The Noodle Nests:
2 eggs, separated
1¾ cups fine egg noodles, such as fideo or capellini, uncooked
1/3 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro
peanut oil for frying
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 bunches scallions, including an inch or two of the green, finely chopped
1 celery rib, diced
1 cup finely chopped cilantro stems and leaves
leaves from 1 bunch of chard, about 6 cups packed
6 cups vegetable stock
cilantro sprigs for garnish
1. Beat the egg whites until they hold firm peaks then stir in the yolks, noodles, cheese, and cilantro. Season with a few pinches of salt then really work the mixture with your hands or a wooden spoon so that is more or less homogenous. It will look impossibly dry and stiff.
2. Heat enough oil in a medium skillet over medium-high heat to float the noodles, at least 1/3–inch. When it is hot, drop the batter into the oil, dividing it into 4-6 portions by eye. Fry until golden, about 1 minute, then turn and fry the second side, another minute. Set aside on paper towels. These can be made hours ahead of time.
3. Warm the oil in a soup pot. Add the scallions and celery and cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. After a few minutes, add the cilantro and ½ cup water so the vegetables stew rather than fry. Add the chard leaves and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon salt then cook, covered, until the chard is wilted down. Add the stock.
4. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat and add the noodle nests to the pot. Simmer until the chard is tender, about 10 minutes. Taste for salt, and season with pepper. Ladle the soup into soup bowls, include a noodle nest in each bowl, serve garnished with a sprig of cilantro.