Developing a few smart shopping habits can transform your relationship to food in a subtle yet potent way. With a little foresight and initial effort, you'll save time and energy in the long run, and these little routines are so fundamental to unlocking the pleasures of cooking and eating and spending time in the kitchen. So many of my most deeply satisfying meals have been conjured up from a minimal list of ingredients, or the desire to make good use of whatever I have lying around.
When buying groceries, try stocking up on greens once every couple of weeks-- chard, kale, collards, whole beets or turnips (stem and leaf attached). Really go for it, 2-3 bunches of a few different kinds. When you get home, bring a large pot of water to a boil, and dedicate a little time to preparing the greens. Using your fingers, pull the leaves off the stems, and set the stems aside. Submerge the leaves in water and drain, repeating 2-3 times, until the water is clear and free of dirt and debris. Work in batches, keeping different types of greens separate, until all the leafy greens are clean and you have a big honkin' pile of stems.
Prepare a large bowl of ice water. Set about a cup of leafy greens aside, for your soup.
Add about 3-4 teaspoons of salt to the boiling water. Working in batches and starting with the heartier leaves, such as collards, or kale, start blanching. Collards and kale will need about 3 minutes of boiling, chard and other more wilty greens will only need 2 minutes. Quickly scoop the blanched leaves into the ice bath for a few seconds, and then transfer to a colander and squeeze the water out of the greens by the handful, pressing until very little water comes out. Transfer to a bowl, breaking the green up with your fingers, and toss with a small splash of olive oil. Repeat with the remaining greens. Store your blanched greens in containers in the freezer. (Sure, you could buy pre-frozen greens in a bag, but this is guaranteed to be much, much better). When you don't know what to make for dinner, but have some pasta or rice, or some beans or eggs, you're only a few minutes away from a deeply satisfying meal. But here's the bonus (and the purpose of this post): save those stems and make soup!
Honestly, this soup, which is really just a simple thing, is remarkably elegant. The broth is sweet and mellow with garlic. The stems are minced and sauteed in olive oil, and when they are cooked down, they become softened with a satisfying, toothy crunch. The soup is then topped with a generous grating of parmesan. It is not absolutely necessary to serve it with toast, but you will very happy with a good piece of crusty sourdough to soak up that broth.
Green Stem Soup
Serves 2 or 4, as a starter
- 2-3 cups green stems or stalks, finely diced
- 3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 1/2 cup yellow onion, minced
- 4 cups chicken stock, bone broth, or water
- 1 cup leafy greens, roughly chopped
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- A generous amount of freshly grated parmesan, for serving
- A nice piece of crusty toast
Heat a large pot over medium heat and add a generous glug of olive oil. Toss in the diced stems, garlic, and onion, and season with salt and pepper. Saute for about 5 minutes, until fragrant and the vegetables are beginning to soften. Add the broth or water, along with a little more salt and pepper, and bring to a gentle boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and allow the soup to simmer uncovered for about 20 minutes. Towards the end, add the greens (tougher greens like collards and kale can go in earlier to cook down a bit more). Continue cooking until wilted and tender. Taste and adjust for seasoning. Ladle soup into bowls and generously top with grated parmesan, pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve with crusty toast rubbed with a garlic clove and some olive oil.
Garlicky, cheesy, delicious broth...