Juicing. Kale. Super greens. Clean living. It's everywhere these days. There seems to be a new juice shop on every corner in NYC. My current favorite is Liquiteria and their Mean Green smoothie made with spinach, kale, mango, banana, pineapple and pineapple juice. Eating clean and green is super hot now. In fact, my friend Candice Kumai has a new book coming out in April 22nd called Clean Green Drinks. The book is the product of Candice's hard work for the past year and I couldn't be more proud. It's a series of 100+ healthy drinks that help you live a cleaner, leaner, happier life. What I love about the recipes is that Candice was very conscious about keeping the sugar count in each low. Smoothies and juices seem healthy but a lot of times they are loaded with sugar. Not very different from eating a candy bar.
I met Candice last year at Bar Method, a class I take in Soho 3 to 5 times a week. I am a bit obsessed. If you know me, you would know that I don't like to workout. I don't like to sweat. I don't like running and own a tank top that proudly states "I Hate Running." When I used to go to the gym I would do a half-a**ed work out and leave after 20 minutes. It was a waste of the little time and ton of money I spent at my fancy Equinox. I discovered Bar Method last year and became addicted after the first class because I swear it changed my body. I developed long, lean muscles and toned up everywhere without getting bulky.
Candice and I quickly became friends after we met and it's no coincidence that I started adopting a healthier lifestyle as a result. While I have been good about going to class regularly, I haven't been cooking, or at least not anything really new and worth sharing. But I got back into the kitchen over the weekend to make a new soup that I came up with a few months ago. It combines healthy greens and lentils for protein. Pureed smooth, the end result looks like a healthy green drink. So this recipe is dedicated to my dear, sweet Candice and is a celebration of her new book.
Here's what you'll need. I'll preface that the measurements aren't an exact science. That's the beauty of cooking. You don't have to follow a recipe exactly and can switch ingredients in and out to suit your own tastes. These are the ones I just happen to like for this soup and I hope you will too.
2 leeks, trimmed and chopped
2 garlic cloves minced
6 cups of organic low-sodium chicken broth (if you want to make this soup vegan, use veggie stock instead)
2 cups of cut up butternut squash
1 large zucchini, chopped
1 cup of red lentils, rinsed and picked through
1 bunch of Swiss chard
1 large carrot chopped
2 parsnips chopped
This is super easy. Anyone can make this soup. You can portion it out into microwave safe containers and it freezes really well.
Sautee the leeks in 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the garlic and cook down over medium heat until softened. Be careful not to burn the garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Seasoning is super important when cooking. That keeps food from tasting bland. So a good rule of thumb is to season each time you add a new layer. Next up are the root veggies (carrot, parsnip) because they take longer to cook. Again, season with salt and pepper and mix up the veggies really well. Cook for about 3-4 minutes. Next add the butternut squash. What do you do next? Season girl!
Throw in the red lentils. There are so many different kinds of lentils and I chose red ones because they are split and cook up quickly. They are soft and great for pureed soups. Lentils are in here for protein. That's how this soup will keep you full for lunch. Next up is the chicken stock. Season again. Turn up the heat to high and cover your dutch oven or soup pot. When the soup comes to a rolling boil, turn down the heat to low and simmer for 10 minutes, covered. Why covered you may ask? Well, you don't want to reduce the water content in the soup, so a cover keeps all of it in there. If you were making a tomato sauce, you would want to reduce the sauce to thicken it, therefore you cook it uncovered.
The zucchini and Swiss chard come last because the less time you spend cooking these veggies, the more they will retain their awesome green color. Add the zucchini, cook for another 5 minutes, then the chard. The chard will make the pot super full and that's ok. Just push the greens down gently with your spoon. The heat will start to wilt them down and once you cover, then they will cook down completely in 5 minutes.
Now comes the fun part. I use a hand-held immersion stick blender and put it right in the pot and puree the soup until it's smooth. Be careful when using the stick blender as you could end up splashing hot soup everywhere and that's no bueno, especially if you get it in your face. Swirl it up and check one last time for seasoning. If you need to add a little more salt or pepper, now's the time to do it.
The soup is now ready to go. I hope you love it and feel good about eating this as much as I do. Soup's on!