This summer I met a man on a beach named Popeye. Did he eat his spinach? I didn’t stick around long enough to find out — but if he did, he might have enjoyed this spinach soup topped with garlic cream and croutons. Fresh, healthy, with a zingy flavor, the soup is bound to send your energy soaring. Serve it by the fireside as the evenings grow cool, followed by a simple main dish or just cheese and crusty bread. And a bottle of hearty red, of course.
Soupe aux épinards crème à l’aïl / Spinach soup with garlic cream
I’ve served this soup in many iterations, to generally enthusiastic reviews. For a more exotic flavor, you can grate in a little raw ginger or add a dash of ground cumin. For more bite, squeeze in some lemon juice. Or chop in some fresh herbs — for example, tarragon and chervil. For a richer soup, add more cream. For a more intense soup, add less.
Spinach was one of the few ingredients that did not figure on the menu when I had the pleasure last weekend of being invited to Spring, the restaurant of the Chicago-born Paris chef Daniel Rose. I’ve known Daniel since he was just starting out in the French capital with a smaller version of Spring hidden away in the 9th district. Now he has two places — the larger Spring near the Louvre where we dined, and a new bistro called La Bourse et La Vie that is located, not surprisingly, near La Bourse, the French stock exchange.
The new place is winning rave reviews. I have not yet been, but here is a sampling of the food on offer at Spring these days. It’s a five-course menu in which you not only have no choice, but are not even told what will be served before it arrives. (This can make choosing the wine rather difficult. More on that later.) So: Our first course was foie gras set on shredded apples and celery and topped with roasted hazelnuts and with a drizzle of something that tasted like raspberry (but I’m not sure, since we never saw a written course list). It made a great start to the meal.
Then came a salad of beets, both cooked and raw, with grapefruit pieces, a tiny bit of crab and a citrus vinaigrette. Next was monk fish in a lemongrass-flavored foam with a thin tiny square of crispy dried beef and a tiny purée of white beans. The meat course was a small piece of medium-rare veal with a porcini mushroom slice — yes, one slice — and a veggie which I’ve now forgotten, and then, to share, a dish of succulent porcinis (cèpes) and crisped veal sweetbreads for those who dared (I didn’t, but I heard they were good).
The dessert course was actually three desserts. We were told in which order to eat them: first the poached pear with balsamic whipped cream; then the plum tart; and finally — and this was my favorite dish of the evening — an intense mint granita set on a cookie base and topped with a very thin piece of very bitter chocolate. Wow!
There were downsides, and the first was the wine list. When we found the red bordeaux, my favorite wine, we had to look twice — there were only half a dozen, ranging from 400 to 900 euros a bottle. Don’t ask me the names. I was so taken aback that I simply turned the page. We asked the young sommelier about this, and he replied that he thought no bordeaux wines under that price were worth drinking so he didn’t stock them. My friends and I were put off by that snobby reply, especially given that Spring built its reputation on serving fabulous and creative food in a modest setting. Then, when we finally ordered some less pretentious wine, it arrived more than five minutes after the first course was set before us — definitely a no-no in any French restaurant.
But this did not dampen our enthusiasm for the food, which was superb if expensive (yes, Spring has raised its prices). The new bistro is reportedly more affordable, and perhaps a bit more congenial. I hope to try it soon.
It is possible to eat well without consuming foie gras and it’s production is controversial. I have read just as many reports (via Google) concluding that geese and ducks do not suffer during ” gavage” (or force feeding) as those that state that they do. There is even a map showing which countries ban foie gras production-needs to be updated because California shows as a banned state within the US and which countries are producing it. Fortunately in France production of and enjoyment of the delectable food is still legal. In fact French law states that “Foie gras belongs to the protected cultural and gastronomical heritage of France.” So the controversy rages on, perhaps because it is easier to rage about, conduct studies, voice concern than to deal with other issues facing mankind.
I made the spinach soup with garlic cream a few days ago. I wasn’t sure how my husband would feel about it, but he loved it. So did I. Thanks for the recipe.
By the way, we just got back from 3&1/2 weeks in France. I have never ever (in the U.S. or overseas) tasted lettuce that was, well, so lettuce-y and flavorful. The same can be said of the carrots, the potatoes, etc. It was all so good. As were the many variety of cheeses in the weekly markets we visited. Yum!!!!!
Spinach Soup Day – I hope I’m not too late with a comment, and I hope I’m commenting in the right place!
The soup sounds delicious: I will definitely try it. However, there is a problem with the gourmet menu that was so much enjoyed. What a shame that the list of downsides did not include the foie gras! It is time that chefs themselves followed the example of many others and banned this product, which is totally unacceptable owing to the cruelty to the geese. If you give it a quick ‘google’ you may see that force-feeding for foie gras is a repulsive process. Otherwise, I love your website!
Celia, many thanks for your comment. Foie gras is definitely a controversial issue. But here in France, it is considered part of the national gastronomy. With fine suppliers, as would have been used by Spring, the geese or ducks are fed humanely — the images you see on Google are of commercial farms, where that may not be the case. Force feeding of geese has existed since the time of the ancient Egyptians and was widespread in Europe until quite recently. A fatted goose or duck is part of traditional Jewish cuisine on holidays. Etc. etc. This all to say that while I understand your objections, they are not shared by everyone. I’m glad you like the soup recipe, and many thanks for your interest in the site. All best, Meg
I am sorry, but it seems to me that you are not fully aware of what happens in the production of foie gras. Many people — I might go so far as to say the majority — are not prepared to consume foie gras. (In the UK it’s not possible to say it never happens, but it hardly ever happens, and so far as I know foie gras is nor produced here.) Perhaps you have not fully acquainted yourself with all that goes on?
Might I refer you to the various animal welfare charities who are campaigning on this, for example Peta? Finally, various prestigious London stores have decided not to supply foie gras for ethical reasons.
I love France, and French cuisine, and have spent happy times on twinning visits to Burgundy and on holiday. It is possible to eat extremely well while avoiding foie gras.
It is indeed.
Thank you for the great new recipe. I always buy too much spinach at the market because it is such a beautiful green color and so fresh and then I feel so guilty when I don’t use it all and it becomes slimey and compressed in the salad spinner where I have kept it “at the ready.” Now I shall make warm satisfying delectable soup and banish guilt!
The article on Spring restaurant was fascinating. A Bordeaux under 400 euros a bottle ‘not worth drinking’. How funny. As for the meal being presented without the client knowing what the food was, and especially being told which dessert to eat first, how pompous. It sounds more like Australia where some people who are not very knowledgeable about food, or feel that they are not, can be intimidated by others who build themselves a media image of superiority. I would never go there, if I could, but if I did I would at least delight in tasting the desserts in the order that suited me and leave the other dishes I didn’t like untouched. Anyway it was a great article and very interesting.
Thanks, Gwendoline. Actually we didn’t mind the waiter’s suggestions on the order of the desserts. I thought it a little strange to try the iced dessert last, but we followed the plan and were happy we did. The portions were very small, so it didn’t take long to try all three, and each one increased in deliciousness. I would try to replicate them on this site, but I’m afraid I could never manage the mint granita. What a knock-out!
An accurate and fair commentary on our dinner. I wish you were with us today at La Vielle Tour — the restaurant in Plerins owned by a friend of Barbie’s sister-in-law. The food was great and the price very fair for the level of food and service. I’ll try your soup when I get home.
Joyce, I wish I’d been there too! Memories of our delicious Parisian dinner together still linger. Hope you had a good trip home.
Love this review, Meg! I heard so many wonderful things about La Bourse etc., I squeezed in a visit before I left Paris. Had some lovely quail, and a knockout salad with anchovy vinaigrette. For me, it’s more approachable than Spring.
Thanks, Ann. I’m looking forward to trying the nouveau Daniel Rose. Sounds fab.