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greek spinach and orzo soup

There is nothing better than enjoying a hot cup of soup on a cold day. Sometimes you just want to stay home in pajamas, cuddle up under soft blankets and watch old episodes of The Twilight Zone. These grey Monday skies are calling for something warm and comforting as the weather here in Los Angeles is finally changing from summer to a cool, crisp fall. This healthy greek spinach and orzo soup is warm, soothing, and makes a delicious dinner that is tangy and bursting with lemon flavor. It is pleasantly and lightly filling, and ideal after this festive holiday with so many rich dishes, indulgent sweets, and bountiful leftovers. After four days of Thanksgiving stuffing, casseroles, and homemade pies, this hearty bowl of soup will gently calm your soul and satisfy your senses.

This colorful Mediterranean recipe is so simple to prepare. All the lively ingredients are combined in one pot, making this an easy recipe even for the beginning cook. Chopped onion and garlic are sautéed with crisp red bell pepper, handfuls of spinach, bright parsley, tender orzo pasta, diced tomatoes, and a generous splash of freshly-squeezed lemon juice. The secret here to is to add the lemon right before serving, otherwise the tart citrus flavor will cook off. With a simple prep and a cook time of under thirty minutes, this rustic vegan soup has become one of our favorites.

To get the best results possible, use a vegetable broth that is tasty enough to be enjoyed on its own. It provides a delicious foundation for the other ingredients, so finding one you like makes all the difference. For the parsley, we use the Italian or flat-leaf variety, which has more character that its curly cousin, adding a fresh flavor and vibrant green color. While this soup doesn’t need any additions, making your own croutons is extremely simple, and adds a delightful crunchy texture. Simply take a few slices of bread—any kind will work, even if it is stale—toss them with a drizzle of olive oil and a little salt and pepper, and after baking for just fifteen minutes you will have perfect homemade croutons. Accompany this soothing meal with candlelight and a toasty baguette and these chilly fall evenings will soon feel deliciously cozy and warm.

Greek Spinach and Orzo Soup
adapted from A Beautiful Bowl of Soup
serves 4 to 6

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
5 cups vegetable broth
1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
6 ounces (about 6 cups) spinach, coarsely chopped
2/3 cup (about 1 ounce) Italian parsley, chopped
1/2 cup (3 1/2 ounces) uncooked orzo pasta
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 to 1/2 cup freshly-squeezed lemon juice, to taste

Place the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. When hot, add the diced onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion has softened, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add the red bell pepper and garlic, and cook until the pepper softens, about 5 more minutes. Add the vegetable broth and tomatoes, then cover the pot, raise the heat to high, and bring to a boil. Once it is boiling, add the spinach, parsley, and orzo. Stir well to combine, and return to a boil. Then cover the pot, reduce the heat to low, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the orzo is fully cooked, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and add the salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Taste for seasonings and lemon, and add more as needed. Serve hot, with homemade croutons if desired (see recipe below), and enjoy!

Homemade Croutons

a few slices of bread or baguette, any kind you like
olive oil
salt
ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, and set aside. Cut the bread into cubes, then place the cubes in a bowl. Drizzle the cubes lightly with olive oil, then sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. Toss to coat the croutons evenly, and adjust seasonings to taste. Transfer the croutons to the prepared baking sheet, and bake until crispy, about 15 minutes.