The Soup Blog
Recipes, Culinary Insights & Humor Spooned Up Fresh Every Week…………………(Now in its Ice Cream Phase)
Turning New Leaves: Chard, Kale & Spinach Soup
Categories: Dairy, Spinach, Vegetarian

In with the new, Out with the Old

Have you ever tried to turn over a new leaf?

You put in all the work.  You imagine a new world full of bright, sunny vistas only to discover it’s just the same old stuff.

That’s what happened with this week’s soup.

I’m in California right now with all its cold and rain. (Sigh)

Not quite the way I remembered it.

Except for the produce.

Here we are in the cold of winter and they’ve got fresh chard, kale and spinach in abundance.  I really like Caputo’s back there in the Midwest, but it just can’t compete on this front.

My brother and sister-in-law are in a produce co-op here and get a basket of fruits, vegetables and greens every week.  And I’m not ashamed to admit the fresh greens got me pretty excited.

The New Year’s meal was going to be a simple one, unlike last year’s breakdown inducer.  The menu included balsamic marinated, grilled (yes, grilled) chicken, a grilled zucchini and asparagus salad, butternut squash scalloped potatoes and a soup to be made with chard, kale and spinach.  It may not sound simple, but there were three of us working on it, so it was completely doable.

Not that I knew what to do with these fresh greens.  My goal was to wilt the spinach together with the garlic, then simmer it in veg. stock for long enough to turn the spinach into the green base for the soup.  Next I would sauté the kale and chard separately and fold them into the soup, simmer, season and I’d be done.  Alas, I hadn’t really worked with chard and kale all that much, so who knew what would happen.

Well, Happy New Year, it worked out pretty much as planned.

Unfortunately the combination of flavors wasn’t quite what I’d hoped.  I had assumed the chard (1 ½ pounds of it) would dominate and that its slightly bitter taste would be complemented by the garlic and rounded out by the parmesan.  The kale would just play a supporting role with the spinach dissolving into the background.

The chard did dominate, but as it paired up with the spinach, its flavor blended with the other green and morphed into a kind of super spinach.  The result was that, as the kale’s flavor faded away what was left was something very close to my spinach soup from last March.  The parmesan produced a milder taste than the feta cheese from last year but on the whole the soup tasted like a rich full bowl of spinach.

Don’t get me wrong.  It was a great soup.  But when you try something new, you want the result to be new too.  This was last year’s soup.

On a whim, as ever, I decided to do some last minute, um, last second, tinkering.  There were a few leaves of kale left over from the week’s produce basket, so I minced them up and strewed them onto the soup as a garnish.  The dish now had a bite to it that stood in opposition to the mellow chard/spinach/cheese base.  The kale had thrown the soup off balance just enough to make it new again.

And that’s all I wanted.  Something new.

Happily, it was also something good.  My niece, who at twelve is already more creative in the kitchen than I was at thirty, liked it enough to go back for seconds.  As for the rest of the soup, it did not make it into the new year, which is to say, no leftovers.  Another good thing.

On the other hand, the blog has made it into 2011.  As for the coming months, there is only one thing I can tell you for sure—expect change.

It may be subtle.  It may be profound. I hope it will also continue to be stimulating and, of course, filling.

Chard, Kale & Spinach Soup
(serves 6-8)
1 tsp canola oil
8 oz. spinach, cleaned and trimmed
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp canola oil
8 oz. kale, chopped
1 tsp canola oil
1 ½ lb Swiss chard (I used the bright red stuff), chopped
6 cups vegetable stock
salt & pepper to taste
1 cup grated parmesan
1 cup kale, chopped finely

  1. Heat one teaspoon of the oil over low heat in a 3 quart soup pot then add the spinach, cover and stir occasionally until it wilts slightly.  At this point add the garlic and stir for 2-3 minutes more, taking care to avoid burning before removing the whole mix from the heat and setting it aside.
  2. Heat another teaspoon of oil and sauté the kale until tender (around 5 minutes), remove from heat and set aside.
  3. Repeat the process with the last teaspoon of oil and sauté the chard until tender (5-7 minutes), remove from heat and set aside.
  4. Combine stock, seasonings, and cooked spinach and garlic from step 1.  Bring to a boil and reduce to a simmer for a few minutes, then puree the mixture with an immersion blender until you have a thick green base.
  5. Return kale and chard to the pot, bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer for 10-15 minutes. Add parmesan and stir until the cheese dissolves.
  6. Just before service, strew a spoonful or two of minced fresh kale over each bowl and bring to the table.  It’s new.  It’s old. It’s borrowed. It’s green.

Image Credit: “New Beginnings, Old Results, Or…,” another inspired jpeg equation. 

At last the New Year is upon us.  The Holidays have past and we are on to something new.  How fresh and exciting it will be only time will tell.  If you have any requests or suggestions, please let me know in a comment. I’ll be reading and responding.

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