Meatless Mondays: Lettuce Soup
Why meatless on Mondays? Not only is eating less animal protein a healthy diet choice, but curbing your meat consumption can have a significant environmental impact too. In 2006 the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization reported that animal agriculture accounted for a full 19 percent of greenhouse gases—more than the transportation sector. Best of all, with recipes like these, going meatless can be a delicious weekly habit.
This year’s vegetable garden got off to a late start. Between the rain and the cooler spring, and, well, lots of other things, I didn’t get to it until early June. That said, things in the garden are going well. The plants are enjoying the weather and popping up out of the earth. The groundhogs have yet to discover it.
But because of my tardiness, there isn’t that much to eat yet. There are radishes, which I’m sick of already. And there is lettuce. Beautiful, soft-leafed greens and reds.
As a quick gardening aside, lettuce is one of the plants I grow that has totally changed my mind about growing versus buying. There is nothing that tastes more like lettuce than the lettuce you grow, if that makes any sense at all. If you want to have your mind blown by something really simple, grow some lettuce.
As great as homegrown lettuce is, making a meal out of it that is more filling and more sophisticated than a salad can be a challenge. But it can be done, and very easily.
I first learned about lettuce soup when I was working at Gourmet magazine. I watched in amazement as one of the knowledgeable test-kitchen cooks whipped a handful of nothing-special ingredients into an incredibly highbrow soup. Really, the whole of this dish is so much greater than the parts that is seems like some sort of alchemy. Lettuce, a potato, some water, and an onion magically transform into a delicate and refined soup. Give it a try while you’re waiting for the rest of your garden to catch up.
2 tablespoons unsalted butter or olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, smashed
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 baking potato, peeled and diced
3 cups water
8 cups lettuce
Croutons for serving
Heat the butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat until hot. Stir in the onion, garlic, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in the potato and water and simmer until the potato is tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in the lettuce and cook until tender, 2 to 4 minutes. Blend the soup in batches until smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and serve topped with the croutons.