At the beginning of the year, I made a commitment to myself to get back to healthier eating: fewer breads and desserts and more vegetables. I especially wanted to get back into the habit of having a salad for lunch, but so far I just haven’t been able to do it. With the weather so cold, salads just haven’t appealed to me, even ones with hot ingredients, like Taco Salad.
So I’ve been eating a lot of soups and stews and trying to get my vegetables that way. Yet I still felt I wasn’t eating enough of those green, leafy vegetables that are right at the top of the nutrient density scale. A few days ago I decided to experiment with making a soup that was both packed with nutrition yet still…edible! And though it won’t win any beauty contests, I think you’ll be amazed with how delicious this unabashedly healthy soup tastes.
I start with a base of split peas and use a pressure cooker to speed things up. For sweetness I add carrot and sweet potato (I used the white-flesh kind, just to keep from muddying the green color), and for their earthiness, I include some mushrooms. Then come the greens, 2 pounds of them. I used what I had on-hand—bok choy, spinach, romaine, and some fresh collards from my garden—but feel free to use the ones that you like best. Fresh basil added at the end gives the soup a hint of a pesto flavor, and cashew butter adds richness and depth. I think you’ll find that every bite of this soup tastes different; in one spoonful you taste basil, but in the next you detect a certain sweetness, and just when you think you’ve figured it out, you notice the split peas. The color may be monochromatic, but the taste certainly isn’t!
- 1 onion, chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, chopped
- 3 carrots, cut into chunks
- 1 sweet potato, cut into chunks
- 1/2 cup split peas, rinsed and drained
- 6 cups water
- 8 ounces mushrooms, halved
- 2 pounds chopped greens—any combination of any greens, such as kale, collards, swiss chard, spinach, romaine, bok choy
- 2 teaspoons oregano
- 1 teaspoon celery salt (optional)
- 1 teaspoon thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh or frozen basil (or about 2 tablespoons dried*)
- 1 tablespoon cashew butter (optional, but good)
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- salt to taste
- –Optional Garnishes:
- Lemon slices
- Plain soy yogurt
- Place the first 6 ingredients into a large pressure cooker, seal, and bring to high pressure. Reduce heat to maintain high pressure for 8 minutes. Remove from heat and allow pressure to come down naturally while you prepare the remaining ingredients. (For stove-top cooking, simmer until split peas are tender, about 30 to 45 minutes.)
- When the pressure is down, use a hand blender to puree the soup. Or, blend in batches in a regular blender—be careful because this is hot and splatters easily. Add the next 6 ingredients (*and the dried basil, if you’re using it) and cook for about 30-45 minutes, until greens are completely tender. Add additional water if necessary to prevent soup from becoming too dry.
- Add the remaining ingredients and use your blender again to puree the greens and mushrooms until fairly smooth. Check seasoning and add salt as needed, and thin with a little water if you find it too thick. Serve with additional lemon or try it with a spoonful of plain soy yogurt stirred in.