Spinach Soup with Mascarpone Cheese, and Pumpkin Seeds

Yes, I actually cooked from scratch, if using jarred boullion counts (I do not make my own broth). I paired it with instant mashed potatoes (worse–the grocery store brand) and leftovers, and it didn’t matter at all. My one regret is that I did not double the recipe, but a girl can only do what she can with the fresh spinach available.

It Transcends, I Say! Transcends!

It Transcends, I Say! Transcends!

This soup is one of my all-time favorites. I was shopping at Tuesday Morning for an office Christmas party gift exchange years ago, and they have all these weird books from England. I picked up some cooking with chocolate book for the party, and then one that was all soups, all the time, for two dollars. I love soup! It’s barely been localized for the American market, but it’s adequate. The mLs have all been translated to oz but the vegetables have not. There are some decidedly different culinary habits between the West Coast and the Seat of the British Empire. This spinach soup, however, transcends. I do not use the term lightly.

The recipe is even easy, although if you double the recipe (which I usually do) you’ll need a much larger pot than you think. I’m pulling this recipe out of my head so sorry if I don’t list the ingredients in the correct order.

Spinach with Mascarpone Soup

3 cups fresh spinach (or so)

2 celery stalks, chopped

2 bunches of green onion, chopped

3 1/2 C of chicken or vegetable broth

1 8 oz tub of mascarpone cheese (from the fancy cheese bin by the deli section of your grocery store)

Salt and pepper to taste (you probably will not need to add salt if you make broth with bouillon.

Makes almost a quart of soup. (For the effort you probably really want to double it.)

Sautee the celery and onions in butter in a large pan over medium heat for about five minutes, stirring frequently. Add the fresh spinach and pour the broth over it. Bring to a boil, then cover and simmer for about fifteen minutes. Transfer the soup to a blender and puree until smooth. Return to pan over low heat and stir in the mascarpone cheese until melted.

That’s it! It’s very, very good for you but it is not a low-fat dish. I think the soup is rich enough to be an entree, especially if you serve it with breadsticks. The original recipe had you making your own croutons with cubes of bread and browned caraway seeds in a frying pan, but I was really bad at that. You could toast cubes of rye bread as croutons in a toaster oven, probably (or buy a box of croutons or serve the soup with rye toast). I always just sprinkle a few caraway seeds right on the top of the soup. They look pretty.

Another great thing about this soup is that it can be sort of a catch-all for any iffy vegetables you’ve got in your fridge. I’ve tossed in leaf lettuce and salad mixes getting squishy in the salad bags and soft tomatoes. A few nights ago I steamed fresh broccoli and had set the stems aside to add to this soup. I cut it up to manageable (you don’t have to chop too finely) sizes and tossed it in with the celery and onions sautee. I also had some dinner salad left in a Ziploc bag; all of it went into the soup. The only thing I don’t recommend is making an entire batch of this soup with lettuce. The recipe in the book said that other leafy greens would be a good substitute, but I think the spinach should make up the bulk of what you put in. It’s very forgiving if you go over the three cups. I haven’t experimented with other cheese, but ricotta might work if you can’t find mascarpone. I had never used mascarpone before making this recipe, and I was surprised by its consistency and sweetness. Whatever you use, make sure it’s soft and sweet.

Even the three-year-old likes this soup. I’m telling you… it’s easy and impressive and a beautiful color. If you really want to go crazy and make tons of it, freeze the puree and then add the cheese when you are melting it to heat and serve it. Don’t freeze the soup with cheese in it, though.

When I consider what I’ve cooked this week, I’m pretty impressed. I breaded and baked wonderful chicken without calling up a web page for instructions, I baked pork loins without drying them out, I made this soup, I baked all that bread, and we invented that chocolate butter. Not a bad week for an amateur!

I also finally prepared pumpkin seeds without them getting moldy or dry as sticks. I had this little grocery store check-out aisle impulse by housewife’s recipe book for Halloween that caught Little Fella’s impulsive eye one day. He wanted a book about pumpkins, so I bought it. We carved our jack-o-lantern this evening, and contrary to my usual MO I baked the seeds immediately following this recipe. We didn’t have two cups of seeds (one cup plus some more) so I sort of halved the recipe not very precisely.

Baked Pumpkin Seeds

2 cups fresh pumpkin seeds

5 tsp melted butter

1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1 tsp sugar

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp garlic powder

1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Cover a baking sheet with foil, and spray the foil with non-stick cooking spray. Toss together all the ingredients and spread the seeds on the tray. Bake for 45 to 60 minutes, until seeds are light brown and toasted. Stir the seeds every 15 minutes.

My seeds were cooked in 45 minutes. We are almost out of salt (which I cannot believe has happened to me–I’m pretty good about keeping my seasonings stocked) so I just used a bunch of garlic salt. Depending on who you are serving the seeds to, you might want to alter how much cayenne pepper you use. I think 1/4 tsp is a fairly small amount, but I am used to spicy food. No matter what you do, however, those little pumpkin seed husks are probably going to get stuck in your throat.

I learned tonight that my Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce contains anchovies. Who knew?

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