Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Recipe: Simple & Healthy Swiss Chard Artichoke Soup (and Crazy Crossover Foods)


Healthy, hearty, low fat, high flavor, and packed with vegetables? Homemade soup!

I like to think of myself as an adventurous eater. I always look forward to delving into the local food scene when I'm away from home, whether it's a couple hundred miles or a couple of continents away. I've eaten everything from bowls of black rice pudding in Bali to a bag of fried okra at a gas station in Louisiana.

Maple syrup in Vermont, macadamia nut ice cream and fresh pineapple in Hawaii, lobster in Maine? Of course. Pan-fried squirrel for dinner? A local Missouri specialty that I discovered is surprisingly good. Then again, pretty much anything rolled in flour and fried (which is the standard way of preparing things around here) tastes good in my book.

I don't do much traveling now that I live on a farm with dozens of animals, but I still get out enough to know there's something weird going on with our food these days—and it has nothing to do with culture or location. Always desperate to come up with something new and exciting, marketing departments everywhere are inventing some really strange stuff.

Banana nut bread cereal? Chili cheese taco dogs? Toasted coconut cream pie latté? Philly cheese steak pizza?

I can't be the only one who finds these things, which are all real by the way. a little freaky. Pizzarito. Why? Personally I prefer my food in its natural state; I want banana bread in a loaf, chili dogs in buns, and pie with a crust in a pan where it belongs—though I'll admit that latté did sound kinda good.

No foodie is infallible, though, and one blustery day last winter I took an upside down ride on the recipe roller coaster. I had a bumper crop of Swiss chard in the greenhouse and a craving for soup in the kitchen, so I turned my popular Hot Swiss Chard Artichoke Dip into something more slurpable.

It was tasty and healthy and—dare I admit it—even a little exciting. And while I did once top a homemade pizza with the cooked onion, Swiss chard, and artichoke base of the dip mixture (update: you'll find the Swiss Chard Artichoke Pizza recipe here), I promise I'll never create a Swiss chard and artichoke flavored latté or breakfast cereal. I can't, of course, speak for those desperate marketing departments.

So what's the most bizarre crossover food you've ever come across?



Susan's Healthy Swiss Chard Artichoke Soup
Makes about 9 cups

**Click here to print this recipe**

Many of you know (because I'm constantly mentioning it) that Swiss chard is one of my favorite vegetables in the garden. One of the things I love about it is how incredibly large the leaves can grow, but when I step inside the greenhouse and feel as if I've suddenly been transported to Jurassic Park, it starts to get a little scary.

That's when it's time to whack them down and hit them with some heat, because even the most enormous leaves will shrink down to practically nothing if you cook them.

It never ceases to amaze me that a bowl of bounty nearly too big to get through the door will fit inside a teacup once you cook it. The concentrated amount of nutrients that must be contained in that teacup is mind boggling.

Swiss chard is both amazingly heat and cold tolerant, and this year I had a bumper crop growing in the greenhouse up until the last day of fall, when I harvested it all in preparation of that night's low of 2 degrees F.

The first thing I did with my freshly picked crop was whip up a batch of this scrumptious soup. Unfortunately it's also the last thing I did with it, since I've spent the past week flat on my back with the flu. But now that I'm finally on the mend and ready to get back to cooking, a big bowl of warm and healthy goodness sounds like the perfect prescription.

Swiss chard is easy to grow from seed, and it does exceptionally well in containers, so even apartment dwellers have no excuse not to try growing some. Three or four plants will fit comfortably in a 14-inch-wide pot. You'll find detailed growing information in this post on my kitchen garden blog: How To Grow Swiss Chard From Seed and Why You Should.

As always, I urge you to seek out local and organic ingredients; they really do make a difference. Canned organic garbanzo beans are a versatile pantry staple that add richness and a nutty flavor, as well as protein and fiber to this soup. I toss them into all kinds of things and buy them by the case.

I can't say enough good things about my KitchenAid hand blender; it's one of the best things I've ever bought for the kitchen.

Ingredients:

2 to 3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound yellow onions
(about 2 medium), peeled and coarsely chopped
4 to 6 large cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
1 14-ounce can artichoke hearts in water
(about 8 hearts), drained and rinsed (frozen would probably work, too)
1 15-ounce can organic garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
4 cups organic chicken stock, preferably homemade
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 bunch Swiss chard
(about 1 pound), leaves and stalks separated and both chopped into pieces (save a few stalks for garnish if desired)
1 to 1½ cups organic milk
Salt and pepper to taste


Optional garnishes:
Freshly grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese
Thin slices of cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese
Sour cream or yogurt
Chopped chives or scallions
Swiss chard stalks

Instructions:
Heat 2 Tablespoons of olive oil in a large pot on medium heat, then add the onions and Swiss chard stems. Stir to coat with oil, cover, and cook until soft and starting to brown, stirring frequently, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Add another Tablespoon of olive oil or splash of water to soak up any flavorful brown bits sticking to the pot.

Make a space in the center of the pot and add the garlic, stirring so it all touches the bottom of the pot. Cook, stirring, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the artichokes, garbanzo beans, chicken stock, Worcestershire sauce, and Swiss chard leaves and stir to combine. It may seem like you're trying to fit way too much Swiss chard in the pot, but it will quickly cook down.

Cover and bring to a boil, then simmer, stirring occasionally, with the lid barely cracked for 30 to 40 minutes. Stir in 1 cup of the milk, adding up to 1/2 cup more if you prefer a thinner soup.

Purée with an immersion hand blender, or transfer in batches to a counter top blender and very carefully purée, then return to the pot.

Salt and pepper to taste and serve hot, garnished however you like. This soup tastes even better the next day, and it also freezes beautifully.


Care for some homemade bread to go with your soup?
Beyond Easy Beer Bread (my most popular recipe)
Farmhouse White Classic Sandwich Bread (makes great rolls & buns too)
Oatmeal Toasting Bread (makes scrumptious rolls too)
Carrot Herb Rolls (and a wonderful bread baking book for beginners)

Love cozy soup season? You might also enjoy these Farmgirl Fare recipes:

Love cozy soup season? You might also enjoy these Farmgirl Fare recipes:
Susan's Super Spinach Soup (made with fresh spinach)

What else can you do with Swiss chard?
Swiss Chard Cabbage Salad with Garbanzos & Cottage Cheese
Swiss Chard Tuna Salad with Scallions & Kalmata Olives
Hot Swiss Chard Artichoke Dip


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

© FarmgirlFare.com, the slurp happy blog where Farmgirl Susan shares recipes, stories, and photos from her crazy country life on 240 remote Missouri acres—and one of the nicest things you can do during winter is curl up with a hunk of bread and a cozy bowl of homemade soup.

24 comments:

  1. I'm not sure if you'd consider this a bizarre crossover food, but my favorite breakfast use to be a toasted bagel with goat cheese and salsa on top and sliced red and green peppers on the side. Now it's "apple-y teffaranth" a teff and amaranth combination cooked with vanilla hemp milk, an apple, cinnamon and salt. Mmmmm....

    Enjoy your soup!

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  2. Well, I just read the comment from 'Melinda, Western MA' and the last part about 'a teff and amaranth combination cooked with vanilla hemp milk...' pretty much baffled me. What is 'teff' 'amaranth' & 'vanilla hemp milk'??? I guess I don't get out much.

    Maybe I'll have to 'Google' those to find out!

    Happy New Year to all!!!

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  3. I know not of the crossover foods. I prefer to ignore the existence of such things.

    But isn't it lucky for you that you made soup right before you got sick? It's always sad when the cook in the house gets sick and no one will make soup for the sick cook. At least, I find it sad when it happens to me. But you had your mom there, so that's okay.

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  4. I'm not sure I want to boast of or even discuss crossover foods either. Except....

    You said:"I promise I'll never create a Swiss chard and artichoke flavored latté or breakfast cereal." But a swiss chard and artichoke pizza, now...that might be something.

    I once had a pizza that was topped with the most finely shredded red and green cabbage, along with walnuts and lemon zest. Don't ask me to explain why this worked for me, but it worked for me. It was from the world famous Cheese Board in Berkeley, where the vegetarian pizza they serve changes every day. I never saw them repeat that one, but I liked it anyway.

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  5. Thanks for the reminder! This soup sounds fantastic - now, if I just remember to get the chard. And the artichokes. Thank you, thank you!

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  6. In the latte category, the pumpkin spice ones are just weird. I envisioned nutmeg and cinnamon and got...pumpkin.

    I think the trend in the gelato and other high-falutin ice cream industry towards odd flavors is the strange one. Basil ice cream? Marsala wine ice cream?

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  7. I love it! The weirdness of what companies come up with is baffling. It sure is entertaining, though.

    Unfortunately I can't do the flour/fry thing due to dietary issues, but I'll live vicariously through you. :)

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  8. As long as it tastes good, I don't have to make it myself or clean up after it's made, I will eat just about anything. This soup looks delicious and with some hearty bread would be so warm and comforting. When should I come over for some?

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  9. It's not really bizarre but I find it odd that the yogurts are so so sweet. Key Lime pie? I like it plain cause I like the tang that you get with it.

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  10. Gee that soup picture sure is a beautiful thing indeed, and the taste must be heavenly.

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  11. Another swiss chard addict here - it is really the most delicious thing (even beating out kale IMO by a nose....) Have you tried it with red onions?
    Cross-over foods alternatively fascinate and disgust me.... some things I'd have thought of as cross-over (pumpkin oats, eg) really don't seem odd anymore, but some flavor combos aren't meant for each other. Interestingly, sweet-on-sweet doesn't work for me.... sweet and tang holds more appeal. Some think that's weird...

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  12. Oh my gosh - you've made it easy to get to all of the soup recipes! I've never really done much beyond making a homemade veggie soup, but I LOVE soup and can't wait to try a few. Thank you, Thank you.

    Crossover food: fried Snikers, fried Milky Ways and fried cheesecakes on sticks...yummy fair food.

    Hope you're feeling better soon.

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  13. Your soup looks delicious! It's ingredients just made today's grocery list!

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  14. I've been meaning to thank you for the excellent Mexican Monkey Cake recipe. I'm always asked for the recipe. And the idea of using garbanzo beans to thicken soup! That never crossed my mind. It's so easy, tastes good and is good for me too. Seems to work in almost any cream soup. It's taken my soup making to a new level.

    Beans in soup has been around since the creation of soup but fish in ice cream? I've been watching too much Food Network.

    A Very Happy New Year to All,
    Susan W.

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  15. How funny that I would read this post today. Last night, I was in the mood for a good stroganoff. I got it prepared and was going to add the sour cream and Holy Cow!... who put the home made dip from Christmas in the Sour cream carton. Oh, well. We had Ranch Stroganoff, and it turned out super!

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  16. This looks delicious! I just bookmarked it for a rainy (or snowy) day!

    I can't think of any bizarro food crossovers at the moment. Things like that freak me out! Although - I am kind of a sucker for whatever the latte of the moment is at Starbucks, even if it's weird. Well, okay, here's a strange one - a honey latte. They used honey instead of flavoring syrup and drizzled honey over the whipped cream on top. It was actually very good!

    What I've noticed in the grocery store, as well, is the crazy marketing over the "it" ingredient of the moment. Lately it's pomegranates. Pomegranate EVERYTHING. I love pomegranate as much as the next person - but I consider them a special occasion thing. They don't need to be incorporated into every skin, beauty, drink, food product I touch!

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  17. I saw this recipe and immediately copied it into my recipe box (I'm still partial to index cards, what can I say?). And then made it (I happened to have all the ingredients on hand; it was fate). Ohmygoodness, it's delicious! That's not even a strong enough word for how good it is. And so easy. Thanks!!

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  18. My Swiss chard is going crazy in the garden, and I had no idea what to do with it besides sautee it with carrots. This sure sounds yummy!

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  19. I grew up eating Missouri pan-fried squirrel, but I took the liberty to veganize your soup recipe. I used veggie broth, and subbed unsweetened soy milk for the cow's milk. It was great, but mine came out screaming for lemon and a sprinkling of dried dill. Thanks for the recipe! I never would have put these ingredients together.
    Sandy

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  20. I made your swiss chard soup this week, and even my kids loved it!! Thank you!

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  21. I love your soup!! i have made it several times by now & I love it!!! So thanks very much!! I adore Swiss chard!!
    Many greetings from a fan from Brussels, Belgium!!

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  22. I love silver beets and grow them in amazing quantities because I'm also addicted to seed catalogues. This soup sounds absolutely nummy. I'm going to make a triple batch. I know a lady who makes raw goat's milk cheese that is to die for and I'm going to try topping it with that. Might put some cajun bacon crumbles on the top of some of it, too. I'll freeze the rest.

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  23. I love swiss chard and I will try this soup. I usually make a Lebanese soup with lentils but yours is very enticing!

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  24. I just made this soup over the weekend and oh, it was delicious! Nice and tangy/sour. As someone who is always trying to like chard but failing to find recipes utilizing it that I enjoy, this soup recipe definitely made my "keeper" list! :)

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