Back in the stone ages (aka my 20’s) I worked as an event planner at a DC restaurant group. One of the things I loved most about that job – aside from the amazing food on-demand – was working on Saturdays. Sounds crazy, right? But the hours were good (I was usually out by 7), the office was quiet, and I could crank through three days of work in a single morning.
But the best part was my series of mini-commutes. The restaurant group had four locations and I generally spent the better part of the afternoon driving between locations to prep for the following week. While traffic in DC is generally a bear, it’s downright pleasant on a Saturday afternoon. And plenty of time in the car meant plenty of time to listen to The Splendid Table – the greatest talk food show of all time. Lynne Rossetto Kasper is (pardon my language if you ever see the Lynne) the shit. I was sad to hear that she’s retiring this year, but she’s earned it (in spades). Besides, her legacy will live forever to infinity and beyond in my iTunes playlist.
It was during one of these drives that I was introduced to the concept of green vegetable soup. I’ll admit it – I was skeptical. Cameron doubly so. Admittedly, I made a great number of things in those early days of our marriage that we both tasted with a healthy dose of trepidation. New kitchen experiments could be hit or miss those days, and while many of my adventures went straight into the trash, this one pleasantly surprised us both. Green vegetable soup for the win.
Over the years, I’ve nipped and tucked and swapped and tweaked the recipe as I am wont to do, and I’m pretty darn pleased with this current version. I keep it fairly simple with a garnish of mint leaves and heavy cream to keep the taste earthy but bright. This spring green vegetable soup is brimming with vitamins (thanks greens) and minerals (thanks bone broth), making it one of my go-to recipes for staving off a cold or getting back on the wagon after a weekend of indulgence. It’s a soup that’s made for Mondays.
Spring Green Vegetable Soup Recipe Notes
This spring green vegetable soup recipe is a terrific blank slate to customize to your palate and pantry. Here are a few ways to customize.
You need a (not literal, but close) crap-ton of greens for this soup (about 2 pounds), but the ones you use are really up to you. I prefer the classic combination of spinach and swiss chard, but kale, collards, and mustard are all fair game. If using a green that takes much longer to cook, like collards, be sure to add it before the fast-cooking greens to keep those flavors and colors bright. Every once in a while I throw in a few handfuls of radish greens. Just be mindful to balance the flavors. Mustard and radish are peppery and a bit bitter, so temper them with something more mild, like a combination of spinach and beet greens. This is a terrific recipe for using up odds and ends of greens, like the aforementioned beet and radish greens. I’ve even used carrot tops. The produce bin is your oyster.
I use homemade chicken stock in this recipe and I highly recommend you do the same if you’re not vegan or vegetarian. You can use boxed chicken broth, but the finished soup isn’t going to have the same velvety texture that you’ll achieve with the gelatin from the homemade stock.
Herbs and spices can dramatically change the flavor profile in this soup, as can the garnish. Experiment with adding fresh parsley, cilantro, or basil (add half a cup along with the greens). Try adding curry, cumin, or turmeric (about a teaspoon along with the leeks). I garnish with a tiny splash of heavy cream, but you can easily omit and substitute coconut milk, unfiltered extra virgin olive oil, truffle oil, or chili oil.
Make it Vegan: substitute olive or avocado oil for butter; substitute vegetable broth for bone broth; omit cream; garnish with coconut milk or unfiltered extra virgin olive oil
Make it Vegetarian: substitute vegetable broth for bone broth
Make it Paleo/Dairy-Free: substitute avocado oil for butter; omit cream; garnish with coconut milk or unfiltered extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tbsp + 1 tsp butter or olive oil
- 1 large sweet onion, sliced
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 2 garlic cloves, smashed and minced
- 2 medium leeks, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
- 2 lbs greens, stems removed and coarsely chopped (I use equal parts swiss chard and baby spinach)
- 4 c. homemade bone broth
- 1 lemon, zested and juiced
- sea salt, to taste
- cracked black pepper, to taste
- fresh mint, to taste, chopped
- heavy cream, to taste, chopped
- Heat a large dutch oven or soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the butter and heat until it foams (if using oil, heat until shimmering). Add the onions and stir to coat with the fat, then sprinkle with 1 tsp salt. Reduce heat to medium, then cover and cook the onions, stirring every 5-10 minutes, until deeply browned and caramelized, 30-40 minutes.
- Deglaze the pan with a little bit of stock, water, or broth (a couple of tablespoons) and scrape up the browned bits from the bottom. Cook until the liquid evaporates.
- Push aside the onions in the center of the pan and add the extra teaspoon of butter or oil. Allow the fat to heat for a minute or two, then add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about a minute.
- Add the leeks to the onions and garlic and stir to combine. Cook until the leeks are soft, an additional 5-8 minutes.
- Add the greens and broth/stock. Increase heat and bring the liquid to a boil, then reduce to medium-low and simmer until the greens are soft but still bright, 5-7 minutes.
- Add the lemon juice and zest, then puree the soup with an immersion blender. Taste for seasoning and add additional salt and/or cracked black pepper.
- Garnish with fresh chopped mint and a splash of heavy cream. Serve immediately.