The soup that got me through graduate school and a lot of other stressful times is a cheery green soup — Parsley Soup.
The beauty of this soup is that it’s fast and simple to make. And nutritious. Plus, you can find any of its humble ingredients–parsley, potatoes, onions–at the grocery store, all year long, and they are cheap.
More than a decade ago, when I was a middle-aged mother, teacher and returning student with homework and budget to worry about, coming up with a healthy homemade dinner for my daughter and myself was a challenge–and this was often the solution, especially in winter. Along with some good bread, or maybe (if I had the energy) some homemade popovers or biscuits, and a slice or two of cheese — the green soup not only made a good meal but restored my equilibrium. By now it’s an old reliable.
My friend Peggy told me about this soup years ago — her version had no onions, but a lot of butter. (It called for 8 potatoes, 2 cups of chopped parsley and 1/2 cup of butter.) My variation doesn’t require butter (or cream, for that matter) — it’s one of those so-called “cream” soups that is creamy thanks to the magic of the handy dandy blender.
First of all, you simply boil some potatoes. Three or four will be good for a smaller pot of soup; you may want to double this if you’re feeding four or more folks.
Next, you’re going to take one or two bunches of parsley (washed) and chop them up so you have about a cup of chopped parsley. You don’t have to be too precise about the chopping, since you’re going to put this in the blender anyway. Some people like to use the stems, which are perfectly edible but are too fibrous to really blend into the soup. I usually don’t use the stems. Oh, you’re also going to chop up a medium onion. And some garlic cloves, if you like.
If you don’t use the stems in your soup, save them, along with the onion skins and ends to make a vegetable broth later. ( I usually have a big zip-lock bag in my freezer where I toss all the edible vegetable peels, stalks, stems, etc. until I feel like making broth. Then it’s just a matter of dumping them into a pot with a lot of water and cooking for an hour or two.)
Back to the parsley soup: You can use oil or butter or a combination to saute the onions until soft, then toss in the garlic for a minute, and then add the chopped parsley. Sauteeing the parsley seals in that nice bright green color. Just do this until the parsley kind of wilts and is a little soft.
Now it’s time for the blender. Put the parsley-onion mixture in first, and add a couple cups of liquid — water or a light vegetable broth is best, in my opinion (a stronger broth might overwhelm the delicate flavor of the parsley). Or you could add some milk, if you want it to be creamier (and have some protein). Blend it up until it’s the texture you like.
Then add in your peeled, boiled potatoes, roughly chopped, and blend again. You don’t want to blend potatoes very long, or they will develop a weird texture.
If your blender doesn’t fit all of your soup at once, just pour some of the blended mixture into a pot, add some more liquid, and put in the rest of the potatoes… Again, remember not to over-blend those potatoes — don’t leave the blender running while you do something else!
Pour the whole concoction into a pot and add more liquid till it’s as thick or thin as you like. At this point, you may want to use milk or even cream if your arteries can tolerate that — but water or broth will also do just fine. Heat the soup gently and don’t let it boil away, especially if you have any milk in it.
Season with salt (generously if you just used water), pepper, and some gratings of nutmeg, or with whatever seasonings you like. Maybe mint or sage, a touch of chipotle powder or cumin? Maybe add some cilantro to the parsley? Whatever you like, the potato-parsley mix makes a good base to take off on (though it might be a good idea to go easy on the seasonings, if you like the taste of parsley).
Many years ago, I sent my recipe for parsley soup to Anna Thomas, of the Vegetarian Epicure cookbooks (Bless her for introducing 1970s America to fine vegetarian cooking! I have a collection of her books and use “The New Vegetarian Epicure” lots. Roasted vegetables, mmmmm. Here’s an article about her from the L.A. Times) She posted her own variation of parsley soup on her Web site, and included it in her new book, “Love Soup.” Her soup is pretty different from mine, but then mine is pretty different from the one I got from Peggy.
Many potato soups or squash soups take well to this blender method. On the Vegetarian Epicure site, you can see a short video of Anna making “roasted turnip and winter squash soup.” Again, you could simplify and adapt that soup any way you like.
Maybe just roast the squash and add curry spices or ginger, perhaps some pear or apple….(here’s Andrew Weil’s recipe for “stress free squash soup” with apples.)
You can easily make this or any soup your own.
Just use the basic method:
softened vegetables + something to make it thick (potatoes, squash, cooked beans) +sauteed onions + liquid + blender
— and you’ll soon be on your way to a low-stress, hearty soup to soothe the soul.