It’s been a couple months since my last soup post, so this one is long overdue. Soups are a vital part of my diet; they are versatile, easy to prepare, and a seamless way to integrate more homemade broth into my eating routine. Today’s lettuce soup is a nice change of pace, and a unique way to avoid the incessant crunching and chewing that comes from eating a plateful of lettuce.
There are two main cuisines with a history of enjoying lettuce in their soup. In Chinese cuisine, it is added as a finishing vegetable, much in the same way you’d add herbs like cilantro or scallions; for example, our local Vietnamese restaurant serves its Chinese-inspired Hu Tieu soup with lettuce on top. Today’s recipe favors the French preparation of lettuce soup, which is often blended (or run through a sieve) and flavored with cream.
Any lettuce will do for this recipe, with the exception of iceberg, because it probably won’t add much flavor. This dish is served both cold and hot, and we prefered the hot version. Lettuce soup has a flavor that’s hard to describe – earthy but not dirty, sharp but not biting. I’ve found that cooking down a leek in the chicken broth enriches and balances the soup; adding a few sprigs of parsley and some lemon zest help brighten its top notes as well.
Lettuce and Leek Soup (Gluten-free, Primal, Paleo, Perfect Health Diet, Whole30-adaptable)
2 tbsp butter
1 leek, coarsely chopped
4 cups chicken broth
2 dashes ground nutmeg
10oz (2-3 heads) romaine lettuce (or any lettuce but iceberg), coarsely chopped
3 sprigs parsley, stems included, coarsely chopped
zest of 1/2 lemon
salt and pepper to taste
2 tbsp heavy cream or coconut milk (optional)
1. In a stockpot, heat the butter over medium heat. Add the leek and saute until bright green and tender, about 3 minutes. Add the broth and nutmeg, then bring to a boil; simmer until the leeks are soft, about 4 more minutes, then add the lettuce and parsley. Simmer until the lettuce is wilted, about 2 minutes, then remove from heat.
2. Transfer to a blender and add lemon zest, then blend until smooth, starting at a low speed and gradually moving to a high speed, about 2 minutes; it’ll take a bit more blending than you’d expect to really combine the lettuce fibers and liquid. Season with salt and pepper to taste then serve with heavy cream or coconut milk.