It doesn’t have to be amaranth; this soup will also work with spinach, asparagus, or any of the mild-tasting greens. We just used amaranth because we picked it up in this week’s CSA share and had the makings of stock on hand. When the remnants of hurricane Newton came through and it was rainy and dreary all day, it seemed to be perfect soup weather. And, while soups are often paired with chilly days, and amaranth is something you might get in a summer CSA share (or at a farmers’ market), you might just want to keep this recipe handy for when you need to use a lot of greens.
We just made up this soup for dinner. The recipe simply came from the fertile minds of the Scratchin’ It Central crew, so it’s another of the “100% invented here” recipes.
We recommend white pepper — why? We chose white pepper so that we wouldn’t have black specks in the finished soup. It’ll taste pretty much the same either way, so, if you don’t have white pepper, use black. For the stock, we used a light vegetable stock that we made ourselves by simmering vegetable scraps for about 45 minutes. Use a stock you like that’s light in flavor. About that rice; it’s there to thicken the soup. Once blended, the starches in the rice will thicken the soup nicely, making it creamy, without the need for a lot of cream (you could actually omit the heavy cream, but the soup will have a thinner taste and texture). The lemon juice is there simply to hold the green color of the amaranth. It’ll add a bit of acid that will bring out some flavors, too.
Procedure in detail:
Cook onions. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onions, and sprinkle with a bit of salt and pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes, or until the onions are tender and slightly translucent. Don’t wait until the onions start to brown. Add the garlic and cook just until the garlic is nice and fragrant, about 1 minute.
Add stock and rice. Pour in the stock, add the rice, and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to a simmer and cover.
Simmer. We used brown rice for our soup, so we needed to simmer for about 45 minutes; if you use white rice, the time is closer to 20 minutes. As the time gets close, taste a rice grain or two, making sure they’re tender.
Add greens and lemon juice. Stir in the amaranth and lemon juice and cook until the greens are tender and wilted, about 3 to 5 minutes.
Blend. Pour the soup into a blender and process until smooth. Remember that blending hot liquids can cause the air inside the blender to expand, popping off the lid and spewing steaming hot soup everywhere, so carefully vent the lid while you work.
Season. Taste the soup — yes, right there from the blender — and add salt and pepper as needed. If you use a commercial stock, you might not need to add any salt, as these can be quite salty. Regardless, it’s your soup, so make it taste good to you. Blend the soup between additions and tastings as you season.
Strain. Smooth soups go through a fine mesh strainer. Always. It may seem like extra work, because it is, but it removes any small, tough bits that didn’t get blended. We think the extra work is worth not hitting a tough piece of stem partway through the soup. So, simply pour your soup through a fine strainer back into a clean saucepan (we always quickly wash ours while the soup is blending).
Add cream. Stir in the heavy cream, and check the temperature of the soup. If it isn’t warm enough to serve, turn the heat to medium-low and gently warm while stirring.
Serve. Ladle into bowls and add a bit of garnish for visual interest. We used chervil, which is like dried parsley in flavor, only perhaps not quite as strong-tasting.
This soup turned out better than we expected. As we’ve mentioned in the past, we have a hard time enjoying amaranth greens. They’re okay, but sort of bland, and they turn very limp when cooked. They’re just not our favorites, but we do get them in our CSA share, so, if we can’t trade them, we’ll find a way to use them. In this soup they were delicious, tasting more like spinach, or even a bit like asparagus. Since they’re blended smooth, it doesn’t matter that they go limp when cooked, which is another plus. Overall, this soup is easy and tasty. Four stars.