Fall in the northeast is an amazing time of year. The leaves on the trees are turning bright and luminous colors and slowing falling to the ground, while gardens are turning out greens and more greens as the weather cools. The climate is not just cooling but drying and therefore herbs are starting to sere but glorious leafy greens are in full comeback mode: kale, cabbage, collards, mustard, chard, lettuce, sorrel, and arugula, among others.
When I come home from our CSA with armloads of greens, they’re necessarily the first to be cooked. Refrigerator triage! All those various and voluminous greens can’t fit in our home refrigerator, causing my husband to call for a second one. I sometimes keep them in our office fridge over the weekend until I can get the volume down. Of course, with nighttime temperatures plummeting, storing them outdoors is at least a partial solution.
I find arugula the most difficult of greens to manage. Young and crisp and slightly piquant, it is salad. Old and tough and bitter, it needs to be balanced with something else, so it ends up in a mixed greens “pie.” Somewhere in the middle of this spectrum is a decent cooking vegetable, and I’ve taken home a pound of it each of the last two weeks, it has been wilted and mixed with ricotta to fill pasta, chopped raw in the food processor for pesto, and combined with potatoes to make soup.
Yotam Ottolenghi recently posted a watercress and arugula soup in his weekly column in The Guardian, which looked great. This one is a riff on a recipe from Marcella Hazen’s More Classic Italian Cooking. Dubbing this “poor man’s soup,” she makes hers from water and adds bread. I made mine using light chicken stock. I coated the bottom of the bowl with arugula pesto for added zip, and floated croutons on top. The soup used only three ingredients: potatoes, stock and arugula, plus a little olive oil (for the pesto), salt and pepper.
Arugula and Potato Soup with Arugula Pesto inspired by Marcella Hazen
1 large white or yellow potato, peeled and diced (2 cups)
4 c chicken stock
2 c arugula leaves trimmed of the stems
Arugula pesto (arugula, olive oil, salt, buzzed in a food processor)
Place the potato and chicken stock in a medium saucepan over high heat. When the stock boils, reduce the heat and cook for about 10 minutes. The potatoes should be mostly cooked but still slightly firm. Add the arugula and 1 tsp salt, cover the pot and turn the heat to very low. Simmer for about 5 minutes or until the potatoes are fully cooked but not falling apart and the arugula is wilted. Season with salt and pepper.
Place a spoonful of pesto at the bottom of a soup bowl. Ladle the hot soup on top and serve with croutons.