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I think of all the seasons, I get most excited for fall… after weeks of being unable to turn on the oven – even dreading having a single burner on because it will turn the kitchen into a sweltering sauna – suddenly finding myself able to to roast or simmer or braise to my heart’s content comes as a relief. I love cooking with butternut squash and pumpkin again, warm spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, slow-cooking braises where the meat falls off the bone. There is nothing so satisfying and comforting as tucking into a big bowl of steamy, hearty soup on a chilly fall day.

This soup certainly fits the bill. It’s about as hearty and wholesome as they get – big chunks of colorful, tasty fall veggies, chock full of fiber- and protein-packed lentils, bursts of vitamin-rich spinach, all melding together in a flavorful, soothing broth. It’s perfect for fall. James and I have been enjoying the heck out it – the recipe makes a lot so we’re getting quite a few easy dinners out of the leftovers. After a long  hike yesterday up a mountain in central New Hampshire, it sure was nice to come home and heat up a couple of servings of this deliciousness.

The original recipe calls for just sweet potatoes, but I had half of a butternut squash already peeled in the fridge, leftover from another dish, so I chopped it up and threw that in as well. I think it’s a winning addition – I’m crazy for butternut squash – so I think I’ll add it to this soup from now on. Feel free to leave it out, or even substitute a different kind of winter squash… I’m think I’ll have to try pumpkin one of these days. Swiss chard, tough stems removed, could be substituted for the spinach. The original recipe also calls for vegetable broth, which would make this meal vegetarian, but I prefer the savory goodness of chicken broth.

Lentil Soup with Sweet Potatoes, Squash and Spinach

Adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod

Serves: 8 – 10

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 carrot, diced

1 celery stalk, diced

2 small sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes

1/2 medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes

1 1/2 cups brown lentils

4 (15 ounce) cans chicken broth (or vegetable broth)

3 cups water

2 cans (15 ounce) diced tomatoes (I used fire-roasted)

2 bay leaves

1 tablespoon fresh thyme

1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary

2 cups chopped fresh spinach

Coarse salt and pepper, to taste

  1. In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic. Saute until onion is translucent and garlic is just barely starting to brown. Add carrot, celery, sweet potatoes, and squash. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until vegetables soften, about 6 – 9 minutes.
  2. Stir in the lentils, broth, and water. Add the diced tomatoes, bay leaves, thyme, and rosemary. Season with salt and pepper and stir. Cook on medium-low heat for about 35-40 minutes or until lentils are cooked.
  3. Add the fresh spinach and stir. If necessary, season with salt and pepper. Remove bay leaves and serve.
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I don’t repeat recipes very often – there are too many new and interesting recipes out there to try! – so the fact that we have had this many times should tell you something. It’s a delicious soup for a cold winter night, hearty and healthy and very satisfying. It’s definitely one of our favorite soups. It’s extremely flavorful and interesting and different from any other chicken noodle soup I’ve ever tasted, unique and impressive enough for company but still simple to prepare.

Swiss chard is so, so good for you and it’s delicious too – it’s a mild leafy green similar in taste and texture to spinach. It’s packed full of iron, vitamins A, C, and K, magnesium and potassium, and fiber. Chickpeas are loaded with fiber, protein, and vitamin B6. This is one healthy soup!! And trust me, you’ll enjoy this soup so much you won’t even notice how good it is for you.

Another reason I love this soup: it’s cheap eats. I always keep canned beans, chicken broth, and egg noodles in our pantry (I’m a big fan of having a well-stocked pantry), and a bunch of Swiss chard will go for about $3, so it’s not an expensive dish to make. You don’t have to pay a lot to eat well. And you don’t have to eat a lot of processed foods to eat cheaply.

I accidentally used beet greens in this soup this last time, and I didn’t even realize it until I went into the fridge for my bunch of beet greens and found a bunch of Swiss chard instead. So feel free to substitute with beet greens or even spinach, if you like. Beet greens will turn your noodles pink after sitting in the fridge overnight, though! My other change to this recipe is that I add about a cup of cooked chicken at the end. I’ll use leftover chicken breast meat, or shredded rotisserie chicken meat, or this last time I roasted two chicken thighs on the bone in the oven with just salt and pepper and cut up the meat. It’s not necessary, but James enjoys the extra meatiness.

You could also easily make this vegetarian by omitting the chicken meat and using vegetable broth instead of chicken broth.

Tunisian Soup with Swiss Chard and Egg Noodles

Adapted, just barely, from Batter Splattered

1 teaspoon cumin seeds (I use 1 teaspoon ground cumin)

1 bunch Swiss chard or beet greens, stems and center ribs chopped and leaves coarsely chopped (reserve separately)

1 medium red onion, chopped

2 large garlic cloves, minced

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons tomato paste

5 cups chicken broth

1 to 2 tablespoons harissa or other hot sauce,to taste (I use 1 tablespoon of Tabasco sauce for a nice kick without being too spicy)

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 (19-ounces) can chickpeas, drained and rinsed well

4 ounce fine egg noodles (about 1 1/2 cups)

Accompaniment: lemon wedges

About 1 cup shredded chicken breast meat, optional

If using seeds rather than powder: toast cumin seeds in a dry small heavy skillet (preferably cast-iron) over medium heat, stirring, until deeply fragrant and dark brown (be careful not to burn). Cool, then grind to a powder in grinder.

Cook chard stems, onion, garlic, 1/2 teaspoon each of cumin and salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until beginning to brown, about 12 minutes. Add tomato paste and cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Add stock, harissa (or Tabasco sauce), and lemon juice and simmer, covered, 30 minutes.

Add chard leaves, chickpeas, chicken (if using), and noodles with 1/2 teaspoon salt and simmer, covered, until tender, about 7 minutes.

Serve soup sprinkled with freshly ground black pepper and remaining cumin.

I love Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food magazine. My cousins gave us a subscription as an engagement present about two years ago and ever since then I’ve been hooked. So when I found out that there’s an Everyday Food app for my iPhone, and that it was only a buck, of course I bought it. And I generally only stick to the free apps, so you know this was special.

The app isn’t perfect, but it gives me easy access to recipies from issues that came out before I was a subscriber, and that makes me happy. And it stores an alphebetized list of the recepies I’ve saved, so it’s easy to find my favorites again, which is extremely helpful. On more than one occasion there has been a frantic search for a missing issue of Everyday Food that had a recipe I wanted to try, or – even worse! – a recipe I already tried and loved but didn’t copy down yet. So hopefully the app will cut down on that, although it doesn’t seem to include recipes from the latest issues.

Plus it has a “dinner tonight” tab, which gives you a new recipe every day, so I’ve discovered some tasty-looking recipes that I wouldn’t have found otherwise. I love that each recipe has a pretty photo of the food, just like the website or the magazine. I hate not knowing what the dish is supposed to look like.

And you can search through the archives for a particular ingredient. I wish it had a browsing feature though, I’d like to just scroll through their archives without narrowing it down by an arbitrary ingredient.

It was through this app that I discovered the recipe for gemelli with sausage, swiss chard and pine nuts. It looked interesting and very very easy, but it had so few ingredients I didn’t really expect much from it. I wanted to try it because it was something new (and it looked like it be a cinch to throw together), but I thought it’d be one of those recipes that I try and then forget about.

Obviously, I was wrong. It was fantastic. I was actually blown away. The flavors were surprisingly complex for so few ingredients (I think we have the sausage to thank for that), and it was very savory and satisfying. I couldn’t stop raving about how much I enjoyed the dish, and I don’t usually compliment my own cooking that way. I was just so surprised at how tasty this was, given how ridiculously simple it was to put together.

Gemelli with Sausage, Swiss Chard and Pine Nuts

From Martha Stewart Everyday Food (unfortunately the app doesn’t say which issue)

Serves 4

Ingredients

1/3 cup pine nuts

1 tablespoon olive oil

3/4 lb mild Italian sausage, casings removed

1 lb Swiss chard, tough stems removed*, leaves cut into thin strips

2 garlic cloves, minced

Salt and Pepper

1 lb gemelli or other short pasta

3/4 cup raisins, plumped in boiling water and drained**

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (I think I used 1/2 cup) ***

Directions

1. In a large skillet, toast pine nuts over medium-high heat, shaking the pan to toast evenly, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from skillet.

2. In the same skillet, heat oil over medium-high heat. Add sausage, and cook, breaking it up with a fork, until browned, about 5 minutes. Add chard, garlic, and pepper; cook, tossing, until chard wilts, 2 to 3 minutes. Cover to keep warm.

3. In a large pot of boiling water, cook pasta until al dente, according to package instructions, about 12 minutes. Reserve 1 cup pasta water, then drain pasta. Return pasta to pot.

4. Add sausage mixture to pasta with 1/2 cup reserved cooking water, raisins, toasted pine nuts, and cheese; toss to combine. Add more cooking water if pasta seems dry. Serve with more Parmesan.

*and feed to your guinea pig if you have one!

** I almost left the raisins out, and I’m so glad I didn’t. They added a pleasant sweetness to the dish, and they really complimented the sausage. I let them sit in the boiling water for a minute or two before draining and adding them to the dish.

*** I use freshly grated Asiago, which is cheaper than fresh Parmesan (especially Parmesan imported from Italy) but I really can’t taste the difference. I wouldn’t recommend the pre-grated parmesan in a green can – it just wouldn’t give you the awesome flavor that the fresh cheese will.

Suzi

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