Time and effort make a soup that’s worthwhile

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The flower bulbs are starting to peek out of the soil in my garden. Every year I plant bulbs in the garden plot next to my front yard. I love the expectation of waiting to see them emerge, grow up and eventually bloom.

I was inspired several years ago when a friend and I visited a home on the road leading up to Lake Arrowhead. The owners had planted daffodils one year, then again the next year, and continued to do so for 30 years, never digging up bulbs at the end of the season.

The entire yard and hillside behind their home was carpeted with daffodils of every size and shade of yellow. It was breathtaking. Because people would stop, take photos and tell friends about the place, it became a springtime destination for flower lovers.

It’s easy to envy a floral tableau like the one I saw. But the thought of planting that many bulbs was overwhelming, to say the least. So I appreciated the write-up the owners had posted near their home. In it, the homeowners recounted to visitors that what they were seeing was a culmination of 30 years of planting daffodil bulbs each winter.

The gentle reminder that Rome was not built in a day, nor was “daffodil hill” planted in a winter, was not lost on me. I saw it as an analogy that all beautiful things take time and effort – marriage, children, education and good health.

And let’s not forget food. Menu planning, making a list, and shopping require some work each week. But it pays off in the daily dash for dinner, because everything you need for chopping, slicing and roasting are in your fridge or pantry.

Since the weather is still cool once the sun goes down, I’ve been including veggie soups as an alternative way to get our greens. While we are still eating lots of salads, some evenings just beg for a comforting bowl of soup.

This week’s recipe comes from a recent issue of the magazine “Everyday with Rachel Ray” and can also be viewed on her website rachelraymag.com. I like that this soup includes lots of green veggies like leeks, broccoli and spinach, which all contain good doses of vitamin C and vitamin K.

Plus, it is topped with a little protein in the dairy, nuts and cheese. It is gluten-free and can easily be dairy-free if you leave out (or substitute) the butter, crème fraiche and cheese. Even though there is some chopping to be done, the soup comes together quickly and cooks in under 20 minutes.

As I anticipate the appearance of purple tulips from the bulbs I planted several weeks ago, I will ponder and be grateful for all the things in my life that take time and effort.

A14-PIC-Cook-by-BWSpinoccoli Soup

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 leeks, white and light green parts, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 small head broccoli, trimmed, stalks and florets chopped
  • 1 large russet potato,
  •    peeled and coarsely grated on the large holes of a box grater
  • 2 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 quart vegetable stock
  • 12 ounces fresh spinach, stemmed and chopped
  • A little freshly grated or ground nutmeg (1/8 to 1/4 tsp.)
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest, plus juice of 1/2 lemon (about 2 tbsp.)
  • Creme fraiche (can substitute sour cream), coarsely chopped toasted hazelnuts and grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, for serving

In a medium soup pot or Dutch oven, heat the oil, two turns of the pan, over medium. Add the butter. When it foams, add the leeks and garlic and cook, stirring often, until the vegetables begin to soften, about 2 minutes. Add the broccoli, potato and thyme; season with salt and pepper. Raise the heat a bit, then cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables soften, about 5 minutes.

Add the stock; bring to a boil. Add the spinach, season with the nutmeg and stir until the spinach wilts, 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat. Using an immersion blender or working in batches in a food processor, puree the soup, thinning with water if too thick. Add the lemon zest and juice; season. Serve in shallow bowls topped with the creme fraiche, nuts and cheese.

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Betty Williams