Creamy spinach soup
Popeye, look out. The world's spinach lovers are slurping down this soup.
I love a soup that features one vegetable. The thing is, to get that depth of flavor, other flavorful ingredients must contribute and join in the background, making a base from which the flavors of your chosen vegetable can stand out. And so this rich spinach soup is based on fresh aromatic vegetables and slightly thickened with a roux (flour-based sauce). A touch of thyme (or nutmeg) and Parmesan cheese add sharp notes.
- 1 celery stalk, chopped
- 1 medium zucchini, chopped
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 2 tablespoons oil or butter
- 1 pound fresh spinach, well rinsed and roughly chopped, or 2 cups frozen spinach, thawed and chopped
- 2 cups water or vegetable stock
- 2 1/2 cup hot milk
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 4 tablespoons grated Parmesan or other sharp, dry cheese
- 4 tablespoons homemade croutons
- Salt and pepper to taste
For the roux
In the soup pot, fry the celery, zucchini and onion in the fat about 10 minutes or until all have softened.
Add the spinach and stir until it wilts. Add the water and cover the pot.
Cook 15 minutes over medium heat. Take off the heat. Allow to sit until only warm, then process or blend until you obtain a purée. Don’t wash the pot yet. If using a stick blender, you don’t need to move the soup, just take it off the heat and zap it in the pot, carefully, not to splash yourself.
Heat the milk and set aside.
In a medium saucepan, heat the butter and add the flour, stirring rapidly. Brown the flour slightly – don’t let it get dark.
Whisk the hot milk in, never ceasing to stir. It should take a few minutes for the roux to thicken into a sauce. Sprinkle the thyme in and cook a minute or two longer.
If you took the soup out of its pot to puree, pour it back in. Add the roux to the soup, whisking all the time. Cover the pot and cook another 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Salt is added at the end because spinach has a way of absorbing salt so that you keep shaking more in but don’t taste it.
Serve with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese in each bowl, and some croutons for crunch. It's really good on these chilly evenings.
I sometimes use plain water to cook the vegetables, but a quickly made mushroom broth (recipe below) is excellent.
I don’t use nutmeg, which is almost always paired with spinach, because I don’t like it. But feel free to substitute it for the thyme I favor.
You may also forget the flour-based roux, and substitute a medium potato, chopped, to cook along with the other vegetables and thicken the soup. But I find the roux-based soup lighter. It allows the spinach flavor to shine.
Mushroom broth: 2 cups water, a handful of dried mushrooms, a dollop of olive oil, a big garlic clove, a small carrot, a bay leaf, an onion, 1 teaspoon salt, 2 or 3 black peppercorns. Cook 40 minutes over medium heat, lid half off. Strain it before using so the spinach remain the most important-tasting ingredient. It’s worth making double and keeping the rest in the fridge for other soups or sauces.