Thursday, April 05, 2012

Easter Week continues with Green Thursday (Gruendonnerstag)

Green Thursday is the 5th day of Easter/Holy Week (the week beginning with Sunday). In Germany this day is recognized as the day of Jesus Christ's last supper with the 12 apostles, before his crucifiction on Good Friday. It also marks the beginning of the three day celebration of Good Friday, Easter Saturday and Easter Sunday.

On Green Thursday, it is customary in Germany to eat meals that mainly include green vegetables, like cabbage, leeks, spinach and fresh herbs. It is believed that by consuming these greens, spring is encouraged to unfold and cast wellness upon all for the forthcoming year.

In parts of Germany Easter egg hunts still take part on Green Thursday with the belief that the yummy treats have been brought by green rabbits! I have not seen a green rabbit in any part of this world, but  I am certain that if there was a green rabbit, it would at least be a very healthy one!

In keeping with German tradition for Easter week, I am preparing two delicious and nutritious recipes for a light Green Thursday supper. I have included a wonderful spinach soup with its powerhouse of vitamins and minerals (calcium, folic acid and iron; vitamins C and  K; fiber and carotenoids, lutein and bioflavenoids) as well as an easy  leek casserole, which is high in vitamins C, B6 and K and help keep your blood vessels healthy, reduce inflammation and have high anti-oxidant properties.

For the main course I have combined leeks, shallots, onion, scallions and garlic, all part of the allium family for another healthy green dish. I am a huge fan of Chevre (goat cheese) and feel its the perfect complement to anything onion. Add in some nitrate free black forest ham and low-fat Gouda and you are going to have some green heaven in a pan!

Spinach and Dill Soup
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 Tbsp unsalted butter
2 shallots, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 onion, chopped
3 bunches fresh spinach, washed, stems intact
6 cups low sodium chicken stock
1 1/2 (organic) chicken boullion cubes
1 ounce Pernod
1 bunch fresh dill, chopped
1 bunch fresh parsley, washed

1. In large saucepan, heat olive and butter over medium heat until butter is melted. Add onions, shallots and garlic and cook until onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add spinach at once andreduce heat to medium-low; simmer covered for 10 minutes or until spinach is wilted. 2. Add Pernod, chicken stock and boullion cubes and simmer for an additional 20 minutes. 
3. Let soup cool slightly, then puree in batches in blender. Return to pot and keep at a low simmer. Place parsley and dill bunches in blender and add about 1/2 cup of soup stock. Blend parsley and dill until well combined, but not pureed, you still want to see some texture. Add mixture to soup pot and stir to combine. 
4. Serve immediately to retain bright green colour, garnished with a dollop of creme fraiche, fresh spinach ribbons and garlic croutons*. Serves 6.

To make garlic croutons:
4 slices stale foccacia bread, cut into small cubes
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 Tbsp olive oil
1 tsp garlic pepper
Heat oil and butter over medium heat in saute pan. Add croutons and stir to coat.Sprinkle with garlic pepper; reduce heat and fry croutons until golden brown. Reduce heat to low and continue to roast croutons until dry and crisp, about 15 minutes.

Cheesy Baked Leeks
4 large leek stalks
8 black forest ham slices (nitrate free)
150g Gouda, grated
150g Chevre (goats cheese)
4 scallions, thinly sliced
Fresh dill for garnish

1. Trim outer leaves from leeks and soak in cold water to remove sand. Cut in half to make 8 pieces. Place in steamer basket and steam covered, over medium-high heat until leeks are soft, about 10 minutes (longer for thicker stalks).
2. Drain leeks and let rest until cool enough to handle.
3. Butter an 8" square casserole dish; set aside. Wrap each leek stalk in a slice of ham and place in the casserole dish. Top evenly with grated Gouda, crumbled Chevre and scallions.
4. Bake in 350F oven for about 15 minutes, or until cheese is melted and golden brown. Garnish with fresh dill. 
Serves 4-6.

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