Mr. Peacock enjoys making homemade soups, especially when the weather is cold and dreary. This Chez Panisse Spinach Soup has been a longtime favorite, because it is so simple, economical and healthy. It is especially comforting after a holiday season of rich foods and treats. I love Alice Waters (Chez Panisse) recipes because she likes to use a minimal amount of ingredients for maximum flavor and this "green" soup is no exception. You probably already have most of the ingredients in your kitchen and it uses just water—not chicken broth. This simple soup is fantastic as it is, however, feel free to make it your own and play around with the ingredients. I use it as a starter “base” for a variety of soups. This time I added a half of a red bell pepper, but you could add leftover shredded chicken or whatever you have. Alice Waters suggests garnishing with garlic butter or swirls of crème fraiche or small buttered croutons with grated Parmesan and drizzled olive oil. I went really simple and just placed a couple of garlic croutons on each bowl.
Simple Spinach Soup
Adapted from Chez Panisse Cooking.
You can buy that cookbook and other Chez Panisse cookbooks here.
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (this adds so much flavor—do not substitute margarine or oil)
5 ¼ cups water
1 large carrot (Mr. Peacock used 2 medium), diced
1 stalk of celery (Mr. Peacock used 2 small stalks), diced
1 medium onion, diced
3 bunches of spinach (about 1 lb.), de-stemmed, washed, and drained (Mr. Peacock used 5 large handfuls of baby spinach)
Salt and pepper to taste (Mr. Peacock used about 1.5 teaspoons of salt and a few grinds of fresh ground black pepper)
1) Melt the butter in a wide stainless-steel pot. Add ¾ water and the diced carrot, celery and onions (Mr. Peacock also added a diced half of a red bell pepper that was hanging out in the refrigerator). Cook at a low simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.
2) Add the remaining 4 ½ cups water and bring to a boil. Add the spinach and cook over high heat for 1 minute, stirring until all of the spinach is well wilted. Do not cover the pot: Volatile acids, which are released when the vegetable is heated, will condense on the lid, fall back into the pot, and cause discoloration and make the soup a dull color.
3) Carefully pour the entire mixture in a blender and pureé. Sometimes I like the soup to be super smooth and thoroughly puree it for a few minutes and it becomes almost creamy, while other times I will just blend it for a few moments and leave it a little chunky with flecks of veggies. Pureé the mixture to your desired preference.
4) Garnish as desired and serve!
Mr. Peacock will make large batches of soups with homemade stock and freeze them for lazy days, however, this particular spinach soup is best served immediately, rather than made ahead. The barely wilted spinach will make the pureé a beautiful bright green—but will turn to a dull army green after about 30 minutes, so plan accordingly. Make some spinach soup this weekend—it’s cheap, easy and yummy! Popeye would be proud...