What do you do when it still feels like winter in April? You make a soup that tastes like spring but keeps you warm! My winter wardrobe might still be in heavy rotation but at least the essence of spring is making an appearance in my food.
In the kitchen, spring for me is about bringing in fresh, bright and subtler flavors in place of the bold, rich, smokiness that I love in winter. (My clients make fun of how much I use smoked paprika.) This Spring Greens & Beans Soup is a riff on last summer's minestrone. It's flavored with thyme, oregano, dill, and lemon. The substance comes by way of mung beans, chickpeas (or my favorite, butter beans), orzo and loads of greens -- peas, asparagus, green beans, and spinach. To keep the soup bright and dynamic, I top it with fresh herbs, another squeeze of lemon, salty and tangy parm, a drizzle of fruity olive oil, and a grind of freshly cracked black pepper.
Mung beans are a staple in India, China, and other parts of Asia. Whole mung beans, which I'm using today, are small, round and green, with a white dot in the center. Because they're so small they're one of the easiest legumes to digest. Pre-soaking makes them even easier to digest and cuts cooking time in half. In fact, I recommend mung beans (and adzuki beans - another small bean) to clients who struggle with digestion but want to incorporate a greater variety of plant-based protein in their diet.
According to Ayurveda and Traditional Chinese Medicine, mung beans are considered to be an astringent flavor and cooling by nature due to their detoxifying properties. Same goes for sprouts, greens and herbs such as cilantro and mint. These foods are good to incorporate in weekly meals as we transition to spring and summer. For more on seasonal cooking and eating, revisit this blog post.
Whether your spring is sunshine and blue skies or it's more like mine -- wet, windy and cold -- this spring soup should satisfy all. Enjoy!
Spring Greens & Beans Soup
Notes: Recipe calls for soaked mung beans. Soaked, the beans will take 15 minutes to cook. Otherwise, cooking time doubles. Substitute green lentils if you can't find mung beans. Note shorter cooking time of soaked green lentils and adjust recipe accordingly.
- 1 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 Tbsp. butter (if vegan or lactose free, double olive oil)
- 1 large leek
- 1 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
- 1 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
- 1 tsp. dried dill
- 3/4 cup (168 gr.) whole mung beans, soaked 8 hours
- 6 - 6 1/2 (1.4-1.5 L) cups water
- 2 tsp. salt
- 1/3 cup (65 gr) orzo
- 1 1/2 cups (or 15 oz can) butter beans or chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 1/2 cup (70 gr) frozen peas
- 1- 400 gr. bunch asparagus, cut into 1" / 2.5 cm pieces
- 250 gr. green beans, cut into 1"/2.5 cm pieces
- 3 medium Roma tomatoes, roughly chopped
- 2 large handfuls spinach
- Juice of 1 lemon
- To finish: fresh dill, parmesan, virgin olive oil, squeeze of lemon, black pepper
- Halve leek lengthwise and slice into halfmoon shapes. Swish slices around in a large bowl of water, separating the layers to remove dirt. Transfer leeks to a clean dishtowel and pat dry.
- Place a large soup pot over medium to medium high heat. Add olive oil, butter, leeks, and dried herbs (thyme, oregano, and dill). Cook for 5 minutes until leeks have softened.
- Raise heat to high, add water and salt. Cover and bring to a boil. Drain and rinse mung beans, add to pot, and reduce heat to a strong simmer. Cook, covered for 15-20 minutes, until beans are just tender. If mung beans have not been soaked, cook for 25-30 minutes.
- Add orzo, butter beans (or chickpeas), peas, asparagus, and green beans. Cover and cook another 4 minutes, until greens are bright green and al-dente.
- Remove from heat, stir in tomatoes, spinach, and lemon juice.
- Ladle into bowls and finish with all the toppings!