This Lettuce Soup Recipe is a delicious way to eat your greens!
Thanks to a warm and rainy early Spring, my garden is going crazy already. The zucchini plants are enormous, the peas and cucumbers are climbing skyward, and the herb garden is beginning to look like a jungle. I even have a half dozen tomatoes the size of golf balls, and it’s not even summer yet!
But it’s the lettuce patch that’s overwhelming me right now. I bought a seed packet which promised a 3-season mix and planted it in early May. We like lettuce, and I loved the idea of not having to sow more seeds every two weeks to keep us eating our greens throughout the growing season.
So there I was a week before Mother’s Day, hanging on to the seed packet’s promise of a variety of Bibb, buttercrunch, red leaf, and Romaine lettuces to get us through late autumn. I drew my nice, straight line and sowed my seeds — admittedly a bit heavily. A couple of weeks later, I thinned them and used the tiny seedlings as microgreens with Creamy Avocado Garlic Herb Dressing on a sandwich. Yum!
And then it started raining. It rained for days, people. Just when I thought the rain was finally letting up, it rained some more. By the time the weather turned, I’d come down with a nasty chest infection that kept me laid up for another week. When it was over, I worriedly went to check on my neglected garden and found more lettuce than any one family could eat.
To make matters worse, the seed packet’s promise of different lettuces was mostly hype. Oh, there’s some green leaf lettuce and a few Romaine heads but, more than that, there’s red leaf lettuce. Tons of red leaf lettuce.
That’s not a bad thing — it’s a delicious lettuce in salads but, seriously, even making two huge salads a day hasn’t made a dent in my lettuce patch. And, unlike Romaine or Boston or buttercrunch lettuce, the red leaf stuff doesn’t work to make wraps or lettuce boats.
What’s a girl to do?
Well, when life gives you too much lettuce it’s time to get creative, and that’s how I came up with this lettuce soup recipe. I figured it couldn’t be too different from making a spinach soup, though I didn’t want to load it down with cream or cheese. Lettuce is sweet and delicate on its own, after all — whereas spinach has a bit more tang to it — so I wanted to come up with a soup which capitalized on the delicate flavor.
Lettuce soup is easy peasy to make, too — though there are no peas involved. Instead, I decided to pair the sweet taste of lettuce with leeks which bring some bite and another layer of flavor to the mix. If you haven’t cooked with leeks much before, there are a few tricks to cleaning them.
Leeks are grown by burying them in dirt. I kid you not! You start them in the late fall or early Spring, depending on your gardening zone, in an extra deep planter with just a few inches of soil. As they grow, you add more soil, so only the green tops appear above the ground line. When they’re about 2 feet tall, with about one foot of green tops above the edge of the planter, they’re ready.
Thanks to that growing process, though, they’re full of dirt — not just on the outside, but between the layers, too. So, to clean leeks, you slice all but a couple of inches of the green tops off then slice the root end away, and cut the leek down the middle lengthwise.
Peel away the outer, tough leaves. They taste nasty and won’t cook properly, anyway. I toss mine into the compost pile, so I don’t feel too bad about discarding them. If you feel guilty, there are many different ways to use leek leaves including wrapping fish in them before baking.
Anyway, slice the white parts crosswise and then wash them. Get your hands in there and swirl them around in the water to dislodge all of the soil. Even the leeks you buy in the grocery store are going to be gritty, so it’s always a good idea to repeat that process a few times. I think I had washed mine four times before I was sure all the dirt was gone.
Cook those leeks in 2 tablespoons of your preferred fat. I went with a really good extra virgin olive oil which comes in tins, so I don’t have to worry about it going rancid on the kitchen counter. You could use coconut oil if you’re into that but, to be honest, it may affect the flavor. I’d suggest something more neutral if, for some reason, you don’t like olive oil.
Once the leeks start to soften, add 1 cup of chicken broth and bring it to a simmer. Let those leeks simmer covered in the broth until they are very soft — at least five minutes. Yes, you can use bone broth if you like — I reserve mine for drinking. Want to make this vegan? A vegetable broth would work, too (though, of course, you’d skip the dollop of yogurt at the end).
Add the lettuce one handful at a time, stirring between each until the previous handful has softened. This recipe uses a lot of lettuce — which is exactly what I wanted! Altogether, I used 16 ounces of it to make three large bowls of soup. That’s a lot of lettuce!
If you want to make more or less, adjust the amount of the other ingredients. You can do the math. I have faith in you.
When you’ve got all of the lettuce added, bring it back to a boil then turn down the heat. Simmer for another 5 minutes until everything is nice and soft. Then, remove it from the heat and give the whole thing a couple of minutes to stop steaming.
Once it’s cooled a bit, taste and season it if you like. I found the flavor was perfect thanks to the chicken stock, so I didn’t need to add any salt, just a very tiny pinch of ground white pepper. When the flavor is to your liking, transfer the contents of your soup pot to a food processor or blender. I’d love to tell you to just use a stick blender right in the pot, but I’ll be honest: I tried that, and it just started to create a stringy mess.
It’s much easier to run it through a machine. If you’re using a blender, pop the clear button out of the lid and lightly cover the hole with a towel, so the steam has a way to escape without burning your hand. If you’re using a food processor, as I did, it’s never a bad idea to stick a towel over the top just in case.
Divide the soup between bowls (3 if you’re using large bowls for a main course soup or 6 if you’re serving it as a side) then add a dollop of Greek yogurt on top, and chiffonade some lettuce to sprinkle on top for garnish. Or don’t. It’s all good.
This soup is perfect served warm but, much to my surprise, is also light and delicious when served cold. It would make an excellent accompaniment to grilled chicken or baked fish (see, that’s how you use those outer leek leaves) or a nice meal on its own with a hunk of ciabatta bread.
Serves: Serves 3-6
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large leek, sliced
- 16 oz. lettuce leaves, roughly torn
- 1 cup chicken broth
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Greek yogurt for garnish (optional)
- 2-3 lettuce leaves cut chiffonade for garnish (optional)
- Heat the oil in the bottom of a soup pan over medium heat.
- Add leeks, stir to coat, and cook until they begin to turn translucent - around 2-3 minutes. Stir often, so they don't brown.
- Add 1 cup chicken broth and bring to boil. Reduce heat to simmer and cook until the leeks are
soft,around 5 minutes.
- Add lettuce one handful at a time, stirring each until wilted before adding the next. Simmer for 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Remove from heat and wait 2-3 minutes to cool slightly.
- Transfer to the bowl of a food processor or blender and blend for 2 minutes on high. (If using a blender, pop the clear button out of the top and cover the hole lightly with a towel to allow steam to escape.)
- Ladle into serving bowls and top with a dollop of Greek yogurt and chiffonade-cut lettuce leaves if desired.