Spinach or Escarole Soup with Rice
- 1 head Escarole OR 1 lb Spinach, fresh
- 4 tbsp Butter
- 2 tbsp Onion, chopped
- 3 1/2 cups Home-made Meat Broth (preferred) OR 1 cup prepared Beef broth, diluted with 2 1/2 cups of water OR 2 Bouillon Cubes dissolved in 3 1/2 cups water
- 1/3 cup Rice (preferably Italian Arborio Rice)
- 3 tbsp Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese, fresh, grated
- If using escarole: Detach all the leaves from the root end and discard any that are bruised, wilted, or discolored. Soak the leaves you’ll keep in several abundant changes of cold water until they are thoroughly free of soil. Drain and cut into strips about 1/2 inch wide. Set aside.
If using spinach: If the spinach leaves are attached to their root, cut it off and discard it, separating each cluster into single leaves. Do not trim off the stems. Soak the spinach clean in several changes of cold water. Cook the spinach in a covered pan over medium heat, adding a pinch of salt to keep it green, but no other liquid other than the water clinging to the leaves. When the water it sheds begins to bubble, cook for about 2 – 3 minutes longer. Scoop up the spinach with a slotted spoon. Do not discard any of the liquid remaining in the pan. As soon as the spinach is cool enough to handle, squeeze it gently, letting all the liquid it sheds run back into the pan. Set the spinach aside, reserving the liquid.
- Put the butter and chopped onion in a large saute pan, and turn on the heat to medium high. Saute the onion until it becomes light gold. then add the escarole or spinach.
- If using escarole: Add a pinch of salt to help maintain its color. Stir it 2 – 3 times to coat it thoroughly, then add add 1/2 cup of broth. Turn the heat down to low and cover the pan. Cook until the escarole is tender, approximately 25 – 45 minutes (depending on the freshness and youth of the greens.)
If using spinach: Saute the spinach over lively heat in the onion and butter for a few minutes, stirring 2-3 times.
- Transfer the entire contents of the pan to a soup pot. Add the broth (and the reserved spinach liquid, if you are using spinach). Cover the pot and turn on the heat to medium. When the broth comes to a boil, add the rice and cover the pot again. Adjust the heat to cook at a steady, slow-bubbling boil, stirring from time to time until the rice is done. In about 20 – 25 minutes, the rice should be firm to the bite but tender, not chalky inside.
- When the rice is done, swirl in the grated Parmesan. Salt to taste. Serve immediately. It will become mushy if not served immediately.
- The consistency of the soup should be dense, but still fairly runny on the spoon. If you find, while the rice is cooking, that it is becoming too thick, add a ladle of water. Just do not dilute the soup too much.
- Variation with Olive Oil and Garlic: This version has an earthier flavor. Substitute 3 tbsp of Olive Oil for the butter and 2 tsps of finely chopped garlic for the onion. Although the Parmesan cheese is still a good choice for the finishing touch, in its place you could do the following: After the soup is done and ladled into bowls, drizzle with olive oil and add cracked black pepper.
This locally inspired recipe is brought to you by Pam Walker. Pam is an avid home cook, writer, and local farm and food activist who is also a board member of the Santa Fe Farmers’ Market Institute. Thank you, Pam, for helping inspire us to use locally sourced ingredients!