Transition from Winter to Spring with this Flavorful Soup

During the change from cool to warm weather, a soup that features fresh vegetables accented by herbs can make the transition both satisfying and smooth. This week’s recipe does just that. The combination of onions, potatoes, chickpeas and spinach creates a pleasing, nutritional mixture of textures and flavors.

Onions, which are divided into two main categories – green or dry – have been an important part of our diet for over three millennia. Our ancestors must have recognized their durability. After all, they are one of the few vegetables that do not spoil during the winter months.

Today, onions continue to be an important element in many cuisines. Indeed, they rank as the sixth largest vegetable crop in the world - and one that packs a nutritional punch. They contain a roster of antioxidants that, many lab studies have shown, seem to help combat cancer.

In addition to their nutritional benefits, onions impart a slightly pungent yet subtle sweetness to this dish. When selecting onions, look for ones that are firm and dry with a shiny, crackling outer skin. Fresh onions should have a mild odor. A strong smell might indicate rotting. Avoid onions with dark spots as this can indicate mold.

Potatoes, which are thought to have originated in the Andes in South America over 10,000 years ago, add their own unique texture and taste. Potatoes are as popular as ever today. There are nine different species that collectively contain about five thousand varieties worldwide.

Potatoes contain a host of vitamins and minerals, including vitamin C and potassium. The popular notion that all of these nutrients are found in the skin is not accurate. While the skin contains about fifty percent of the dietary fiber, more than half of the nutrients are contained in the potato itself. Even so, it’s a good idea to leave the skin on when you can, as in this recipe, so as to enjoy the full complement of nutritional benefits.

The central ingredient here is chickpeas, which are also known as garbanzos, Indian peas, ceci beans and a variety of other names throughout the world. One of the earliest-known cultivated vegetables – dating back more than 7,500 years – they are the most widely consumed legumes in the world. They are a source of zinc, folate and fiber and characterized by a delicious nut-like taste and buttery texture.

Add spinach and herbs and the result is a tasty bowlful of rich flavor with pleasing consistency that satisfies without being overly heavy. It is a harbinger of spring treats to come from the garden.

Spring Spinach Chickpea Soup - Makes 6 servings.

1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
2 tsp. ground cumin
2 tsp. ground coriander
½ - 1 tsp. ground cardamom, as desired
Ground cayenne pepper to taste
5 cups low-sodium chicken stock (use vegetable stock for a vegetarian version of the recipe)
3 medium red potatoes, chopped into roughly bite sizes
1 (15-ounce) can chickpeas, drained
1/2 pound fresh pre-washed baby spinach, rinsed and roughly chopped
½ cup cilantro, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Heat oil in large pot over medium heat. Stir in garlic and onion. Season with cumin, coriander, cardamom and cayenne pepper. Cook until translucent, 5 minutes.

Mix stock, potatoes and chickpeas into pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat. Simmer until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.

Stir the spinach and cilantro into the soup. Season with pepper and salt to taste. Cover and turn off heat. The spinach will wilt; be careful not to overcook.

Per serving: 210 calories, 3.5 g total fat ( 0 g saturated fat), 37 g carbohydrate, 9 g protein, 6 g dietary fiber, 620 mg sodium.

The Author:

The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is the cancer charity that fosters research on the relationship of nutrition, physical activity and weight management to cancer risk, interprets the scientific literature and educates the public about the results. It has contributed more than $86 million for innovative research conducted at universities, hospitals and research centers across the country. AICR has published two landmark reports that interpret the accumulated research in the field, and is committed to a process of continuous review. AICR also provides a wide range of educational programs to help millions of Americans learn to make dietary changes for lower cancer risk. Its award-winning New American Plate program is presented in brochures, seminars and on its website, www.aicr.org. AICR is a member of the World Cancer Research Fund International.

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