We're celebrating Meatless Mondays with balanced, delicious meal plans. We hope you'll join us -- whether you're vegetarian all the time or just here and there.
Today: A meatless meal that raises the question: is there anything a little bit of olive oil can't do?
This is the time of year when the days are short, the temperatures are freezing, and you spend your time dreaming of the elaborate foods you'll make to warm yourself up. There will be roasts, casseroles, and chocolate lava cakes. There will be eggnog, hot chocolate, and clafoutis. And there will certainly be no humdrum vegetables like chard, no bland starches like potatoes.
Stop right there.
Tonight, potatoes and chard are getting the star treatment, courtesy of your good friend olive oil. Sauté almonds and breadcrumbs in oil until they're toasty and golden. When you add these crispy bits of flavor to potato soup and chard salad, these low-maintenace, nutritious vegetables have what it takes to become the warming winter foods of your dreams.
Skip the prosciutto and use vegetable stock instead of chicken to make this vegetarian.
1 1/2 pound Yukon Gold potatoes
1/2 cup whole blanched almonds
4 cups vegetable broth
1 pinch saffron, crushed
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1 bunch Swiss chard
3/4 cups grated Parmesan
2 teaspoons sherry vinegar
2 tablespoons minced flat-leaf parsley
Dense country bread, for serving
You probably have olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper in your kitchen. If not, stock up on those, too.
1. Roughly chop the potatoes into 1 1/2-inch chunks. Heat 1/4 cup of olive oil in a heavy saucepan over medium heat and add the almonds and 6 peeled garlic cloves, stirring until golden, 4 to 5 minutes. Transfer to a bowl to cool slightly.
2. Add the potatoes and cook, stirring, for another minute. Pour in the stock and bring to a boil, skimming off any foam that rises. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer.
3. Grind the almond and garlic mixture in a food processor, then add all but 2 tablespoons to the soup along with the saffron. simmer the soup, partially covered, for 35 minutes, until about half of the potatoes have disintegrated. Add more stock if it seems too thick.
4. While the soup is cooking, zest and juice the lemon. Combine the lemon juice, 1 teaspoon of the zest, and a generous pinch of salt in a bowl. Whisk in 1/4 cup of olive oil. Then, warm another 1/4 cup of oil in a small skillet over medium heat and toast the breadcrumbs until crisp and golden, about 5 minutes. Stir in a clove of minced garlic and toast for another minute.
5. Separate the chard leaves from the stems. Finely chop the stems and cut the leaves into thin ribbons. Put it all in a bowl and toss with Parmesan. Add the lemon dressing to taste.
6. When the soup is ready serve, add the vinegar, the reserved almond mixture, and the parsley and cook for one more minute. Season with salt and pepper, then add the toasted breadcrumbs to the salad, cut yourself a piece of bread, and sit down to dinner.
Photos by James Ransom