I hit a wall last week, figuratively speaking. I’ve been so utterly consumed with projects on my to-do list that I’ve neglected the basic necessities. You know, important stuff like sleep, food and time with friends. A person can only neglect that stuff for so long before she breaks down and calls her mama and cries. And by “a person,” I mean me.
In hindsight, I’ve been trying to do way too much at once and I’ve been trying to do it all myself. Examples: applying for a trademark, installing my new light fixture, hemming and hanging curtains, redesigning this website, taking my dog to the vet three times a week, obsessively baking brownies, like, six times until they are just right, and, well, SEND HELP.
If there’s ever a time to hunker down and work on some projects, though, it’s during the depths of winter. Now that the weather is warming up and my to-do list has fewer ambitious projects on it, I’m ready to take it easy. For starters, I’m forcing myself to go to bed at a reasonable hour.
I also invited my friends over for girls’ night last night. I made them this redeeming and restorative green soup, which our friend Tessa had made for us at a girls’ night past. The recipe came highly recommended from her coworker. I liked it so much that I thought I’d share it with you all.
I’m well aware that this soup is mossy green and won’t win any beauty pageants. However, I’m gonna do my best to sell you on this soup because it’s truly delicious. Slow cooked, sweet caramelized onions contribute tons of flavor and balance out any bitterness present in the greens. A small amount of starchy arborio rice blended into the greens helps thicken up the soup and makes it a little creamy (without any cream). Finally, cayenne pepper and lemon really punch up the flavor.
If you’ve ever experienced kale belly, which is what I like to call that glowy, life-is-good feeling that emanates from your belly after you eat a bunch of kale salad—this soup does the trick, too. Maybe it’s all the vitamin C.
There are a couple of ways to serve this soup. As a simple bisque, this soup would be a great side for a sandwich or avocado on toast (serving it with a salad might be a little redundant on the greens). If you want to turn it into a full meal, I suggest serving the soup on a bed of brown rice (I like basmati) with chickpeas. My friends and I really liked the chickpea addition, which adds both texture and protein.
You can also swirl a little olive oil on top to add some richness and up the satiety factor. Definitely sprinkle it with freshly ground black pepper and a squeeze of lemon juice. This soup is just crazy good and crazy good for you.
Redeeming Green Soup with Lemon and CayenneCourse: Soups
A super fresh and healthy soup filled with greens and seasoned with lemon juice and cayenne pepper. This recipe is vegan and gluten free. The soup requires some multitasking; you’ll be caramelizing the onions in a skillet while you cook the rice and greens in a pot. If you’re cooking additional rice as a garnish, you’ll need one more pot on the stove (see notes for rice cooking instructions). Recipe yields 6 servings of about 1 ⅔ cup soup each.
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for garnish
2 large yellow onions, chopped
1 teaspoon salt, divided
2 tablespoons plus 3 cups water, divided
¼ cup arborio rice, rinsed (I used brown arborio rice)
1 large bunch kale or green chard, preferably organic (about 1 pound)
14 cups gently packed spinach or baby cooking greens, like chard, preferably organic (about 12 ounces)*
4 cups vegetable broth
Big pinch of cayenne pepper, to taste (I used over ¼ teaspoon)
1 tablespoon lemon juice, or more to taste
Serve with (optional): cooked brown basmati rice and cooked chickpeas
- First prepare the greens: Remove the ribs from the chard/kale and discard or save them for another recipe. Coarsely chop or tear the kale leaves. Trim any tough stems from the spinach/baby greens and roughly chop the leaves.
- Caramelize the onions: Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onions and ¼ teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions begin to brown, about 5 minutes.
- Reduce the heat to low, add 2 tablespoons water and cover the skillet (I used a baking sheet to cover mine). Cook until the onions are greatly reduced and have a deep caramel color, 25 to 30 minutes. Stir frequently while the pan is still hot and occasionally once the pan has cooled down (always recover the pan after stirring).
- Cook the arborio rice: While the onions are cooking, combine the remaining 3 cups water and ¾ teaspoon salt in a soup pot or Dutch oven. Add rice and bring the water to a boil. Reduce heat to maintain a simmer, cover and cook for 15 minutes.
- When the rice has cooked for 15 minutes, stir in the chard greens or kale. Return to a simmer; cover and cook for 10 minutes.
- When the onions are caramelized, stir a little of the simmering liquid into them. Then add the onion mixture to the rice along with the spinach, vegetable broth and cayenne. Return to a simmer, cover and cook, stirring once, until the spinach is tender but still bright green, about 5 minutes more.
- Puree the soup in the pot with an immersion blender until perfectly smooth, or in a regular blender in batches (never fill your blender past the maximum fill line, and be careful with hot soup). Stir in 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Taste and add more lemon juice, sea salt or cayenne pepper, if desired. Garnish each bowl of soup with a drizzle of olive oil.
- Divide the soup into bowls if you’re serving it as a bisque, or serve in bowls over cooked rice and chickpeas for a more complete meal. Garnish soup with a swirl of olive oil if you’d like. Serve with lemon wedges and freshly ground black pepper on the side.
- *GREENS NOTE: I used store-bought, washed baby greens for ease of preparation (more specifically, three-fourths of a giant container of OrganicGirl’s Super Greens). Organic greens are always best because conventionally grown greens tend to absorb a lot of the pesticide used on their crops.
- HOW TO COOK BROWN RICE TO SERVE WITH SOUP: Bring a large pot of water to boil on the stove. Rinse the rice (1 ½ to 2 cups should be plenty to go with the soup) in a fine mesh colander. Once the water is boiling, pour in the rice and give it a stir. Boil the rice for 30 minutes, then turn off the heat and drain the rice. Return the rice to the pot and cover the pot. Let the rice steam for 10 minutes. Remove the lid, fluff the rice with a fork and season with sea salt to taste.