Going Green with Iceberg Soup

 

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Chilled lettuce soup is a wonderful addition to any summertime menu, and a great way to use the outer leaves that you might otherwise discard. It may not sound tempting, but trust me, once you master this super easy recipe you just may find yourself making it all summer long.

Summer is the time for lettuce – look at all these options for chopped salads! How about a beautiful chilled summer soup that is not only easy to make but is light, delicious, super healthy and satisfying? And if that weren’t enough, it is vegan as well. Some soups cry out for a hearty stock, or cream, some by definition are chicken, fish, lamb or beef based, but many soups don’t need stock or dairy at all and are in fact better off without it, especially in the dog days of summer when you’re looking for a light, cooling repast. Lettuce makes a fantastic soup, and let’s not forget the fact that most lettuces are not just an empty crunch, they are packed with vitamins and minerals and are a good source of fibre. Most discerning chefs might opt for more esoteric varieties of lettuce than lowly, tasteless iceberg lettuce, but the great thing about iceberg is actually that its mildness, once cooked, becomes more complex, a little sweeter, and marries well with other profiles, other additions to the soup pot. With iceberg soup you will want to take it easy on strong ingredients that might drown out its subtle flavour. I have seen many recipes for lettuce soup, and a lot of them add cream or milk, coconut milk, chicken stock, butter, or even lardons, which presents the question, who wants to eat chilled bacon fat?

 

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One concern with iceberg lettuce is its overall lack of colour which results in a rather wan looking soup. The solution here is you get to use up the darker green, somewhat wilted outer leaves which you would normally toss into the compost. For this soup we added a cup of frozen peas, for their flavour, creamy texture, nutrition and colour. Fantastic! Other plant-based options for making the soup more substantial involve the addition of potato or cashews, or cashew milk or other nut or soy beverages. But today we are keeping it real: real simple, real easy. No need to add creamy liquids; after a few minutes in the blender this soup is plenty creamy.

 

lettuce in!

lettuce in!

 

If you ask a trained chef to taste something, they will usually respond with, “Needs salt.” Or, “Needs acid.” So it is with this soup. Season it to taste with a little salt and white pepper after it is chilled. Black pepper tastes great but affects the presentation somewhat. When serving, a squeeze of lemon makes the flavours really pop. As a garnish, a few fresh herbs are all that is needed. A chiffonade of fresh mint and a slice of lemon brings this soup to another level.

Make lots. It keeps well in the fridge, you don’t have to heat it so it is always ready to go and it is so light and good and refreshing that you might find yourself poring it into a glass and drinking it like a green smoothie. Why not?

 

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 Iceberg Soup

Serves 4-6

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 small onion or similar amount of shallots-chopped

1 clove garlic-chopped

1 head of iceberg lettuce, chopped and core removed

1 cup frozen peas

4 cups vegetable broth

salt and white pepper

1 lemon, sliced

In a saucepan heat the oil over medium, not low heat. Sauté the onions and garlic for a few minutes. Do not allow onions to caramelize as they will become too sweet and the resulting brown colour will muddy the overall appearance. Stir in the frozen peas and lettuce. Lower heat, cover with lid and let cook for four or five minutes.

Remove from heat and add vegetable broth. In 2 or three batches, blend on low for half a minute then on high for up to 3 minutes. Chill in refrigerator. Season to taste with salt and pepper after chilling. Serve with a squeeze of lemon or a lemon slice in each bowl and garnish with chopped fresh mint.

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