Wednesday, March 17, 2004

Serve green soups to honor St. Patrick's Day

By Marilyn Harris
Enquirer contributor

You don't have to be Irish to enjoy St. Patrick's Day today. I have two of my favorite green soup recipes for you, both easy and tasty. Keep these recipes on hand because they are great for when you're rushed.

This spinach soup is a light-textured cream soup with just a teaspoon of potato starch for thickening. If you don't have potato starch you may substitute cornstarch, although the texture won't be as delicate. (Potato starch is in the grocery baking section.) If you are making this soup for a company meal you may want to substitute heavy cream to make a richer version. Or, take it the opposite direction and use fat-free half-and-half.

My other pretty spring green soup is flavored and colored with tiny frozen green peas, which make it brighter and more delicately flavored thansoups using dried peas.

The crisp section of the leek leaf just above the white root is the part to add extra great flavor.

This soup is perfect for busy cooks because you can make it a day ahead. Cook and puree the soup and store it covered in the refrigerator. When you are ready to serve, bring it back to a gentle simmer and whisk in the cream. Don't allow the soup to boil after the cream is added or it may curdle.

Easy Spinach Soup

2 10-ounce packages frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed

5 cups chicken stock

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

Dash hot pepper sauce

1 teaspoon potato starch (double for thicker soup)

2 cups light cream or half-and-half

Dash freshly grated nutmeg

Salt to taste

Combine spinach, chicken stock, Worcestershire and hot pepper sauce. Bring to a boil, stirring. Reduce to simmer and cook 5 minutes. Whisk potato starch in 1/4 cup of cream. Whisk this into soup and add remaining cream. Bring soup back to a simmer, stirring until slightly thick. Add dash nutmeg and salt to taste. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Creamy Green Pea Soup

3 tablespoons butter

3 medium-sized leeks, washed and trimmed

2 medium onions

2 10-ounce packages frozen tiny green peas

5 cups chicken stock

Salt and pepper to taste

1 cup heavy cream

Herb-flavored croutons (optional)

Melt butter in a heavy pan with lid. Cut onions in half and slice thinly into half-moon shapes. Slice white and tender green parts of leeks thinly.

Stir leeks and onions into melted butter. Cover pan and reduce heat to low to sweat leeks and onions until soft and tender, about 15 minutes. Raise heat and stir in peas and chicken stock. Bring to a boil and cook, stirring occasionally for 15 minutes. Puree mixture in a blender. Return to pan and whisk in cream. Reheat, but do not boil. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle in croutons just before serving. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Contact Marilyn Harris by mail: c/o Cincinnati Enquirer, 312 Elm St., Cincinnati 45202; e-mail:

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