100% Local: Lettuce Soup

Lettuce soup? Really? I know. It sounds like something out of Willy Wonka or Oliver Twist. But when faced with six heads of lettuce in the fridge, a seeming million green salads, and lettuce wraps for dinner every night for a week, a girl’s got to push her lettuce boundaries (or buy a rabbit). It’s also one of the few ways I can think of to preserve lettuce, while we are in the height of the early summer bounty, because we all know that I am incapable of allowing it to go to waste (the horror!).

I looked at quite a few recipes in my search for a use-up-the-lettuce winner: most lettuce soup recipes seemed to be more about cream and aromatics than actual lettuce. I finally settled on this one by Emeril Lagasse, which is fairly simple, straightforward, and lettuce-packed, with a nod to this Gourmet recipe for the potato and butter.

And the verdict? Well, it wasn’t bad, honestly. I did not have high expectations: hot lettuce? Blended into a creamy soup? It’s just not as drool-worthy as, say, crispy pork, is it? But, I’ve had several bowls over the last week or so, and it’s pretty tasty. I don’t think it’s something that I would purposefully buy lettuce to make, but it’s certainly a better use of my CSA lettuce than moldering in the bottom of my fridge. And I’ll bet that I’ll be happy for it’s bright green grassy & herby flavor in the depths of February. Which is what local eating is all about, isn’t it? Revel in the fresh produce at the height of its bounty and tuck some away to enjoy once it’s gone. I’m glad I finally found a way to tuck away lettuce, even if I do feel a little like Charlie Bucket.

Adapted from Lettuce Soup by Emeril and Gourmet, May 2005 via Epicurious

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Lettuce Soup

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 tbsp butter
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 4 scallions, trimmed and diced
  • 4 – 6 garlic scapes, with flower heads, coarsley chopped OR 2 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 2 tbsp coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 2 tbsp coarsley chopped chives
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 2 large heads lettuce, ends trimmed and coarsely chopped (I used one green curly and one Romaine-style)
  • 2 medium red potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 3 cups chicken stock, homemade or low-sodium
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream, plus extra for garnish
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper

METHODS

  1. In a medium Dutch oven or soup pot, heat butter over medium flame until foam subsides. Add onion, scallions and garlic scapes; sauté over medium-low heat until vegetables are softened, about 5 minutes. Add parsley, chives and thyme; sauté for 1 minute. Add lettuce, stir and sauté until wilted, about 1 – 2 minutes. Add potatoes and stock; cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to maintain a simmer and cook, covered, until the potatoes are very tender, about 10 – 15 minutes.
  2. Process the soup with an immersion blender or transfer in batches to a blender or food processor. Add cream, salt & pepper: taste and adjust seasonings. Simmer for another 5 minutes or so, to heat through and reduce to desired thickness. Serve hot, garnished with a swirl of cream, scattered thyme leaves and fresh chives.

Serves 4 – 6.

OPTIONS

  1. For the brightest green soup, use bright green, tender lettuce leaves. My curly lettuce was tipped with the slightly bit of reddish brown (not aging lettuce, just the natural color of the leaves) and it added a rather unappetizing brown tinge to the final soup.
  2. Most recipes out there added substantially more cream, or evaporated milk. I am not a big fan of overly creamy soups, but this did need a touch of cream to soften the grassy flavor of the lettuce. I think a dollop of yogurt or creme fraiche would be equally as good.
  3. The lettuce flavor really comes through, so I think this would work fine as a vegetarian version with vegetable stock. I would not, however, attempt a vegan version: I think the butter is really necessary for flavor.

STORE

Refrigerated for up to 5 days. I assume that this will freeze well, as most soups do, for up to 6 months, but I haven’t tried it yet.

SEASON

Lettuce loves the cool weather and bright sunshine of late Spring and early Summer. There is usually a second, somewhat smaller, season as weather cools down in the Fall.

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18 comments

  1. This sounds great. I run a CSA and I will have to share this recipe with my members next year (we are over our lettuce hump for this year). I have to ask though, did your CSA give you a share with six heads of lettuce? That’s a lot of lettuce 🙂

  2. Hi Andrea,

    No, we don’t get 6 heads of lettuce at a time: that *would* be a lot. 🙂 But my husband and I get a full share, which should feed 4 people, even though there are only 2 of us. I preserve a lot over the course of the year and then eat the CSA all winter long. Lettuce, however, is one of the few things that I hadn’t figured out how to preserve, so with 2 heads a week, and both of us traveling a lot in June, we had quite the backlog. This is a pretty good way to clear out the excess and also put some away for the winter.

    Kaela

  3. Lee

    Found you on a search for Melon Jam! Love all the unique ideas. Hard to grow just enough food and even tho we do have rabbits I will be trying this one as well. Thanks! Lee

  4. Posey

    Thanks for this idea! I too am overwhelmed by leafy greens. What type of container do you freeze soup in? Freezer-friendly mason jars?

  5. Hi Posey,

    In the past, I’ve frozen soup in anything handy: usually plastic take-out containers or Tupperware. Of late, I’ve been trying to phase out the plastic and freeze in glass: I’m using regular glass Ball jars. I have already managed to break two of the quart-sized jars (I overfilled them and did not leave the caps loose enough) but I’ve had good luck with pint and smaller-sized jars. Leave plenty of headroom, and leave the lids loosely balanced on top until the soup has frozen solid.

    Marisa (of Food in Jars) mentioned recently that you should try not to thaw the glass Ball jars too quickly or they will break, so don’t pull them out of the freezer and submerge directly in hot water. She typically thaws them in the refrigerator overnight: I think 30 minutes or so on the counter would do before you start more aggressive thawing.

    Kaela

  6. anduin

    This also looks like a good way to save some herbs. Did you try eating it cold? If you get tired of this as soup, try using it as an alfredo sauce. I made some pureed cold zucchini soup and it was a bit uninspiring. But finish some noodles in it, along with some other sauteed vegetables, and it was a star (plus a great way to fit more veg in the diet). I imagine this lettuce soup could work like this, don’t you think?

  7. I need to try this recipe – I had a *massive* lettuce in my veg box delivery, and no matter how many times I make sauteed lettuce, it never seems to get any smaller! I just made a vegetable stock, so I will try a vegetarian version. I’m also curious about whether it tastes good cold – I might try with my leftovers. Thanks for sharing the recipe.

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  11. Renee

    Tastes even better if you use bacon fat instead of butter. Tasted “green” but not lettuce-y. I didn’t even use cream.

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  14. Sharon

    I freeze my blended soups all the time. The in a big soup mug put some protein in the bottom, chicken, sautéed ground turkey, or grass fed ground bison, then pour the reheated soup on top. I just made the lettuce soup and used cauliflower instead of potatoes, added basel and some spinach. Was delicious!

  15. This recipe turned out fabulous! I took your advice and swapped the 1/4 cream for Greek Plain Yogurt. I also shamelessly used two tablespoons of olive oil & bacon fat in addition to the butter. The bacon flavor came through and made a yummy blend with all the potatoey goodness! Certainly blew me away! You saved my CSA Lettuce from this point on!

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