by April Paffrath
Summer food is amazing. When our Siena Farms CSA shares started the other week, our dinners were transformed. There’s just a world of difference between food from the average store and food from the farm. With a CSA share, you never know exactly what you’ll get, but you do have an idea, based on the growing season. Right now, lettuces are amazing and sweet, radishes are vibrant and spicy, beets are tender and lovely, and the deep greens—oh, the greens! I swear that Siena Farms grows their radishes and beets for the greens more than for the roots. The beet and radishes themselves are stellar, but the greens are perfect.There are plenty of greens to eat all week long. That can be a windfall, or it can be overwhelming if you’ve had a busy week, if you’ve gone out a lot, or you’re just done already with the greens sautéed in garlic and oil. Some weeks last year, on the eve of our next CSA share pick-up, I would look in the fridge and see that we hadn’t eaten as many greens as I thought we would have. With another share of Boston’s best on the way, you could be looking at a domino effect of mounting greens. No one wants that because it can lead to waste, which is pointless.
But I have a solution, and it’s so tasty.
It’s so tasty, in fact, that my 4-year-old asks (no, begs) for more helpings. It’s green soup. Well, a sort of crema de verduras, if we’re going to be specific about the origins of the idea. When we travel in Spain, one of our many favorite dishes is a velouté of green vegetables and greens. It’s a smooth and wonderful soup, easy to eat, and so packed with delicious flavors.
This soup is fantastic because it’s fast, it’s bright and appealing, it uses up any greens that are threatening to go bad, and you really taste the intricate flavors of the greens. And for you parents out there, it’s way easier for our daughter to eat this soup than it is for her to chew on greens forever (and with little kid teeth, it really can be forever).
I use whatever greens I have. Actually, it works with all kinds of vegetables, but I find this soup absolutely shines with greens. For this week’s soup, I used a medium bunch of beet greens, a large bunch of brightly colored Swiss chard, and a salad spinner packed full of arugula. I de-stalked the beet greens and the Swiss chard, to avoid overly fibrous soup. Separately, the Swiss chard stalks met with a fine chop and sauté, which was sweet and wonderful. (Swiss chard is quite sweet, actually, and I think it worked perfectly with the spicy arugula and the earthy beet greens.) Don’t be afraid to try different combinations, and don’t forget about lettuce. Lettuce is actually a soup standard from our grandparents’ days. It's underused beyond salad these days, but so fantastic.
I’ve made this soup before with broccoli rabe, escarole, pepper cress, and so much more. It’s so easy to wing it. It’s important to use a LOT of greens to the volume of stock for a soup that just sings out with flavor and punch. No one wants insipid soup. No one. It’s also important to let this go in a blender for quite a long time—you want the greens to break up thoroughly. We strained the final version, but you don’t have to if the greens are young enough, your blender is powerful enough, and it’s not too thready when you taste it.
Creamy velouté of deep greens
- olive oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped (I always keep some pre-chopped in the freezer)
- 1 qt of stock (i use vegetable stock, but a chicken would be nice, too.)
- 1 med bunch of beet greens, de-stalked
- 1 large bunch of Swiss chard leaves, de-stalked
- 1 big bunch of arugula—fill up a large salad spinner and that’s a good amount
- whole milk
- Sauté onion in olive oil until just turning translucent, about 5 minutes
- Add in the stock and heat to a boil
- Add the thoroughly washed and prepped greens, and put the lid on the pan. I had to work to get all the greens in the pan—they shrink as they wilt, but initially, it takes a little maneuvering.
- Stir, or prod the greens down into the stock, so they wilt.
- Let them wilt and simmer for 3-5 minutes.
- Turn off the heat and then put the soup into the blender. You’ll need to do a couple of batches. (Hot soup in a blender can be very dangerous, so don’t fill the blender container very high or you could be looking at a hot explosion. That turns a quick dinner like this one into a long, painful, and messy one.)
- Turn up the blender and watch as the leaves break down into smaller and smaller pieces. You want it as smooth as it can get in your blender.
- Optional: When it’s all blended, you can pour the soup through a medium mesh strainer (don’t go too fine, or chinois, or it won’t work well). Use a spatula or spoon to help it strain thoroughly. Depending on the tenderness of the greens, you might not need to do this—you can just serve with a hearty bread. I like to do it, even though it removes some of the fiber. Plenty remains and I think when you freeze or refrigerate leftovers, it retains its smooth consistency if it’s been strained.
- Return the soup to the pan and add a cup of whole milk (or yogurt, or half and half) and heat gently, but do not allow it to come to the boil. (To paraphrase a friend of mine, when we make this for the family, we use whole milk. When we make this for company, we use something richer.)
I pour leftovers into pyrex bowls and place them on a tray in the freezer until they’re frozen. Then I remove them from the bowls and put in freezer containers or bags. It’s fresh bright soup available in a flash all year long, then, with no waste during the season. Just make sure you label them well, because beet green soup looks an awful lot like broccoli soup.