Soup Meagre is from the 18th century, and I don’t think there’s a definitive recipe, but to my knowledge (or in my imagination!) it’s a sort of hodgepodge of any green thing you can find. A spring tonic! Or, for my family this week, a fall tonic. There’s a lovely sort of cycle to the CSA that we belong to. It starts and ends with greens. Lots and lots of greens. Lettuces; spinach; arugula; wild, bitter little leaves. The autumn greens tend to be coarser and more bitter than the spring greens, but once you cook them they mellow out in no time. I think this is a pretty soup, and it’s surprisingly substantial, and wonderfully delicious. I always add yellow split peas, because they’re tasty, have a nice texture, and make a flavorful broth. But you can leave them out, or add any kind of legume you like.
Here’s Yo La Tengo’s beautiful Green Arrow, which sounds like a spring or fall evening, just at dusk.
I start with the yellow split peas. 1 cup. Rinse and drain them well, in many washes of water. Then put them in a pot, bring the pot to boil, let it boil one minute, and then turn off the heat and let the peas sit while you go about the business of your day. When you’re ready to engage with them again, drain them and rinse them briefly. Then, in a nice sized pot, warm some olive oil, throw in a finely diced shallot, a finely diced clove of garlic and 2 bay leaves. When they’re nice and warm and starting to brown, toss in the split peas. Stir to coat, and let them cook for a minute or two, then add 5 or 6 cups of water. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer til the peas are soft, but still have a bit of texture. 40 minutes to an hour usually does it.
Warm some butter in a pot, and start throwing every green thing you have. Start with the thicker, more solid stuff. I’d go with a few leeks, first, and let them get a bit translucent, then I put some fennel in, because I had it. Let these get quite soft, in the meantime adding every green herb you have in the cupboard or herb garden. I had marjoram, chervil, oregano, thyme, rosemary, tarragon. Then add the more delicate greens. Lettuce leaves, arugula leaves, spinach, , sorrel, chard…anything you have! Stir it all around and wait for it to wilt. At this point I add a splash of tamari and a 1/2 t. of marmite.
Add water to cover, bring to a boil, and simmer for about 20 minutes until everything is soft and flavorful and still bright green. Add a tablespoon of butter, a teaspoon of lemon juice, salt to taste and plenty of black pepper. Blend until it’s smooth and bright, flecked with darker green. Pour it right into the split peas with their broth, and stir it all together. Taste for salt/pepper/lemon balance, and serve with a grating of cheese on top, and a loaf of crusty bread on the side.