I do realize that my last few recipe posts have all been of the soup variety, but I thought it would be cruel not to share this pick-me-up in a bowl, with its earthy undertones of spinach and garlic, and its piquant slurry of pesto and lemon juice. I threw this soup together about three weeks ago, back when ramps were still hanging on at the farmers' markets, but the beauty of this springy soup is that any bright-tasting green thing will work just as well instead. Try mint, basil, kale, or parsley instead, and throw a large garlic clove into the pesto to mimic the bright green zing of raw ramps.
There are some recipes that you think will be a subtle twist on your regular weekly routine, but end up tap-dancing all over your taste buds and showing up every other thing you've recently made. With the perfect balance of mellow, earthy, and raw flavors—and a plethora of antioxidants, vitamins, and minerals to stave off anything that ails you—this soup seems like just the tonic for changing seasons.
Spring Chicken Soup with Anything Pesto (adapted from EatingWell.com)
Makes 8 to 10 servings
4 teaspoons plus 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium carrots, peeled and diced
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts, quartered
3 large garlic cloves, minced
2 quarts (8 cups) low-sodium chicken broth
2 cups water
4 teaspoons chopped fresh marjoram leaves
12 ounces baby spinach
2 (15-ounce) cans cannelloni beans, rinsed
1/2 cup freshly grated pecorino cheese
12 ramps, trimmed of root ends and coarsely chopped (or 1/3 cup chopped fresh kale, basil, parsley, or mint plus 1 large garlic clove)
Juice of 1 lemon
Freshly ground black pepper
In a large Dutch oven or other heavy bottomed pot, heat the 4 teaspoons of oil over medium-high heat. Add the carrots and chicken, and cook for 5 to 7 minutes, turning the chicken frequently until it is opaque on all sides and beginning to brown. Add the garlic to the pot and cook for 1 minute; add the broth and marjoram. Increase the heat to high and bring the broth to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 5 to 7 minutes more or until the chicken is cooked through. (Check by taking out the fattest piece and cutting it in half. If it's no longer pink inside, it has finished cooking.)
Using tongs, transfer the chicken pieces to a clean cutting board. Add the spinach and beans to the pot and increase the heat to medium-high.
Meanwhile, in a food processor or with a mortar and pestle, combine the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil with the pecorino cheese and chopped ramps and process until a smooth paste forms. If you are using basil, mint, or parsley instead, throw in one large garlic clove, too.)
Cut the chicken into bite-size pieces and add them to the soup. Stir in the pesto and lemon juice. Season to taste with freshly ground black pepper and serve hot.