Wednesday, November 10, 2010

0 Recipe #194: Zuppa di Spinaci (Italian-Style Spinach Soup)

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This Italian-style spinach soup is chock-full of nutrients. The savory blend of onion, garlic, & Italian seasonings tremendously enhances the flavor of the spinach soup, while the flour & the sherry give it a bit of body. Spinach soup makes an excellent starter for dinner: It goes particularly well with grilled or roasted chicken & a glass of crisp white wine. Or, serve it for lunch, alongside a sandwich or salad.

Zuppa di Spinaci (Italian-Style Spinach Soup)

5 c. fresh (or about 16.3 oz,  i.e., buy 2 9-oz. pkgs.) baby spinach, washed, & tightly packed
2 c. (32 oz.) water or low-sodium, organic vegetable broth
3/4 tsp. extra virgin olive oil
1/2 c. yellow onion, diced (1/4 large onion)
1/2 Tbsp. garlic, peeled & finely minced (2 large cloves)
1 large, fresh bay leaf
3/8 - 1/2 tsp. sea salt, or to taste
1/8 - 1/4 tsp. ground black pepper, or to taste
1/4 c. dry sherry (optional)
3/4 tsp. fresh basil leaves, julienned (or 1/4 tsp. dried)
1/2 Tbsp. fresh thyme leaves (or 1/2 tsp. dried)
3/8 tsp. fresh oregano leaves, finely minced (or 1/8 tsp. dried)
3/8 tsp. fresh marjoram leaves, finely minced (or 1/8 tsp. dried)
3/8 tsp. fresh rosemary leaves, finely minced (or 1/8 tsp. dried & crushed)
1/16 tsp. (1 pinch) ground nutmeg
2 Tbsp. hot water
1 Tbsp. flour (arrowroot & corn starch will also work)
1/2 Tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice

2 Tbsp. freshly shredded or shaved Grana Padano, Asiago, or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
1 small vine-ripened tomato, diced
sour dough croutons or crostini (optional)

Directions:  In a large (12-13") nonstick sauté pan (or medium-sized stock) pot, steam spinach in 1 c. water (or vegetable broth) on high heat for 3-4 minutes, remove from heat, strain the liquid into a bowl using a strainer or colander, & then place the spinach in another bowl. Be careful not to overcook the spinach; it should still be a vibrant, bright green color after it's been cooked down.

In the same pan, sauté onion, garlic, & bay leaf in olive oil for 5 minutes over low heat, stirring occasionally. Season with salt & pepper while cooking. Deglaze with sherry. While sherry is reducing, add the rest of the spices & stir to combine. Add the strained liquid (from the steamed spinach) back into the pan, along with the remaining cup of water (or vegetable broth). Turn up heat to high and cook for another 8-10 minutes. While soup is cooking, make a quick slurry adding 2 Tbsp. flour to a small custard dish & then stirring in 2 Tbsp. of hot water; stir well to break up any clumps & then pour into soup.

Remove from heat & let cool for at least 10 minutes. Discard bay leaf. Transfer to a blender, add lemon juice, cover, holding your hand over the lid, & blend until smooth. Pour mixture back into sauce/stock pot. Add in spinach & stir to combine. Cook for another 3-5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat & pour into bowls. While soup is still hot, sprinkle cheese on top to melt, i.e., 1 Tbsp. per person. Garnish with tomatoes, i.e., half a tomato per person. You can also add sourdough croutons (or crostini), if desired. Serve hot. 

Yield: Makes 2 servings as starter (serving size = 1 c.) or 1 serving as a main course (1 serving = 2 c.).

Variations: As an alternative combination, add half of a 15.5 oz. can of drained & rinsed cannellini beans (or other type of white beans) to this soup. If you're going to do this, the flour & water slurry is probably unnecessary, as the beans will naturally thicken the soup. You can either purée the beans along with the onion-garlic liquid mixture before the spinach is added, or add them during the last phase of cooking, i.e., after the spinach is combined with the soup and cooked all together one final time before it's served.

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