Lettuce soup? Garden greens are for more than salads

Beth Dooley, Star Tribune (Minneapolis) on

Published in Entertaining

While I love a good salad, fresh garden lettuces can do a whole lot more, serving as wraps and garnishes and as an integral part of burgers and sandwiches. But perhaps the most delicious and surprising of them is lettuce soup.

Whirl together leaves of vigorous Romaine, tender Bibb, spicy arugula, peppery watercress, earthy spinach, then add a few clean-tasting cucumbers and enrich it with tangy yogurt or sour cream. Serve it up icy cold and you have a refreshing lunch, a soothing starter or a light dinner to beat summer's heat.

You can use just about any combination of greens for this bright green soup (except iceberg) — even those lettuces that are a bit past their prime, as long as they're not too limp. These cold soups are wonderfully simple, easy and quick. Quintessentially vegetarian, they can be turned vegan by substituting avocado for the dairy. For a heartier version, top with grilled shrimp, diced chicken, steak or tofu.

Want heat? Add a seeded jalapeño or red pepper flakes, tamed with lime juice and cilantro. Or amp up flavors with handfuls of parsley, cilantro, basil, mint, chervil, chives or sorrel (but use a light hand with rosemary and tarragon; they can be overpowering). To garnish, float a few radish slices, spiced nuts or shredded hard cheese on top for texture and color. As the season unfolds, follow the market's bounty with green beans, broccoli and zucchini.

This simple technique asks little of the cook, can be made a day ahead, and is just the thing when it's too hot to eat. An instant meal and one of our summer's quiet rewards.

Garnish a cool lettuce soup with radishes, herbs, croutons — anything that strikes your fancy.

Cooling Green Soup

Serves 4.

The greens don't need much time to cook, so act quickly once they're in the pot. Just as they're collapsing, transfer to the blender and whirl for a smooth purée with yogurt or sour cream, to taste. Be sure to chill this thoroughly in the refrigerator before serving — at least an hour or up to overnight. The perfect dish for a blistering summer day. From Beth Dooley.

• 2 tbsp. butter

• 2 shallots, diced

• 2 cloves garlic, smashed


• 1 1/2 to 2 c. chicken or vegetable stock

• 10 oz. lettuce, mixed of any variety

• 1/2 c. chopped parsley

• 1/4 c. mixed fresh herbs of choice, such as basil, cilantro, thyme, etc.

• Salt and coarsely ground black pepper, to taste

• 1 to 2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice, to taste

• 1/2 c. plain whole milk Greek-style yogurt or sour cream

• Chopped radishes, for garnish


In a medium saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat until foamy. Add the shallot and garlic and cook, stirring until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the stock and bring to a simmer. Then add the lettuce, parsley and the mixed herbs. Cook until just wilted, about 1 to 2 minutes. Season with salt, pepper and the lemon juice.

Transfer to a blender, add the yogurt or sour cream, and purée. Transfer to a bowl or container and refrigerate until cool, about 1 hour or up to overnight. Before serving, taste and adjust the seasonings and garnish with radishes.



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