So when I loaded up on veggies, especially greens, at the grocery store on Sunday in preparation for a meat- and dairy-free week, I went a bit overboard. By Wednesday, it became clear that I was going to have trouble finishing all the lettuce, spinach, kale, and chard, and that the chard particularly needed some attention soon. But it was cold out, and I had a sore throat, and I just didn’t want to eat any more salad or sauteed greens or greens in any recognizable form, really. I wanted something warm, filling, and soothing for my throat. I wanted soup.
But none of that bland, watery soup. I wanted thick soup, rich with flavor. Then I remembered the whole bunch of untapped cilantro lying in wait in my refrigerator. And the potatoes. And the 6-pack of jalapenos from Trader Joe’s. And thus, this hearty, happens-to-be-vegan chard and potato soup was born.
This soup is a great way to use up excess greens when they’re starting to look less-than-chipper but haven’t quite gone bad yet. While I chose chard, you could substitute spinach, kale, and even leftover lettuces – whatever excess greens you have on hand – but the darker ones will bring a bit more depth to the flavor.
While cilantro is typically used fresh as a finishing herb on dishes, I chose to saute a handful with the chard to add more complexity to the soup itself; however, I also tossed a smaller handful of chopped cilantro atop the soup upon serving it to give it a wonderfully fresh, crunchy element. Chopped jalapeno and ground cumin added warmth to the dish without making it very spicy, but if you prefer something spicier, add an additional jalapeno to the mix. Finally, the comforting creaminess comes from the Yukon gold potatoes that are pureed into the final product to create a velvety texture without adding cream, keeping this soup light, healthy, and vegan.
Next time you’re staring at some sad, neglected greens, whip up this soup. Besides the health and vegan factors, it’s also delicious and has earned the make-it-again stamp of approval from a certain selective carnivore who may or may not share a dwelling with me.
Swiss Chard and Potato Soup Spiced with Cilantro, Jalapeno and Cumin
Notes: If you have a weaker blender, you may want to peel the potatoes to ensure a smooth soup, but I left the peels on and blended it to smithereens. Also, for healthier cooking, I used a “water saute” method I saw on Whole Foods’ website recently to cook the potato/onion mixture; you are welcome to substitute 2 Tbsp. of olive oil if you prefer. Finally, my picture shows a measly little cilantro sprig in the center of the soup, but do not limit yourself to such a sparse garnish! I highly recommend chopping up another 1/4 or even 1/2 c. of cilantro to bring to the table so guests can pile the delicious, fresh, crunchy stuff on top of the thick, creamy soup. If you want to garnish the bowls in advance, beware that the cilantro loses its freshness and crunch after sitting atop the hot, steamy soup sauna for a few minutes. But you probably already knew that.
1 c. yellow onion, chopped
1/2 c. water
1 lb. Yukon gold potatoes, minis or chopped in 1-inch pieces
4 c. vegetable stock (may substitute chicken stock)
1 tsp. olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp. ginger, freshly grated
1 jalapeno, minced
1 bunch Swiss chard (12 to 16 oz.), coarse stems removed and leaves chopped
1/4 c. cilantro, plus more for garnish
1 Tbsp. ground cumin
juice from 1 lemon
In medium pot over medium heat, saute half of the chopped onions in 1/2 c. water until tender, about 7 minutes. Add potatoes, and saute for 3 minutes. Add stock, bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are tender, about 15 to 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a large pot over medium heat, saute the remaining chopped onions with garlic, ginger, and jalapeno until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add chard, cilantro and cumin, cover pot, and stirring periodically, cook until tender, about 8 minutes.
Add cooked potatoes and stock mixture to greens, and scrape any burned bits off the bottom of the pot to add the flavor back into the soup. Add lemon juice. Puree with immersion blender or food processor until completely smooth (this may take a few minutes, depending on the power of your blending unit). If you removed the soup from the pot to blend, return it to the pot, and bring to a simmer. Add water to thin out the soup to your preferred level of thickness, as the potatoes make it quite creamy. Serve hot with a sprinkling of fresh cilantro on top, although I also enjoyed this soup chilled the next day. Soup can be frozen in individual servings for up to 6 months, or stored in airtight refrigerated container for 5 days.