The Recipe: A homemade creamy spinach soup that's on the table in 30 minutes flat, a satisfying supper when topped with still-warm and easy-to-peel hard-cooked eggs. Perfect for bridging the seasons, this soup is a great choice for Lent and St. Patrick's Day in the spring and for Meatless Mondays year-round. The recipe works with either fresh or frozen spinach (fresh is my favorite) and with either a refined or rustic look (rustic is my usual choice), making it ever so versatile.
Vegetarian. Low Carb. High Protein. And Decidedly Delicious.
The Conversation: The "In Between" recipes that bridge the seasons and our lives.
~recipe updated 2017 for a little weekend inspiration~
~more recently updated recipes~
“There will come soft rains and the smell of the ground …”
Here in the Midwest, March is that muddy messy month between winter and spring, when warm days flirt with our summer-drenched dreams, when spring snows dash our winter-weary hearts.
For a cook, there’s no planning ahead. So I take it day by day, choosing light salads when the afternoon’s been warm, a wintry stew when fickle winds chill our bones.
So "in between" recipes are much welcome and that’s how this spinach soup strikes me – and has for many, many springs – as a soup that bridges the seasons and even our lives.
How, exactly, does a soup "bridge" our very lives? With versatility. Let's start with the flexibility to use either fresh spinach or frozen spinach.
FROZEN SPINACH vs FRESH SPINACH Frozen spinach works beautifully in this soup although the soup’s color will be a little less green and the spinach flavor less pronounced. In addition, I've learned to pay attention to the brand because some frozen spinach packages are filled with heavy stems. Instead, look for brands with mostly spinach leaves, they're the source of that astringent bitterness we crave in Spinach Soup.
Fresh leafy spinach is my preference, however, because the soup turns out, well, "fresher". The downside to fresh spinach is that it takes time to carefully soak (some times, for extra dusty leaves) and wash the spinach, then more time to snap off the tough stems. In the stores where I shop, the leafy spinach I'm talking about either comes in bunches tied with a rubber band or loose, in big piles of curly spinach leaves.
WHAT ABOUT BABY SPINACH? And sorry, a bag of baby spinach doesn't work well. The leaves of baby spinach are so tender, they mush into the soup without adding much flavor. To my taste, anyway, it's best to save that tender baby spinach for raw spinach salads.
WATCH FOR OTHER FRESH SPINACH It's not the "bag" that's the issue though, it's the "baby" spinach itself. Awhile back, a local supermarket (for St. Louisans, that's Schnucks) began stocking one-pound bags of a heavier leaf spinach that's really wonderful. It's pre-washed (though I usually run it through or colander or under running water anyway) but still tender enough for salads yet still sturdy enough for cooking (just take the time to remove the stems). We go through a couple of bags a month!
Okay, more flexibility.
Leave Spinach Soup in its rustic, natural form, this is my preference, mostly. Who else appreciates foods that visually announce their ingredients?
[photo above] On the other hand, Spinach Soup is so dramatic when it's puréed into a bright green, concentrated spinach soup. Isn't it pretty?!
When to make a pot of lush-tasting Spinach Soup? Three ideas!
LENT The eggs symbolize birth and life, so the soup ‘n’ egg combination is a good choice for meatless Fridays during Lent. (More recipe ideas for Lent.)
ST PATRICK’S DAY Just for the fun of it, serve an all-green meal for St. Patrick’s Day festivities. (More recipe ideas for St. Patrick's Day.)
MEATLESS MONDAY More and more, omnivore eaters who are both health-conscious and environmentally aware choose vegetarian or vegan meals just one or two days a week. (More vegetarian & vegan recipe ideas.)
Plus, just in time for coloring Easter eggs!
Who’s boiled eggs that refuse to peel? Chances are, the eggs were "too" fresh, that especially happens when you buy beautiful farm-raised eggs.
Who’s cooked eggs with yolks ringed in green? Chances are, the eggs were overcooked. Arrrrgh!
There are all kinds of tricks out there to avoid these common problems cooking hard-boiled eggs. But here's my simple trick: just mind the clock. Yes, I really do set the timer for each step and time after time, I end up with perfectly cooked hard-boiled eggs with golden-yellow yolks. Here's how I do it.
- Place eggs in a single layer in a saucepan, cover with water plus an inch more. If you like, add a drop or two of food coloring so that later, in the fridge, it's easy to distinguish the hard-cooked eggs.
- Leaving the pot uncovered, bring the water to a boil. Watch carefully, for once the water boils, boil the water for just one minute. Precision is important, set the timer!
- Turn off the heat, cover the pot and let the pot rest for exactly 10 minutes. Don't risk distraction, set the timer!
- Use a slotted spoon to lift the hot eggs into a large bowl of very cold ice water and let them rest there for five minutes – longer is fine too, the ice water stops the cooking process. No ice? Cold tap water works in a pinch, just be sure to keep the fresh cold water flowing over the eggs for the full five minutes.
The eggs will peel easily now, they're ready to eat. Or to save the hard-cooked eggs for later, leave them unpeeled and store in the fridge for a week or so. Or – more Easter fun – make some gorgeous Ruby Eggs!
By the way, I've lost track of how I learned to hard-cook eggs this way, it's certainly not something I figured out on my own. Chances are, it was Cook's Illustrated.
QUICK SUPPER: SPINACH SOUP with EGGS
Time to table: 30 minutes
Makes 5 cups (assumes 10 ounces spinach) or 8 cups (assumes 16 ounces spinach)
- 5 or 8 large eggs, hard-cooked (here's how Perfect Hard-Cooked Eggs)
- 1 tablespoon (5 teaspoons) butter
- 1 small (medium) onion, chopped fine
- 10 ounces (16 ounces/454g) frozen or fresh spinach
- 2 tablespoons (10 teaspoons) flour
- 3 cups (4-3/4 cups) vegetable broth or chicken stock
- 1/2 teaspoon (3/4 teaspoon) ground nutmeg (or more to taste)
- 1 cup (1-3/4 cup) whole milk (or part milk and part cream)
- Salt & pepper to taste, be generous!
(note: the first ingredient amount is for soups made with ten ounces spinach, that's the typical box of frozen spinach; the second amount is scaled for 16 ounces spinach, that's the typical bag of frozen spinach; either amount works with fresh spinach)
EGGS If cooking the hard-boiled eggs, start these first. They’ll be cooked and still warm by the time the soup is finished.
SOUP In a large, heavy pot, melt the butter on medium high until shimmery. Add the onion, stir to coat it with fat, let the onions cook just until beginning to soften.
FOR FROZEN SPINACH While the onion cooks, thaw the spinach in the microwave. Once thawed, add it to the onion mixture and cook for about 5 minutes.
FOR FRESH SPINACH While the onion cooks, wash the fresh spinach very well by soaking and swishing in cold water. It needn’t be trimmed but it must be grit-free; to test, eat a piece of the raw spinach. If going for a rustic appearance, cut the spinach leaves into ribbons or roughly chop. Stir the spinach into the onion mixture by the handful and let it cook until cooked but still bright green.
FOR A PURÉED SOUP (Skip this step for a rustic appearance.) Transfer the onion-spinach mixture to a blender and blend until smooth, adding some broth or stock if needed. Return the puréed mixture to the pot. (Don’t waste the spinach left in the blender, use the rest of the broth or stock to rinse it out into the pot when it's called for.)
Sprinkle the flour over the spinach mixture and stir it in. (Don't just dump the flour into the pot, you'll end up with floury lumps. Should this happen, use the back of a spoon or a whisk to work out the lumps before continuing).
Add the broth or stock, a tablespoon at a time at first, completely incorporating each addition before adding more. Stir in the nutmeg and bring the soup to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium. Add the milk and bring just to a boil but do not allow to boil. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
TO FINISH Spoon the hot soup into bowls. Place one or two egg halves in each bowl, resting gently atop the soup.
ALANNA’s TIPS If the soup is for supper, a little extra richness is appreciated. Either sauté the onion in 2 tablespoons butter or substitute cream for some of the milk. The eggs work especially well when they’re warm. If you don’t want to hard-cook eggs, poach an egg or two right in the hot Spinach Soup after it's cooked! Gorgeous!
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