arborio rice. Trust me, it's a big difference in this recipe.

If you're not able to get some fresh greens from the farmers market, you can totally use some of those bags of baby lettuces. I've done it that way before and had great success. My favorite combination doing it that way is to use two of the big boxes of lettuce. One of spinach and one of the Earthbound Farms Herb Salad Mix. If you use that one, you don't need to add any fresh herbs because there are already some in there. A nice shortcut, especially if you're trying to make something quick after work. If you're using heads of lettuces, butter lettuce, romaine, radicchio and escarole are all good choices. Maybe use 3 small heads of varying lettuces in addition to some spinach or chard if you're going that route. Just make sure to chop the lettuce leaves coarsely to make them easier to eat.

Oh, did I mention that this recipe comes together is almost no time? Yeah, it's awesome for making on a night when you want something homemade but just don't have the energy to spend an hour chopping and stirring. Plus, this is a one-pot recipe. Not a ton of stuff to clean up, either.

One more thing, use this recipe as a guide. You can add more or less carrots, celery and herbs as you like. Feel free to substitute different herbs or even just buy one of those multi-herb packs and use whatever's in there. This is a really adaptable recipe. Just make sure to keep the broth and rice at the same ratio as I have here since the rice will soak up a bunch of broth, though feel free to add more broth if you want a thinner soup.

Spring Greens and Rice Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons non-dairy margarine or olive oil (I like the buttery flavor that Earth Balance lends to this, but go ahead and use just olive oil if you'd rather.)
1-2 carrots, finely chopped (about 2/3 cup)
2 ribs celery, chopped (about 2/3 cup)
1 small yellow onion, chopped (about 1 cup)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon salt (if you're using salted vegetable broth, you might skip this and just taste and add salt at the end)
1 bundle of spinach, coarsely chopped (or one of those boxes of spinach leaves)
1large bag of mixed salad greens, any kind, chopped if the leaves are too big (or one of those boxes of mixed greens like these)
6 cups vegetable broth
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 cup arborio rice

Heat the olive oil and margarine in a large soup pot over medium heat. Saute the carrots, celery and onions for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the herbs and salt and cook for another minute. Stir in the greens and cook for 5 minutes.

Add the broth and nutritional yeast and stir. Add the arborio rice and raise the heat to medium-high. Once the soup is just starting to boil, cover and reduce the heat to a simmer. Simmer for about 20 minutes.

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