This recipe, believe it or not, came from our dining hall in college. No joke. Admittedly the food at Dartmouth was far above average, but specifically the food at Collis Hall was what I wound up living on for breakfast and lunch during my freshman year. Collis was about 50 feet from my dorm room, and while small, had an excellent selection of food. An omelet station, smoothies for the morning, a great sandwich and wrap area, and an ever-changing array of soups to go along with the sandwiches, and the requisite coffee for early morning classes ("early morning" being "10 a.m."). Back then I was still in the "fledgling chef" phase, but as soon as I tasted this soup, I knew that it was one that would be added to my quiver. The nice thing about this particular dining hall was that since it prided itself in "health" and "nutrition", the ingredients for each soup were listed on a card in front of the soup station. Thus I was able to take quick crib notes on the ingredients of the soup, and from there I experimented to come up with the proper proportions. Along the way I added a freshly toasted crouton to the dish, and now I can make it in my sleep. I figured that there was no better way to showcase spinach as an ingredient than in this unique, creamy bisque that takes no time at all to make. Spinach and walnuts? Who would have thought the would work out so well? Back in the day I used to cut corners and make it with canned spinach (for shame!) but now I use fresh. Also because everyone would laugh at me if I posted a recipe with canned spinach, obviously. —lechef
6 as a starter
Spinach Walnut Bisque
10-oz bags fresh spinach
whole milk (or cream, if you want a richer bisque)
finely chopped walnuts
paprika (preferably Hot Hungarian)
salt (to taste)
freshly ground black pepper (to taste)
Add 3 cups of water and the two bags of spinach to a pot large enough to hold them (this will eventually be your soup pot). Bring to a boil and steam the spinach for 5-6 minutes until wilted. You should wind up with about 3 cups of spinach and liquid. Discard excess liquid if you have more than that combined.
In a food processor or spice grinder, finely chop about 1/2 cup walnuts until they are about the size of cous cous. Or, very finely chopped. You will need 1/4 cup of finely chopped walnuts.
Pour the spinach and liquid into a blender. Add the chicken stock, milk, butter, parmesan, cream cheese, walnuts, and paprika. Blend until smooth.
Return the bisque to the soup pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5-10 minutes. Add salt and pepper and adjust to taste.
While your soup is simmering (and you can let it simmer for a while on the stove while you are getting the rest of your dinner together) spread the baguette cubes on a baking sheet and heat your oven to 375.
Drizzle olive oil over the croutons, and season with salt and pepper. Toss to combine.
In a separate bowl, mix the parmesan and chili powder with a fork until combined. Toss the oiled croutons with the cheese mixture to coat.
Place the croutons into the 375 degree oven and toast for approximately 15 minutes, checking and shuffling the croutons every 5 minutes. You want a golden brown crouton with little bubbly bits of cheese on it.
Dish out the soup, garnish with 3-4 croutons, and serve. Have a dish of extra croutons on the table...you'll want them!