Unpredictable. If I had one word to sum up Spring in the midwest, that’s what it would be. For me, March is that month when my body is ready for warmer air, my eyes ready to see some color on the trees and on the ground, and my tastebuds ready for brighter, lighter flavors and dishes. Chicago in March can bring you a snow storm, torrential rain and if you’re lucky, a 60 degree day, all in the same week. Like I said, unpredictable.
For that reason, meals for me are tricky this time of year. Warm meals are still welcome, but the heaviness of root vegetables, cooked every which way, feels tired. As we patiently wait on the first of the midwest-grown spring vegetables, we rely on herbs and leafy greens to brighten and lighten things up.
Enter this bright green soup. Or as I like to call it, Spring Soup. Leeks, a whole pound of spinach, lots of herbs and a nice creamy texture thanks to the cauliflower, make this just as satisfying on the cold March days as it is on the sunny warm ones. Spring, feel free to show up anytime, we are so ready for you.
We love serving this soup over a hearty scoop of farro and topping it with shower of tender herbs, plenty of fresh squeezed lemon juice, petite peas, aleppo pepper and a drizzle of good olive oil (a dollop of Creme fraiche really brings it home)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 leeks, white and light green parts, chopped
2 celery stalks, diced
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 sprigs rosemary
1 small head cauliflower approx. 1 lb., roughly chopped
1 1/2 quart chicken or vegetable stock
1 1/2 tsp. sea salt
1 tsp. black pepper
2 cups cooked farro (could also use quinoa or rice)
1 pound baby spinach
1 cup cilantro leaves and tender stems
1 cup parsley leaves and tender stems
Extra-virgin olive oil
Flaky sea salt
Aleppo pepper flakes
1/4 cup tender herbs (dill, chives)
1 cup frozen petite peas, thawed under cold water
creme fraiche (optional)
heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Stir in the leeks and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic and rosemary and cook 1 minute more. Stir in the cauliflower, stock, 2 cups water, 1½ teaspoon salt and ½ teaspoon pepper. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to medium and simmer, partly covered, until vegetables are tender, 30 to 40 minutes.
Meanwhile cook farro to package instructions until tender. Rinse peas. Chop tender herbs.
Discard rosemary branches from the pot. Add spinach, cilantro and parsley, and simmer uncovered until very soft, 5 to 8 minutes. Puree soup with an immersion blender or in batched in a high powered countertop blender until smooth. Return to the pot, Add more salt to taste.
To serve, add a scoop of grains to each bowl, ladle soup over grains, top with a drizzle of olive oil, a couple tablespoons peas, a good squeeze of lemon juice, flaky salt, red-pepper flakes and finally a dollop of creme fraiche, if desired.