This basic greens and grains soup recipe sets the stage for all kinds of experimentation. The combination of barley or farro and chard is a particular favorite at my house, where we almost always add the optional beans and ancho chile powder or pepper flakes (see variations below). Seriously, any green you can cook works in this recipe, which is more template than formula; just adjust the total cooking time. I like to cook the grains separately so the broth doesn’t get starchy, but feel free to cook the grains in the soup—just add an extra 1 to 2 cups (240 to 480 milliliters) broth and cook until the grains are just tender to the bite before adding the greens. If you want to use quinoa or bulgur or another quicker-cooking grain, add it at the end along with the greens.–Molly Watson
LC X + Y = Z Note
We see this greens and grains soup recipe as a practical application for algebra. It’s as simple as X + Y = Z, with the X variable standing in for the greens component and the Y variable representing grains and the Z—well, the Z is the soothing and satiating bowl of soup you get to sit down to for supper and, if you’re fortunate, for lunch the next day. Whatever hearty greens and whole grains you’ve got on hand will work. So after you breathe a sigh of relief at finally finding a use for high school algebra, let us know in a comment below exactly what you solved for in terms of X and Y.
Greens and Grains Soup Recipe
- Quick Glance
- 20 M
- 1 H
- Serves 4 to 6
- 1 cup (180 grams) whole grains, such as barley, farro, spelt, wheat berries, or any type of brown rice
- 2 teaspoons (12 grams) fine sea salt, plus more to taste
- 10 ounces (280 grams) greens, such as Swiss chard, kale, or bok choy
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 6 cups (1 1/2 liters) homemade chicken stock or vegetable broth
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1. Rinse the grains and place them in a medium pot along with 2 teaspoon salt and enough water to generously cover. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and maintain a gentle but steady simmer until the grains are tender to the bite. The exact amount of time will depend on the grain used, from 15 minutes for quinoa to 60 minutes for wheat berries. Drain the grains and set aside.
- 2. If using greens with thick stalks, such as Swiss chard or kale, cut the stalks from the leaves. Finely chop the stalks, then cut the leaves into thin ribbons, keeping the stalks and leaves separate. If using greens without thick stalks, simply chop the leaves into ribbons or bite-size pieces.
- 3. Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a soup pot over medium-high heat. Add the stalks, if using, and cook, stirring frequently, until they’re soft, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and stir to combine. Add the chicken stock or vegetable broth plus the drained, cooked grains and bring almost to a boil. Add the greens (stalks and leaves), stir to combine, and cook until the greens are wilted and tender, just 1 or 2 minutes for spinach, 5 minutes for chard or bok choy, and up to 10 minutes for hearty kale.
- 4. Season with salt and a grind or two of pepper and, if desired, a drizzle of oil. Ladle it up while warm. Leftovers will keep, covered, in the refrigerator for 2 or 3 days and in the freezer for up to 3 months.
- Beans, Greens and Grains Soup
- Add 2 cups (430 grams) or one 14- to 15-ounce (400- to 430-grams) can cooked, drained beans such as white beans, chickpeas, or cranberry beans to the soup when you add the cooked grains.
- Umami Greens and Grains Soup
- Drop a Parmesan cheese rind into the soup while the greens simmer and garnish with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
- Eat Your Veggies, Greens, and Grains Soup
- Use chopped onion, chopped celery, and/or chopped carrot in place of or in addition to the greens’ stalks.
- Hot Greens and Grains Soup
- Spice things up by adding 1 teaspoon ancho chile powder or 1/2 teaspoon crushed pepper flakes with the garlic.
- Citrusy Greens and Grains Soup
- Squeeze in the juice of 1 lemon at the end and/or a bit of grated lemon zest.
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