Monday, June 11, 2007

When Good Greens go Bad

I have a large patch of arugula in my garden. Those of you who garden know that when it starts hottin' up out there, arugula has the potential to get firey! This is a picture of an arugula patch that is about to go bad. All its wonderful healthy properties will still be there in a week or so, but any deliciousness will be completely gone, the leaves rendered bitter through the act of bolting. It's generally brought on by hotter weather.

Bolting is when a lettuce or any type of green goes from leafy and salad-ready to bitter. Generally this is the next step in the plant's life cycle and it followed shortly by flowering and seed production. Circle of life and all that ...

To save part of this arugula patch from bitter ignominy, I have turned it into a batch of Argulua and Potato Soup. This technique can be used with any green (even those supermarket-wussypants greens like baby spinach or farmed watercress). A tougher green like kale or collards can be used too, but they'll need to be cooked a little first (see variation below). I pretty much made this recipe up as I went along, so measurements are rather approximate. You will need a blender to make this soup.

Cream of Arugula Soup (4-6 servings)
  • 3 medium russet potatoes
  • 2-4 cups chicken broth
  • 6 loosely packed cups of arugula (one of those big clamshell boxes of prewashed baby arugula should work, you also use spinach or beet greens or finely shredded swiss chard)
  • 1/2 - 1 cup of milk (optional)
Peel the potatoes and cut into chunks. Put in a medium saucepan and cover with broth by about 1/2" or so. Simmer until the potatoes are cooked through and fork-tender.

Put half the arugula into the blender jar. Pour on some of the potato-cooking water and toss in a few of the potatoes. The arugula will wilt down when you cover it with the hot liquid. Be careful not to burn yourself and you blend the soup until smooth. Pour into a large bowl. Repeat the process with the rest of the potatoes and arugula. (Don't put in all the liquid if you don't need to. You'll want to use it to adjust the thickness if needed.)

Once all the soup has been blended, stir it together in the bowl to combine. Add more cooking liquid if the soup's too thick. Taste for salt and pepper, and add if needed. If you feel the soup needs it, add a little milk for richness. Serve hot or chilled.

Hearty Greens Variation
Instead of using a tender green like arugula or spinach, you may use tougher greens like collards, kale, or mustard greens. Use one large bunch of greens, wash them well, cut the leafy parts off the tough stems (discarding the stems) and slice them finely or chop them. You want little pieces or fine shreds.

Start the recipe, using a large soup pot instead of a saucepan. When the potatoes are mostly cooked: not quite fork-tender (usually about 12 minutes into cooking if I've cut the potatoes into large chunks), toss in the greens. Continue to cook until the potatoes are soft. Puree in the blender as follows.

This is a much heartier soup and is really nice with some crumbled bacon or cooked sausage or sauteed chorizo on top. Serve hot.


Julia said...

You should really try trimming your arugala off to three inches and keeping it watered - I generally get at least two crops out of greens.

Sunday Cook said...

Extremely good point Julia. Most greens and lettuces are "cut and come again" and take well to that treatment. The bed in the picture has been feeding us on and off for well over a month.

If only tomatoes behaved the same way ... :-)

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