Sunday, June 09, 2013


I have several green soups in my repertoire—broccoli, asparagus, zucchini, and even green bean (the point at which I actually had the short-sightedness to declare that my collection of pureed green soups was complete)—but somehow I’ve missed out on the most obvious variety. Of course spinach is ideal for soup because it you can cram a lot of it in there and it shrinks down to practically nothing. But spinach soup never sounded especially appealing to me until this Joy the Baker recipe caught my eye. So many pureed vegetable soups risk being bland, especially when potatoes are involved, so I look for big added flavors to keep things interesting, and this one had some of my faves, red pepper flakes and lemon juice, as well as an intriguingly large dose of dried thyme. (You might be tempted to use fresh, but I think dried has its own unique character and works well here.) The soup is great, fresh and green and velvety, but let’s face it, the croutons are the big stars here. Their spicy, salty, herby, garlicky, unrepentantly buttery crunch make this soup a knockout. A isn’t a fan of pureed soups and almost never eats the leftovers, but a plentiful supply of croutons was enough to lure him back for a second helping the next day. And I may be a vegetable soup lover anyway, but I’m not made of stone, and I found the crunchy, seasoned bread bites irresistible.

Making my own croutons isn't a revelation for me, but I’d never thought to put them on soup before. Now that I’ve started, I want to put them on everything.

3 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1 tablespoon dried thyme
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Salt to taste
4-6 heaping cups stale bread cubes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons dried thyme leaves
¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
½ teaspoon salt, plus extra to taste
2 cups peeled, diced red potatoes
4 cups low-sodium chicken stock (or vegetable stock)
6 heaping cups fresh spinach leaves
Juice of half a lemon

1. To prepare the croutons, preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, place bread cubes on the parchment, and set aside. Heat oil and butter in a medium sauté pan until butter is melted. Add sliced garlic and cook for 3 minutes. Remove garlic from the pan and discard. Remove pan from the heat, add thyme and red pepper flakes, and stir to combine. Drizzle melted butter mixture over the bread cubes. Sprinkle generously with salt and toss with your hands, then spread cubes out in a single layer. Bake for 12-14 minutes or until bread is golden brown and crisp.

2. To prepare the soup, heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onions and sauté until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, thyme, red pepper flakes, and ½ teaspoon salt and sauté for 2 minutes. Add potatoes and sauté for 3 minutes more.

3. Pour in chicken stock and bring to a low simmer. Simmer for about 15 minutes, or until potato chunks are cooked through. Reduce heat to low and add spinach leaves. Stir and cook spinach down in the hot broth for about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and puree soup with an immersion blender, or in a regular blender or food processor in batches. Once soup is pureed, stir in lemon juice and season with salt to taste.

4. Ladle soup into bowls and garnish with croutons.

Serves: 4
Time: 45 minutes
Leftover potential: Good; store leftover croutons separately from soup.

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