Spring made an early entrance this year, but it’s not quite sure if it wants to stick around permanently yet. One day it’s rainy and seasonably warm, the next we are anticipating wet snow that will bring a coating to possibly an inch to grassy surfaces.
The occasional warm day we’ve been having is causing the spinach in the greenhouse to bolt, that is, go to seed. It ‘s time to pick as much as possible, so recipes that use mass quantities of spinach look good to me. This recipe for spinach soup with middle eastern spices uses a pound and a half of fresh spinach. That translates into approximately 18 cups of spinach, and I say, bring it on!
Cookbook author and New York Times food columnist Martha Rose Shulman got her inspiration for this soup from a Syrian pan cooked spinach recipe. The warming spices, clove, allspice, nutmeg, cinnamon and coriander are a pleasing contrast to the sweet, mild flavor of freshly picked spinach.
To start, saute a medium chopped onion and celery in a Dutch oven. I checked with the NOA, National Onion Association and they say a medium onion equals about 1 cup chopped onion. When the vegetables soften, add a few cloves of chopped garlic and cook until fragrant. Add stock, rice, bouquet garni and a generous pinch of salt. Bring the mixture to boil and simmer for 30 minutes. This infuses the broth with flavor and cooks the rice which thickens the soup. Remove the bouquet garni and add the spices and the spinach. It is best to add the spinach in batches to the hot broth, continue to add more until it is all wilted. Cover and cook for five minutes, no longer. The spinach should retain it’s bright green color, any longer it could turn gray.
Puree the soup in batches in a blender or blend in the pot with an immersion blender. The final touch is the addition of some tangy yogurt, half is blended into the soup and the rest is a garnish for each bowl. Sprinkle a few chopped walnuts on top before serving. I served it hot but I think it would be good cold as well.
Spinach Soup with Middle Eastern Spices
Makes 4-6 servings
- 1T extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1/3 c finely diced celery
- Salt to taste
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- ¼ to ½c medium grain rice
- 6 c chicken or vegetable stock
- Bouquet garni of a few sprigs parsley and thyme and a bay leaf
- 1 ½ lbs fresh spinach, washed thoroughly, large stems removed
- ¼t ground allspice
- 1/8 t ground cloves
- 1/8 t freshly ground nutmeg
- ¼ t ground cinnamon
- 1t coriander seeds, lightly toasted and ground
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- 2 c Greek yogurt (low or full fat)
- ¼ c chopped walnuts to garnish
- Heat the olive oil in a large heavy soup pot or Dutch oven. Add the chopped onion and celery and cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and a pinch of salt and cook until garlic is fragrant, about 1 minute.
- Add the stock, rice, bouquet garni and salt to taste and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and cook for 30 minutes.
- While the stock is simmering you will have time to measure out the spices and toast and grind the coriander.
- After the stock has simmered, remove the bouquet garni. Add the spices and add the spinach in batches, wilting it as you go. Cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Spinach should still retain its bright color.
- Puree the soup in batches in a blender. Be sure to not to overfill and hold down the lid tightly. Alternately you could puree the soup in the pot with a hand blender. Stop at this step if you are not serving the soup immediately.
- Return the soup to the pot and heat through, stirring occasionally. Whisk half of the yogurt into the soup and season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Serve the soup with a swirl of yogurt and garnish with chopped walnuts.