Greens and beans

Green leafy things have been pouring into my kitchen, as if a UFO (unidentified frond-filled object) had landed there. Olive oil and a hot frying pan are all that very fresh greens often need, and sometimes I toss them into tomato sauce for pasta or stuff dumplings with them. But I was looking for a change.

Combine culinary restlessness with the greens and a freezer full of newly prepared chicken stock, and soup came to mind. I tried a recipe using chard and lentils from Barbara Kafka’s “Soup: A Way of Life.” I know I’ve mentioned this book before, but the recipes are always interesting. For this one, however, I’d make some changes.

First of all, the recipe makes an extremely thick soup, more like a stew. I added more stock because I wanted a more liquid soup. Also, maybe because I added liquid, I would double the paprika and cumin for more flavor. For vegetarians, I would suggest using vegetable stock, not water. Kafka says to use chard, but I think any kind of medium-flavored leafy green would do. I don’t know why I don’t cook with lentils more often. They don’t have to be soaked, cook quickly and are small enough to play well with other ingredients in a soup or stew. Here’s the recipe with my changes.

Chard and Lentil Soup

1/4 cup olive oil

1 teaspoon paprika (I suggest 2 teaspoons)

1 teaspoon ground cumin (I suggest 2 teaspoons)

2 medium bunches green onions, white part cut into 1/4-inch pieces plus enough green part to make 1/2 cup

1 pound dried brown lentils

6 cups chicken stock (I added about 3 more cups)

3 cloves garlic, crushed

1 1/2 pounds chard, leaves coarsely chopped, stems discarded

1 bunch cilantro, chopped

1 tablespoon lemon juice (another teaspoon or so wouldn’t hurt)

Salt and black pepper to taste

In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil, paprika and cumin over low heat, stirring, until the spices are fragrant, 2 to 4 minutes. Stir in the green onion whites. Cook until wilted, about 5 minutes.

Stir in the lentils, stock and garlic. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for 20 to 30 minutes or until the lentils are almost done.

Stir in the green onion greens, chard, cilantro and lemon juice. Simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, until the chard is cooked through and the lentils are soft. Taste, then season with salt and pepper.

The greening of the kitchen

As sure as there’ll be something deep fried on a stick at the fair, I can count on sheaves of greens in my CSA box this time of year. Kale, tatsoi, Vitamin Green mizuna, chard – a St. Patrick’s Day of color, without the beer.

I like sauteed greens, but that easy fall-back can get old. Yes, you can stuff the sauteed greens in something, like ravioli or pasta shells. But, really. Instead, I tossed together a quick soup based on my memories of a kale soup.

In a large pot with olive oil, I cooked a cup or so of chopped onion and a couple of cloves of garlic. Just until soft. Then, I added chicken broth and a crisper-clearing variety of greens, shredded and with tough ribs removed. About four cups’ worth. Then, I added chicken broth and chopped chicken chorizo. I like the chicken sausage because it is less greasy and doesn’t have to be cooked first. If you use pork chorizo, brown it in a separate pan first. The chorizo is plenty spicy, so all I added in the way of seasoning was salt. I covered the pot and simmered the soup gently for about an hour, until the greens were delightfully melted into the liquid.

I’m sure I’ll be getting more greens today….