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During the pandemic, when we were all stuck inside, afraid to venture out, I became obsessed with YouTube vlogs. As an armchair traveler, I chose vlogs where I could “wander” in the open air, listening to the sounds of nature, while watching the seasons change. I was especially drawn to three vlogs that showed life in the mountains of Ukraine as well as one in Azerbaijan. In each of these, people live small but rich lives largely off of land they farm.
My husband could always tell where I was wandering by the sounds emanating from my computer. Roosters crowing meant Azerbaijan. Rushing water was a particular place in Ukraine. The call of the muezzin was Turkey.
Unlike in much of the US, their food was seasonal and often foraged – wild berries, mushrooms, edible flowers etc. or grown by them. Recently, I have watched soups being made from foraged spring greens. My grandmothers would have recognized these soups as a version of green borscht that we called schav. Served without meat – not because they were vegetarians, but because they were poor. It was usually made from sorrel and served cold, perhaps with a dollop of sour cream on top. But the versions I watched here were served hot. While they contained meat – usually pork – they can be made vegetarian, which is what I have done here.
There is no one recipe for this soup and I didn’t use one. But Spring Greens Soup is a fresh, simple soup that is a hopeful harbinger of spring. Depending on where you live in the world, you will have access to different greens so your version will be slightly different than mine. I have yet to find sorrel in any of my markets. However, I was able to find beautiful dandelion greens which will give me that slight almost acidic bitterness that I crave. I have mixed them with collard greens and lacinato (dino) kale, fresh leeks and lots of dill. And because I eat in color and wanted to round out the flavors of the soup and to add a bit of bulk, I have also added carrots and potatoes.
This is not a recipe to slavishly follow. It is a guide. You almost certainly have different greens available or may wish for more carrots or potatoes. Perhaps you don’t have any nice leeks, but beautiful onions instead. Whatever ingredients that you use, though, don’t make Spring Greens Soup to be more than it is – a delicious sign of hope in a rather dismal time. That is more than enough for me.
While I eat very little meat, I do prefer chicken stock as a base for my soups. However, vegetable stock would be delicious as well. This type of soup is frequently garnished with chopped hard boiled egg and fresh herbs, which is how I have served it. But some cooked vegan apple sage sausage would be a delicious alternative. No rules – just suggestions.
And did I mention how healthy this Spring Greens Soup is? However, if it were only healthy but didn’t taste great as well, I would not be making it and sharing it with all of you. No matter how you choose to serve this lovely soup, do not forget the bread! And if you are not vegan, some nice cheese to enjoy with the bread.
Yield: About 10 servings
4 Tablespoons of any: unsalted butter, EVOO, avocado, Canola or other healthy neutral oil
2 leeks, trimmed, washed well and thinly sliced, including the light green part
1 bunch collard greens, stemmed and coarsely chopped
1 bunch dandelion greens, coarsely chopped, including tender stems
1 bunch lacinato (dino) kale, stemmed and coarsely chopped
About 6 smallish potatoes or their equivalent, peeled and cut into medium dice (I used red potatoes because that is what I had. But golden, russet or other variety works well too.)
2 large carrots, peeled and sliced or diced
1 large bunch of fresh dill with thinner stems included
1 bunch flat-leaf parsley with thinner stems included
About 10 to 12 cups of liquid (Stock (preferably unsalted), broth, water with added bouillon)
salt and pepper to taste
Heat oil of choice in a large pot on medium high heat. Add the leeks, 1 teaspoon of salt and sauté until softened – about 8 to ten minutes.
Add the carrots and potatoes and mix through. Cook for another 5 minutes. Then add all of the greens, and enough of the liquid to cover the greens. Add in the pepper (I like white pepper here but black is fine if that is all you have.) You can add more salt, but how much will depend on whether you used stock, bouillon or broth with salt as well as personal taste. It is a big pot of soup so can take a fair amount. However, remember that you can always add salt, but reducing the amount once added is difficult.
Give a good stir and bring to a boil. Cover the pot and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook for 90 minutes.
Add half of the chopped fresh herbs, reserving the remainder to use when serving. Mix through and simmer covered for another 5 minutes. Taste and adjust your seasonings. When ready to serve, garnish with chopped hard boil egg and the remaining fresh herbs or with a browned vegan or other sausage, if desired.