Soup Week 2010: A Duo with Greens and Grains

Soup Week 2010: A Duo with Greens and Grains

To wind up Soup Week 2010, I thought I’d give you a little something extra: Two Italian recipes in one post. Both pair greens, so abundant this time of year, with grains, but with quite different results. The first is, well, minimalist—which makes sense, since it’s my adaptation of a recipe from Mark Bittman’s “Minimalist” column. It takes fewer than ten ingredients and barely half an hour, two facts sure to make a busy parent—heck any busy person—happy. And for this itty bitty bit of effort, you’re rewarded with a soup that’s perfect for a blustery late-autumn day, filling but not overwhelming, made bright with a bit of lemon.

Escarole Soup With Rice
Adapted from The New York Times
Serves 4
Cooking Time: 30 minutes
Weight Watchers: Each serving is 3 points

2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
4 cloves garlic, minced, plus 2 more cloves, thinly sliced
1 small onion, chopped
4 cups coarsely chopped escarole (about one head)
6 cups chicken or vegetable stock, or water
1/4 cup short-grain white rice, like arborio
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon lemon zest, plus 1/2 lemon, cut into 4 wedges
Grated Parmesan cheese

  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. When it shimmers add the onion and cook, stirring frequently, until translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the minced garlic and cook just until the aroma releases, about 30 seconds more, then add the escarole and cook, tossing gently (tongs are great for this), until it begins to wilt, about another 3 minutes.
  2. Add the liquid and rice to the pan, raise the heat, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover, and simmer about 20 minutes, or until the rice is tender.
  3. At some point while the soup is simmering, put a paper towel on a small plate and set it next to the stove. In a small skillet over a medium-low flame, heat the other tablespoon of oil. When it’s hot, add the sliced garlic and cook until it turns golden brown and begins to crisp. Remove garlic with a slotted spoon and drain it on the towel-lined plate—don’t wait until it’s fully browned to start fishing it out, or your garlic will overcook and be bitter.
  4. When the rice is cooked through, taste the soup and season with salt and pepper. Serve topped with a pinch of lemon zest, a sprinkling of Parmesan, and a few slices of toasted garlic, and pass the lemon wedges so each person can add as much juice as they like.

Next up is a recipe from a new cookbook, Soups + Sides by Catherine Walthers, a food writer colleague. When she heard I was celebrating Soup Week 2010, Cathy graciously offered up a sample from the book. It combines kale, one of the sturdier greens, with farro, a grain long-time readers of Words to Eat By will recognize from my own soup, which bears some resemblance, this tuna salad, and a recent pasta dish. If you’re not familiar with farro, Cathy provides a helpful description, along with buying tips, below.

Given the fact that I love farro almost as much as I love a good hardy green, I can’t wait to try Cathy’s soup.

Kale and Farro Soup
Serves 6
From Soups + Sides by Catherine Walthers

This is similar to an Italian vegetable soup, only better (and easier) with added nutrients from kale and a quick-cooking and delicious Italian grain called farro. A type of wheat imported from Italy, farro offers a mildly chewy, nutty flavor, similar to barley, which can be substituted if farro is unavailable. To create a vegetarian version add water instead of stock plus 2 Parmesan rinds.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, diced
1 leek, all parts, rinsed and sliced
2 garlic cloves, minced
8 cups chicken stock
2 large carrots (about 2 cups), sliced into half moons
2 celery stalks, diced
1 tablespoon fresh chopped thyme
1/2 cup farro*
1 to 2 teaspoons salt
1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes, with the juice
1/2 bunch (about 3 cups lightly packed) kale, stems removed, chopped
Parmesan cheese, to taste

  1. In a soup pot, heat the oil and sauté the onion over medium heat for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the leek and sauté until leeks are softened, about 4 minutes. Add garlic and sauté another 1 to 2 minutes. Add stock, carrots, celery, thyme, farro and 1 teaspoon salt and bring to a boil. Turn heat to low and simmer soup, partially covered, for 15 minutes.
  2. Stir in chopped kale and tomatoes. Bring to a boil again, turn to low and simmer a final 15 to 20 minutes, until farro and kale is tender. Taste the soup and add additional salt—I used about 2 1/2 teaspoons of kosher salt—and a few twists of pepper. Top each bowl with parmesan cheese for more depth of flavor.

* Using barley instead of farro: Farro can be found in Whole Foods Market in the dried pasta section, or in an Italian market if you live near one. If you can’t find farro, use barley instead. Decrease the amount to 1/3 of a cup of barley and increase the initial cooking time to 30 minutes, for a total of about 50 minutes.

Previously, on Soup Week 2010: