Lettuce Soup

You might be doing a double-take after reading the title of this blog. When I told a friend, she said, “Huh? Let us oop?” Maybe I slur my words.

I started making lettuce soup a couple of months ago after I heard about it on radio’s The Splendid Table. Lynne Rossetto Kasper suggested lettuce soup to a call-in listener who wondered what to do with an over-abundance of home-grown lettuce. FYI, other chefs make it, including Emeril.

Lettuce soup will be the starter at my vegetable forward Thanksgiving meal. Hence, the emphasis on greens from the get-go.

Here’s how I’ve been making Lettuce Soup for the past 2 months, experimenting on adventurous friends.

I buy my lettuce (and most of my produce) at the Manhattan Union Square farmer’s market.  It is as fresh as one can get unless one makes a living off the earth. If there are no local vegetable stands near you, grocery store Romaine or a Mesclun mix should be fine, but I would steer clear of Iceberg (too much water). You can substitute fresh spinach for a heartier flavor.
Here’s my version of Lettuce Soup:

Saute 1 medium onion coarsely chopped with 3-4 peeled whole cloves of garlic for 5-7 minutes in olive oil in a deep pan. Pour in a quart of vegetable broth (use chicken broth if you prefer a deeper flavor). Add water to boost the volume, if needed. Bring all to a boil and then toss in torn lettuce and stir. Do not worry about pieces being the same size. Cook for 2 minutes on reduced heat. Remove the pan from the heat and let cool. Put everything into a blender (2 separate portions unless you have a really big blender/Cuisinart) on chop for 1 minute or less. You are not looking for a complete puree. You are trying for a soup that has lettuce in small bits. The Splendid Table recommended blending in yogurt to the soup stock. I stir in 2 tablespoons at the last minute before serving. On Thanksgiving, I will boil a carrot and slice it paper-thin. Going for presentation as well as taste!

Next up will be Turkey Risotto, a riff on tradition. My risotto will incorporate cooked turkey breast, mushrooms, asparagus and sit on top of fresh chives. There are many online risotto recipes. Discover what suits you. I add the turkey, mushrooms and asparagus near the end so they are not over-cooked. I plate the risotto on top of uncut chives. Again, going for the visuals.

There are many things to do with Arborio rice. Get creative! Remember 1 cup of uncooked rice will yield about 3 cups cooked.

Every main dish deserves side dishes. My vegetable forward meal will include Brussels sprouts which are abundant in the fall. Of course, I go to the farmer’s market. I cut the sprouts off the stem, wash and slice in half. I toss the slices with sesame oil and saute for a few minutes. I transfer the pieces to a shallow ceramic pan with about a half inch of water and braise for 20 minutes in the oven at 300 degrees and then broil for 1-2 minutes.
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A nod to the traditional will be on the menu. I will use the NY Times Cookbook (from way-back) recipe for home-made cranberry sauce. I put in half the sugar and don’t bother with the almonds. There are also tons of online recipes and usually instructions are on the package. You’ll never buy a can of cranberry sauce again once you see how easy it is to make your own. I scoop the prepared cranberries onto a slice of orange for a tang of flavor and color.

I think the meal will be a winner, even if not the usual spread.
For dessert, the morning of the 24th I’ll bike over Chelsea Market to lift some Pumpkin Witches from Fat Witch Bakery. If you don’t live in NYC, you can bake these delicious treats from the recipe in Fat Witch Brownie cookbook, pages 126 and 127.

I have never been to the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade at street level.  I’ve often watched it from a friend’s Central Park West apartment. Not this year, I will be making Lettuce Soup.

May your Thanksgiving be bountiful with friends and family!
The Witch </:)
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