Greens and Beans

Creamy, earthy beans and plenty of greens make this delicately lemony soup satisfying enough for a light meal. We simply served Spinach and Leek Soup with Garlic and Cannellini Beans with a small side salad, but pair it with some good crusty bread—or a sandwich, if you’re really hungry.

The pale creamy-white beans with a firm texture and nutty flavor, otherwise known as cannellini beans, are particularly popular in Italian cuisine. They are a major source of protein and have a very low calorie count while increasing the feeling of being full. Some of the major health benefits of these little miracle workers include their ability to promote heart health, prevent cancer, lower cholesterol, stabilize blood sugar, reduce risk of colorectal adenomas and prevent wrinkles as well.

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Important for us sun lovers: antioxidants in cannellini beans play a role in protecting your skin. Because of the way it protects against oxidative stress, the free radical inhibiting properties of the beans can help keep your skin supple and youthful by preventing loss of skin elasticity caused by too much sunlight. (If only I’d known this decades ago!)

Most of us know that spinach, another main ingredient in this recipe, is one of the world’s healthiest foods. Remember Popeye who consumed vast amounts of the leafy green to give him strength? Well you may not look like a body builder after one meal, but cooking spinach actually increases its health benefits! Just half a cup of cooked spinach will give you thrice as much nutrition as one cup of raw spinach. When shopping for ingredients, look for mature spinach, rather than the baby variety for this soup because it wilts down to practically nothing when cooked.

The pièce de résistance is the topping of grated Gruyere cheese, an excellent melter, with its rich, creamy, slightly nutty taste. It blanketed all of the other elements under a velvety soft comforter of deliciousness, lending an overall decadence to a simple meal. SIGH.

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Ingredients

  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 3 medium leeks, white and light-green parts only, trimmed and sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 4 large cloves garlic, sliced lengthwise
  • 2 tsp. dried mustard
  • 6 cups lower-salt chicken broth (preferrably homemade)
  • 8 oz. spinach, rinsed, trimmed and cut into 1-inch ribbons (about 8 lightly packed cups)
  • 1 15.5-oz. can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained (our can was 19-oz.)
  • 2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 oz. finely grated aged Gruyère (about 1/2 cup)
  • Extra-virgin olive oil, for serving

Directions

  1. In a 6-quart pot, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the leeks and cook, stirring often, until tender and browned in spots, about 5 minutes.
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  2. Add the garlic and mustard, and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 15 seconds. Raise the heat to high, add the chicken broth, and bring to a boil.
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  3. Add the spinach and beans, and cook until the spinach wilts. Stir in the lemon juice, and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. Serve topped with the cheese and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.
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By Ronne Day from Fine Cooking

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