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February 24, 2011 at 9:21 AM

Walk in the (Moose)wood Cookbook: cream of spinach soup

I don’t know about you, but from where I’m sitting — within eye-shot of my kitchen, morning light shining through the windows — it’s lovely out. Great day to take the dogs for a walk in the woods in the snow. If you can call the light dusting that’s kept my kid home for school (again!) “snow.”

On mornings like this, I like to rummage around in the fridge and cupboards to see what I’ve got for soup. Oooh. There’s a big ham hock in the freezer! Pea soup? Sure, that’s a possibility. Lentil soup? Yeah, there’s always that. But I’ve got a better idea: the Moosewood classic Cream of Spinach Soup. It’s a quick fix you could pull-off in time for lunch, with a substitution or three if you don’t have all the ingredients on hand.

You don’t need many ingredients, or much time at all, to make cream of spinach soup.

I’ve been preparing this recipe since I was a teen, and my copy of the original Moosewood Cookbook, written, illustrated and hand-lettered by the inimitable Mollie Katzen in 1977, has the stains to prove it. When you’re done cooking (the process takes less than an hour), you’ll have a bowlful that looks like this:

I like to spike my soup with a hit of Busha Browne’s Spicy & Hot Pepper Sherry.

You could make the soup with chicken stock instead of water, rice or soy milk instead of cow’s milk, and frozen spinach instead of fresh. Feel free to leave out any herb or spice you don’t like or have on hand, throw in a parsnip instead of (or as well as) the carrot, up the garlic ante, or replace the dried herbs with fresh. Garnish, if you like (I do) with plain yogurt or sour cream. And P.S. I bet a head of romaine or fresh chard would work as well as the spinach.

Here’s the recipe, enough for four to six servings. Now go to it. And while you’re at it, make some warm rolls to go alongside.

Moosewood Cookbook Cream of Spinach Soup

Cover with water and steam until tender (then puree in its own water): 1 carrot, 1 onion, 1 clove of garlic and 1 potato.

Steam: 1 pound of spinach in 1 cup water till wilted. Puree.

Make a roux by whisking 1/3 cup flour into 1/3 cup melted butter. Whisk in 2 cups milk and cook over very low heat, stirring until thickened.

Add the spinach to the roux, along with: 1/2 teaspoon. salt (or more), black pepper, 1/2 teaspoon [dried] basil, pinch nutmeg, pinch [dried] thyme, plus any fresh chopped herb (like parsley or marjoram).

Add first mixture to second. Adjust seasoning and, if too thick, add milk. Heat (over very low flame!) and stir till smooth, creamy, green, fragrant.

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