Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Taste of Green: Chard Soup

I tried this recipe for chard soup with cilantro some time ago when I was too busy or lazy or tired (or all three) to record the experience or take any photos. I was so pleasantly surprised by its bright and tangy flavor, however, that I was immediately impatient for another bunch of chard from the CSA so I could try it again. Not only was my impatience eventually rewarded with a small bunch of chard in our final summer/fall share box (don’t worry, there’s a winter share, too) but also with a lovely bunch of cilantro and several sturdy leeks. There were even a few red potatoes left over from a previous week’s box.

This soup is adapted from a recipe in Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone. I basically combined some of the suggested variations and added some lime juice to compliment the cilantro. The original calls for more chard than I had, but my results were still very good. In the recipe below, I offer a range for the amounts of chard (by volume) that I think would probably work. If you have a bumper crop of chard, you might be able to hide even more in this soup.

While I usually like to use an immersion blender for pureed soups like this one, the fibrous nature of the greens makes it a more suitable candidate for the counter-top blender. The immersion blender leaves some leafy pieces behind, which is okay since they are very tender after cooking, but the big blender results in a more silky-smooth soup. Stir some sour cream (mixed with some of the soup to temper it a little) into that puree and you have a creamy, tangy spoonful that will also coat a dunked chunk of rustic bread quite nicely.

I’m finding it difficult to describe the flavor of this soup without using silly foody words like “ethereal,” or “haunting,” or “yummy.” All of the zest and tang from the sour cream, cilantro and lime juice changes the dark, earthy grassiness of the chard into a rounded and creamy flavor. The cilantro contributes a lot in some way, but I can’t say the soup really tastes like cilantro. Perhaps you cilantro loathers might give this a try(?) Then again, I love cilantro, so might not be the best person to suggest such a thing.

It may not be easy to describe the flavor of this soup in meaningful terms, but I will say that if I could choose the taste of the color green, it would be the flavor of Chard Soup with Cilantro and Lime.

Chard Soup with Cilantro and Lime
Adapted from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison

You could use a medium-size chopped yellow onion in place of the leeks.

2 tablespoons butter
2 medium leeks, white part only, sliced and well-washed
3 medium red potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
1 ½ teaspoons coarse (kosher) salt, plus more to taste
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon paprika
7 cups water, divided
8-10 cups chard, stems removed, chopped
1 cup cilantro leaves and tender stems, chopped
juice of 1 lime
1/3 cup sour cream

1. Melt the butter over medium heat in a Dutch oven or other large pot. Add the leeks, potatoes and salt and cook, stirring occasionally, 8 minutes or until just beginning to brown.

2. Stir in pepper and paprika. Add ½ cup water. Cook about 1 minute, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan.

3. Add the chard and cilantro. Cook a few minutes or until the greens have wilted down, stirring occasionally.

4. Add remaining 6 ½ cups water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, partially cover and gently boil 20-30 minutes or until potatoes are very soft.

5. Remove the soup from the heat and allow to cool slightly. Puree in batches in a blender until all of the soup is smooth. Return to a pot on the burner and stir in the lime juice.

6. In a measuring cup or small bowl, mix together the sour cream and about ½ cup of the pureed soup until smooth. Stir the sour cream mixture into the soup until well blended. Re-warm the soup over low heat if necessary. Taste for salt and add more if desired.

Makes about 6 servings. Leftovers will keep for a few days in the refrigerator. The color may become dull.

Another Swiss chard recipe: Chard Tart with Feta Cheese and Olives

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