I realize that I was just recently discussing how it still feels like winter, but I must reopen this topic so I can confirm that I definitely was correct. This past weekend was just downright cold, especially given that there’d been a few daffodil-filled days in the not so distant past. I’ve been an icicle for a few days now, but according to the weather forecast, I should be thawing by later today, and hopefully fully by Thursday. I’m looking forward to it.
For the time being, though, I’ve still been looking for foods that warm me up. Luckily I found something that is quite warming and also shows glimmers of spring, and even hints toward a spring vegetable. Creamy spinach soup.
Now, I look at spinach as one of those year-round vegetables, although I know that it actually is “in season” in the spring and fall because it likes cool but not too cool weather like lettuces and greens (minus kale, collards and chard). But it is so readily available and always the same price, so the knowledge is ignored. I buy fresh spinach weekly year-round and will eat the big box of it in that time span, and no, I will not respond to Popeye.
This recipe doesn’t even use fresh spinach though, which not only is a bit easier on your wallet (a 10-ounce box of frozen spinach where I live is about $1) but it’s also just easier to work with. Cooking fresh spinach is kind of a pain; you use so much, and it cooks down to so little. With the frozen variety, it’s already shrunk, so you know what to expect.
When I found this recipe, I knew it would either be a huge hit or a huge miss. Spinach, particularly cooked spinach, can be one of those iffy vegetables–if not seasoned correctly, it can taste grassy and just not good. At the first taste of the slightly cream soup, though, it was definitely a hit. An onion is first softened in bacon fat, which is always a good start to a recipe, and then garlic, seasonings, a dose of hot sauce and white wine are added, creating layers of flavor that blend well with the fresh and slightly earthy spinach. Honestly, the soup is a bit like creamed spinach but with a smoother consistency. A relatively small amount of cream is also added with chicken broth, which makes it healthier than the standard cream-spinach-garlic combo (perfect for the coming swimsuit season). So there are no excuses to not make this luscious, delicious soup– it won’t wreck any diets; in fact, it’s pretty healthy, even if you decide to make a few fontina toasts with melting cheese and sprinkles of crispy bacon to eat alongside it.
Creamy spinach soup
adapted from Rachael Ray 365: No Repeats
makes 4 to 6 servings
Note: I’ve been taking this soup for lunch, and it reheats fabulously. I also pack a couple slices of baguette, a slice of cheese and a teenie tupperware with bacon and prepare the toast in a toaster oven at work.
You can also puree the spinach in a food processor. Only add 1/2 cup of broth to puree all of the spinach at once.
4 slices of bacon, chopped
1 large yellow onion, diced
3 large garlic cloves, minced
2 pinches (about ½ teaspoon) dried thyme
¼ cup dry white wine, such as Pinot Grigio
3-10 ounce boxes frozen spinach, thawed and strained of liquid (either from sitting in a fine mesh strainer or wringing it out in a towel)
1 quart chicken broth
½ cup heavy cream
1. Heat a large dutch oven over medium-high heat and cook the bacon until crisp, stirring occasionally. Remove ⅔ of the bacon from a pan with a slotted spoon and put it on a paper-towel lined plate.
2. Add the onion, garlic and thyme to the pot with the small amount of bacon, stir and season with salt, pepper and a few dashes of hot sauce. Cook until the onions are tender, about 5 to 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, and then add the wine, stirring with a wooden spoon to deglaze the pan. Once the wine has cooked off, add the spinach and mix to combine.
3. Working in batches, add ¼ of the spinach mixture and ½ cup chicken broth to a blender. Puree, and then transfer the pureed soup back to the dutch oven. Continue in three more batches with the rest of the spinach mixture. (I find it easiest to kind of divide the pot in half, one for pureed spinach and one for not yet pureed spinach.)
4. Once all of the spinach has been pureed and returned to the pot, return it to the stove over medium heat. Stir in the remaining broth and cream, bring to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes. Ladle into bowls and serve with fontina toasts, following, if desired.
1 baguette, cut into ½ inch slices
½ cup fontina cheese, grated
the reserved bacon
In a 350F oven, place the baguette slices in a sheet pan and toast. Once they are beginning to brown, remove the pan from the oven and sprinkle the bread with cheese and reserved bacon. Stick the pan back in the oven and cook about 5 minutes longer, until the cheese is melted and browning in some places.