Monday, February 20, 2006

Recipe: Easy Spinach Soup Made with Fresh Spinach

This tasty, healthy, non-dairy soup is packed with fresh spinach and cooks up in about 40 minutes.

To me, fresh baby spinach is about as good as it gets in the vegetable department, and I could happily eat spinach salad five times a week. So you might assume that I devote a large portion of my kitchen garden to growing spinach each year. How I wish.

Spinach is fairly easy to grow from seed, but the plants prefer a long, cool growing season, not the wildly fluctuating temperatures we have in Missouri each spring and fall.

The other problem with growing spinach is that you need to plant a lot of it. Those 'bunches' of fresh spinach for sale at the market? They're not one single clump like a head of lettuce. Each one is actually about 50 little spinach plants made up of just a few leaves apiece and bundled together with a twisty tie.

Now start doing the math.

Even if I could get a decent spinach crop to grow, I'd need about two acres of plants to feed my habit, not to mention hundreds of hours to tend and harvest them. Store bought spinach is suddenly a steal.

Unfortunately, conventionally grown spinach is always near the top of the Environmental Working Group's Most Contaminated Produce ListThankfully fresh organic spinach is readily available. So I expend my energies in the garden growing Swiss chard (heat tolerant! cold tolerant! easy to grow from seed!) and treat myself to purchased organic spinach, which I buy by the pound and usually turn into enormous salads.

For many years, a version of the spinach soup in Margaret Fox's Cafe Beaujolais cookbook (I love this book) was regularly featured at my dinner table. I made it with a box of frozen spinach (as does Margaret) and plain old canned chicken broth (she made her own stock), topped it off with a dollop of sour cream, and enjoyed every bowlful. Then I moved to a farm way out in the country, turned into sort of a food snob (but in a good way), and stopped making that soup. It's been years since I've even bought a can of chicken broth.

But the other night, two soon-to-be-outdated bags of organic spinach and a large bowl of rich, homemade chicken stock called out to me from behind the refrigerator door. It was 20°F outside, and there is only so much spinach salad even I can eat.

Naturally I turned back to my beloved Cafe Beaujolais recipe for guidance, but what I ended up with was like no spinach soup I'd ever had. I won't embarrass myself by admitting just how much of it I consumed in one sitting. Okay, one sitting and one standing over the pot in the kitchen. (Have you ever looked at how much of something has been eaten, known you were the only one who could possibly have eaten it, and yet started glancing frantically around the room for someone—anyone—to blame for some of its disappearance?)

Once again, top quality ingredients shine through in the simplest of preparations. And while the gist of Margaret's recipe remains the same, I've changed pretty much everything about it except the basic instructions.


A few chopped radishes as garnish add color, flavor, and a pleasant crunch.

Farmgirl Susan's Super Spinach Soup
Makes about 8 cups — adapted from Cafe Beaujolais

**Click here to print this recipe**

So what's so super about this spinach soup? It's super fast and easy to make, super delicious, and super good for you. It's rich and satisfying and yet contains no milk or cream. The secret to its thickness is a little uncooked white rice tossed in. If you're following Alejandro Junger's Clean program, use 3/4 cup cooked brown rice instead. Note that the texture of your soup won't be quite as smooth.

As always, I urge you to seek out local and organic ingredients; they really do make a difference. I recently discovered Lundberg Farms organic white long grain rice and love it. Their brown rices are really good too.


1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound yellow or white onions, chopped (about 3 cups)
1 to 2 cloves finely chopped fresh garlic
6 cups (48 ounces) organic chicken stock, preferably homemade
1/4 cup uncooked organic white rice
(or 3/4 cup cooked organic brown rice, see note above)
12 ounces fresh organic baby spinach
(about 8 cups packed)
1 teaspoon salt (you may need less if your chicken stock is salty)
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Optional garnishes:
Sour cream of creme fraiche
A few finely chopped spinach leaves
Chive blossoms
Chopped radishes

1. Heat the olive oil in a 4 quart pot, add the onions, and cook, stirring frequently, over medium heat until translucent and just starting to turn golden at the edges, about 7 to 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook 1 to 2 more minutes.

2. Add the chicken stock, turn up the heat, and bring to a boil. Add the rice, turn down the heat, and simmer, with the lid cracked, stirring every so often, for 20 minutes. (If you're using cooked brown rice, don't add it until step 3.)

3. Stir in the spinach, salt, and pepper and simmer another 5 to 7 minutes. Carefully puree the soup using a counter top blender or immersion hand blender. (I love my KitchenAid hand blender.)

4. Season to taste and serve hot, garnished if desired. Like most soups, this one tastes even better when reheated the next day.

Still hungry? You'll find links to all my sweet and savory Less Fuss, More Flavor recipes, including several more scrumptious soups, in the Farmgirl Fare Recipe Index.

© FarmgirlFare.com, the carefully blended foodie farm blog where Farmgirl Susan shares photos & stories of her crazy country life on 240 remote Missouri acres—and there's always homemade soup in the freezer.

32 comments:

  1. Fun post in more than one way. Great soup, we love (yes the kids too) spinach, NEVER ever to be eaten other than fresh or -out of season- frozen, not in glass nor canned blegh. And yes I knew Seeds of Change was Mars, as my husband used to work for Masterfoods for more then 15 years. You know about Pedigree, Uncle Bens, Whiskas, Caesar, Ceramis (= hydroculture for plants made out of catlitter product?!), Tarly plus all the candybrands? Yep, one and the same! Probably forgot half of the brands but there you go. And eh, my husband left the company last year, we just payed the lawyers...(we won!) Sorry, bit personal but it's still fresh. Seeing a very good and loyal husband going through this stuff hurts you know. Sorry again. Btw, I liked Seeds of Change, the try-out versions were better, more original in taste than the eventual, mellowed down version that's in the stores nowadays.

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  2. How I love spinach. This sounds sooogood.

    I think I will make me some, after I use up the vat of cream of tomato soup I just made from the last few jars of my home canned CSA tomatoes! (This is the furthest I've ever gotten towards spring with a couple of jars left. I didn't make more-I just hoarded them like a total miser!)

    That is a very simple, very good soup too.I love soups where the pure vegetable tastes just sing.

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  3. Personally I'm not a fan of spinach (although I do like a good Greek spinach pie) or greens in general really, but the bunnies love the stuff! So there's almost always some in my fridge. The way they go after it reminds me of the series of photos you had up a while back of one of the sheep digging into the hay.

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  4. Oh I love soup, I just wrote about French Onion soup on my website the other day. I love spinach salad but I have never even tried spinach soup because of my dislike of cooked spinach (probably done that way you spoke about). Anyway as I was doing research for my post, I came across a page of soup quotes you might like:

    http://www.soupsong.com/bquotes.html

    Oh and if you want to see my onion soup you can find it at:
    http://pomelopleasures.blogspot.com/2006/02/onion-soup-for-soul.html

    take care!
    Katy

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  5. YUM!

    I have a similar problem with growing spinach here in OH. I could probably get a decent crop if my soil wasn't 92% clay, and the springs so wet. Maybe in my raised beds from the chicken tractors for Spring '07. I love my spinach, enough to add a box of frozen spinach to my meatloaf tonight.

    p.s. I love your writing.

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  6. The Cafe Beaujolais Cookbook changed my life! Really. Or, at least my outlook on life. What an amazing story and what wonderful food. I haven't thought about that book in years, so thanks for the reminder.

    I, too, love spinach and make most of my Italian foods Florentine (where appropriate) because of that. And I used to love the creamed spinach at House of Prime Rib in SF. I cried when it closed, just when I was of an age and income where I could eat there whenever I wanted to.

    Great post.

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  7. I didn't know that about spinach being on the top contaminated produce list. What a drag!! I love spinach and can't say that I've noticed organic bunches at our vegetable markets.

    I can't even begin to imagine how horrible canned spinach must be. (Luckily, my only experience of canned spinach is from watching Popeye cartoons when I was a kid.)

    When we have cooked spinach, we salt it liberally just after it has been washed, let it sit in a colander for about half and hour, then squeeze it out (and rinse away some of the salt when squeezing) It is amazing this way!

    Last night we made clay pot chicken on a bed of onions and added chopped squeezed spinach to the rendered juices at the last minute. Absolutely killer served over rice! And beautiful too! I love the emerald green.

    Your soup sounds really good.

    -Elizabeth

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  8. Bravo for your organic advice!

    We can't get spinach to grow in Georgia at all. Heck, I can't even get it to germinate sometimes. It couldn't be wronger for our climate and our soil. So it's a good thing that beet greens and chard grow so well here. I usually just substitute them instead.

    Of course, when I see a sale-priced bag of organic spinach, I'm so there!

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  9. Small world. I buy Earthbound Farms spinach, arugula, and baby romaine nearly every week. It's a bit pricey, but worth it to me.

    The soup sounds wonderful.

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  10. Wow
    In Australia we grow our Spinach in the winter!
    FG I don't pull the whole plantout, Ijust cutstalks off the edges ;)

    This soup sounds great I am so going to try some!

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  11. You should try climbing spinach. My mother in south central Texas (where it is very, very hot and the soil is fairly poor) grows it every year, it's a self-seeder, and it is absolutely the most juicy, wonderful spinach you can get. I'm a long-time reader, first time poster, thought you might like to know!

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  12. Trader Joe's sells bags of organic spinach for 1.99. If you can't buy from a local grower, it's the best deal I've found.

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  13. I love spinach. Luckily, we have local spinach right now by the buckets full in our food coop (I'm in Oregong) so I'll have to make this soup. Equally, I despise picking spinach. I had to pick fifty or sixty pounds of it a week last season, twice a week, and it took hours! I definitley got efficient at ripping it out of the ground quickly. Thanks for the recipe.

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  14. Susan, I just made this soup and now know why you scarfed down a few bowls! I've also posted a photo of it 'cuz I love it so much:

    westeringhills.blogspot.com

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  15. Count me in as a spinach lover too. Thanks for the recipe, it sounds great!

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  16. i would make this today, but all i have is frozen organic spinach any tips for making this with it?

    thanks, tabitha

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  17. Hi Baking Soda,
    Congratulations on your win. Good for you. I haven't tried any Seeds of Change foods except for their salad dressings (which I do like and buy when on super sale). I was thinking more about their whole seed company and seed saving organization. Just doesn't seem to fit with a huge conglomerate. Oh well. I suppose it's better than if they didn't exist at all. : )

    Hi Lindy,
    Home canned CSA tomatoes--yum! I hear you on the hoarding thing.

    Regarding simple soups (and food in general): I've found over the past several years that as the quality of my ingredients improves, the less I end up actually cooking or preparing them. I was recently talking with Joe about when I posted this daily photo with the caption "Dinner." A few people were expecting a cooked meal on a plate, and others asked what I'd made with it. I told him that a photo of the "finished product" wouldn't be all that exciting, as the potatoes were just cut up, boiled, and mixed with some organic butter and salt and pepper. The beans were cooked until still barely crisp and topped with butter (him) or a splash of white balsamic vinegar (me). That's all they needed. Anything more (except the homegrown lamb chops they sat next to on the plate) would have simply been overkill.

    Hi Sunidesus,
    Oh, bunnies! I love bunnies. We have little wild ones that hop around the farm.

    Hi Katy,
    Thanks for the links. And definitely try making some spinach soup. I bet you'll be surprised by it. : )

    Hi Kelly,
    Welcome to the farm! (I think you're a new 'Kelly;' if not, welcome again!) Raised beds from chicken tractors sound fabulous. And adding a box of frozen spinach to just about anything is a great idea. : )

    Hi B'Gina,
    So glad you enjoyed the post--and that it made you remember about the Cafe Beaujolais cookbook. My copy is stained, spattered, and in about five pieces. Actually, it's not even mine, as proven by the personal inscription from Margaret to my ex-husband on the inside front cover from back in 1987. : ) Maybe it's time to treat myself to a new copy.

    Oh, I love creamed spinach. I bet you could make some just as tasty as they served at House of Prime Rib!

    Hi Elizabeth,
    Yep, conventional spinach is definitely something you want to avoid if possible. I sometimes find bunches of organic spinach on sale at Wild Oats when I am in the Big City, but most of what I see is sold in bags (like I used for this soup). The thing is, if you compare the prices (even if the bunches are on sale), once you get rid of all those stems (which is a bit of a job), you're not left with much. The bags of spinach, on the other hand, are all leaves.

    Your salting/squeezing treatment sounds interesting. I've never heard of doing that.

    Another extremely popular vegetable that I think few people realize is on the Most Contaminated List is green beans. And those I don't see organically grown for sale very often. But then, I don't have access to decent farmers' markets where I'm sure they are readily available.

    Hi Jamie,
    Inbetween the yummy recipes and photos of cute animals, I try to gently prod people into making some simple changes in the way they eat. And from the response I've received, it seems to be working! : )

    Beet greens and chard are a mainstay in my garden. In fact I'm planning to hopefully write about both of them soon.

    Hi Kalyn,
    I really like Earthbound Farm products--and the company in general. I just read that they are the largest organic produce seller in the world. The story of how the company was started (by a young couple in California) is fascinating--and so inspiring. I'm sure it's somewhere on their website. They have 1,200 employees and yet their kids are part of the Product Development Team: they come home from school and report to their parents what the kids eat and what they throw away! : )

    Hi Clare,
    Well, your winters are pretty mild down there, LOL. My spinach doesn't have stalks, per se, so perhaps you grow something like the climbing spinach Hillary mentioned?

    Hi Hillary,
    Welcome to the farm! I'm so glad you came out from behind the barn to say 'hello.' You know the comments section is where we have all the fun, so I hope we'll hear from you again. : )

    That climbing spinach sounds very interesting. I will definitely have to see if I can find some seeds for it. I've never heard of it before. This could be a really exciting new discovery for me. Yes, it's the little things. . .

    Hi Jenny,
    Welcome to the farm! I've looked for organic spinach at Trader Joe's and was surprised they didn't have it, especially as they sell Earthbound Farm organic carrots for 69 cents a pound (along with lots of other organic produce, of course). I will have to check again. Sounds like a great price. Thanks for the tip!

    Hi Melissa,
    Lucky, lucky, lucky---that you have so much fresh spinach available and that you (I hope) don't have to pick so much this year. You picked A LOT of spinach. I'm impressed.

    Hi Shannon,
    I'm so glad you enjoyed the soup! Thanks for taking the time to let me know--and for putting the link to it on your blog.

    Hi Kitchen Queen,
    Greetings fellow spinach lover and welcome to the farm!

    Hi Tabitha,
    Always nice to hear from you. I would definitely try making it with the frozen organic spinach. Thaw and drain it, and it should work just fine. Like I said, for years I made spinach soup with nothing but frozen spinach (that stuff is so handy). If you do try it, I'd love to hear how it comes out.

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  18. thanks for the tip! maybe i will try it today... i am in the thick of morning sickness, but spinach would be good for baby.

    tabitha

    p.s. i'm sorry, sometimes i use my husbands account if he is logged in, so it says 'karl...'

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  19. Wonderful post! Informative and it's got a great recipe at the end ... what more can you ask for?

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  20. I grew a patch of spinach (a couple different varieties) for the last two years. Since I have a rental community garden spot, I really don't get out to it more than every 2-3 days at most, and I'd usually be able to come home with a grocery sack full of spinach pickings every (or every other) visit! My spinach patch was maybe 3 by 5 or 6 feet? Just wide enough to straddle and bend over to pick.

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  21. I read about the method of salting and squeezing spinach in SAVEUR magazine May/Jun 1998. It was for torte verde (spinach pie). We always use this method now when cooking spinach. It never has that slimy horrible quality that can happen when one overcooks spinach. And it always retains its brilliant green colour as well.

    Here is our take on the recipe for spinach pie.

    We usually buy spinach in bunches. For some reason I don't mind cutting off the stems. And I always wash vegetables with biodegradable soap and warm water to wash off any pesticides. But now that I know about the heavy toxicity of regular spinach that may well be right inside the leaves, I guess I'll have to look for organic. Rats.

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  22. hello, i've just discovered your blog and you seem to have a very enviable life! plus this soup sounds delicious!

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  23. Hi Tabitha,
    Oh, I knew it was you even though it was Karl's photo. : )

    Hope you're getting over the morning sickness. And I bet you're right--the spinach would probably be very good for baby.

    Just yesterday I added another very interesting and inspiring link to this article, about a study that showed an organic diet made pesticide levels in childrens' bodies immediately plummet. I hope everyone with children will click here and read it.

    Hi Ivonne,
    Thanks so much. : )

    Hi Jephers,
    Sounds like you definitely have a green thumb (and the right climate) for growing spinach. Well done, you! I'm envious. : )

    Hi Elizabeth,
    Yep, organic is definitely the way to go with spinach. Unfortunately systemic chemicals are taken up by the plant, so there is no getting rid of them. I added two more links full of scary information about conventionally grown spinach to the article this morning (think DDT and other awful stuff). Yuck. I think going organic is definitely worth the money!

    Hi Kickpleat,
    Thanks and welcome to the farm! I look forward to hearing from you again. : )

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  24. I just wanted to let you know that I made this soup... and loved it! Great work. I also put a post up on my site about it :)

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  25. Great soup. My hubby, who does not like spinach soup, liked it, and our 3 year old, who has never eaten any soup I've made, had two servings!

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  26. Hi! could kale be used instead of spinach? my husband has a bad liver and spinach is a no-no.
    thanks!

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  27. Hi jprsilver,
    No spinach? How sad! But I bet kale would make a lovely soup. You'll probably want to cook it a bit longer, and if the leaves have coarse stems I would cut them out. Either discard or chop them up and cook them along with the onions.

    Bon appetit!

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  28. Oh no, don't chop off and toss away those spinach stems unless they are very woody!!

    You can either cook them longer or saute them with a dab of bacon, puree them to add to a soup and add to the body of the soup or....and they do taste good, just need more cooking time. I toss them in with the onions point of time in a recipe and they come out just fine.

    I'm so cheap, LOL, but it is true.

    We try to use what we can, compost what we can and grow all we can in an inter-city home.

    Love the blogs, Susan, and enjoy reading how much someone else loves to farm- I grew up on one long ago and far away in northern California.

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  29. You can also use Chard for this recipe with lovely results. I just chopped the stalk parts up and added it in with the onions ( I am too cheap to throw out good food and have no chickens to feed them to!), and I did add a lot of roasted garlic as well- we like the garlic in it.

    I ran out of rice before and used a small pasta, Ditali ( like taking elbow macoroni and cutting it into much smaller pieces shape wise) instead with great results, but did not blend it up.

    Suzy

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  30. i'll have to try this......with veg broth since we don't eat meat. well i cheat but my six year old is serious about being a vegetarian and won't even sit next to me if i have any! anyway.....i didn't read all the comments so maybe someone pointed it out but we buy big plastic bins of one pound of organic spinach at costco. i don't recall the price but i do recall always thinking WOW that's cheap! i just had a wilted garlic sesame spinach dish for lunch and loved it so much i came online to look for more recipes. thanks! ps. i also use it in green smoothies, yum!

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  31. I tried this soup, substituting Swiss chard for the spinach, and the result was delicious! I think I've made a few converts to chard with it. Thanks for the recipe!

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  32. Absolutely delicious! I added more brown rice after the pureed version to add more texture to it. Thank you.
    - Dora

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