• Leigh

Spinach Polenta Soup: Not Just for Peasants


Today's offering is a hearty, healthy, and inexpensive Spinach Polenta Soup. Traditionally, soups are a peasant meal, probably because they're cheap, filling, and make use of whatever foods are available. Whether you're short of money or well off, I think Spinach Polenta Soup would be a welcome addition to your table. It's a thick, comforting soup made with cornmeal, which is boiled with chicken broth, onions, and herbs. After the soup thickens, you add milk, spinach, and two types of cheese--Swiss and Parmesan--for a mild, slightly nutty flavor. If you'd like a non-vegetarian option and to add a smoky-savory taste, feel free to add a few tablespoons of bacon crumbles to your soup before serving it. You can also substitute frozen chopped kale or even collards for the spinach, if you'd prefer. This is a versatile soup, built on what you have on hand. Many people also add glugs of olive oil to the soup for flavor. I prefer the soup without the oil and accompanying extra calories, but the oil certainly will add to the richness of the soup. The soup also makes a great "take to work" lunch.

Spinach Polenta Soup -- Serves 4+

4 cups of water

4 cups of low sodium chicken broth or bone broth

2 cups of cornmeal

1/2-1 teaspoon of salt

1/2 teaspoon of lemon pepper

1 teaspoon of garlic powder

1-2 tablespoons of minced dried onions

1-2 teaspoons of dried Italian seasoning herbs

1-2 teaspoons of dried basil

1 teaspoon of minced dried parsley

8 ounces of frozen chopped spinach (or kale, if you'd prefer)

1-2 cups of low-fat milk

1 cup of shredded Swiss cheese

1/2 cup of grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving

3 tablespoons of bacon crumbles (optional)

3-4 glugs (tablespoons) of olive oil (optional)

In a large soup pot, bring the water and chicken broth to a boil over high heat. Slowly whisk in the cornmeal, reducing the heat, as necessary, to prevent the mixture from bubbling too much. Continue to whisk until the cornmeal is well incorporated--about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to a simmer and whisk in the salt, lemon pepper, garlic powder, dried onions, Italian herbs, basil, and parsley. Partially cover the pot and let the mixture simmer for 20-30 minutes, whisking it frequently. Add the frozen spinach and bring the mixture back up to a simmer, stirring to break up the frozen spinach and incorporate it. Let the soup cook until the spinach is done and the mixture is thick--about 5 minutes more. Stir in the Swiss cheese and 1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese until they melt into the cornmeal mixture. Whisk in the milk, a little at a time, until you have the consistency of soup you'd like. The soup should be thick--sort of like cream of wheat--not watery. Stir in the bacon crumbles and/or olive oil, if you'd like. Serve the soup topped with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.

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