Recipe: Spring soup of greens and pasta
COMFORTING: A soup of mixed braised greens, with a bit of vinegar and grated Parmesan, is a good first course. (Gary Friedman / Los Angeles Times)
Note: The mixed leafy greens can include mustard, kale, collard, beet and turnip greens, chard as well as dandelions. (Watch the dandelions as too many might make the soup bitter.) One-half pound yields 8 cups coarsely chopped.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 pound mixed leafy greens, stemmed and coarsely chopped (about 8 cups)
3 cups vegetable or chicken stock diluted with 3 cups water
2 teaspoons salt, more to taste
3/4 cup small pasta shapes (such as riso or stars), or 1 cup cooked rice
1 teaspoon sherry vinegar, more to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon finely ground fennel seed
6 tablespoons grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
1. Heat the olive oil in a 4-quart soup pot over medium heat and cook the onions until they soften, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until it becomes fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the coarsely chopped greens to the pot, a handful at a time, and let them wilt, stirring constantly.
2. Add the diluted stock and the salt and slowly bring to a simmer, then cook until the greens are soft (but not darkened or faded), about 10 minutes.
3. While the greens are cooking, cook the pasta in a large pot of rapidly boiling salted water until tender, about 5 minutes. Drain and set aside until the soup is done.
4. Coarsely shred the greens with an immersion blender. Some will become puréed, but mostly they should be shredded. If you don't have an immersion blender, a food processor will do a better job than a stand blender. Transfer half the greens and liquid to a food processor and carefully purée until the greens are finely chopped. Reserve in a mixing bowl and repeat with the remaining greens and liquid. Wipe out the soup pot and return the greens and liquid to it.
5. Bring the soup to a simmer, and stir in the cooked pasta and 1 teaspoon vinegar. If the pasta clumps together (it probably will), let it warm and stir it again to break it up. Season with the pepper and the fennel seed. Taste, and add more salt or vinegar if needed.
6. To serve, ladle the soup into heated shallow bowls and garnish with a generous grating of Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Each serving: 192 calories; 5 grams protein; 28 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams fiber; 6 grams fat; 2 grams saturated fat; 4 mg. cholesterol; 890 mg. sodium.