The gorgeous soup we served for Easter-eve supper — as a first course before a tried-and-true potato gratin and a succulent Fatted Calf Petit Jamon — is an old Soup of the Fortnight favorite. But last time I wrote about it, I only linked to the original recipe (which serves 16+!) and didn’t include a photo. As you can see, it’s a soup that looks much more elegant in the bowl than it sounds from a simple reading.
The recipe made its debut a year ago in Seattle, at a dinner organized by a group of MouthfulsFood friends to celebrate the start of spring. We weren’t able to make it to that dinner, but the recipe sounded so amazing, I couldn’t wait to try it. I whipped up a batch for a dinner party a few days later, including the chive oil and the lemon creme fraiche — touches I probably wouldn’t have bothered with for an everyday meal. But, as I learned, it would not be wise to skip them: Unlike many garnishes, they’re the crowning glory of this soup, elemental pieces whose presence would be sorely missed in the end result.
Jan’s Spring-Green Soup
– serves 6 as a first course
3 cups good quality chicken stock
1 to 2 oz. bacon strips
1T unsalted butter
1/2 white onion, chopped
1 large stalk celery, trimmed well of strings, chopped
2 stalks green garlic or 1 medium leek, washed well (tender parts only), chopped
1 T chopped Italian parsley
2 T dry vermouth
4 oz. fresh sugar snap peas, trimmed and cut in half
1 small head butter lettuce (aka Boston or Bibb lettuce), rinsed well and chopped
3 cups frozen petit pois, thawed (such as C&W Early Harvest Spring Peas)
1 long sprig of fresh rosemary
Salt, to taste
White pepper, to taste
Fresh lemon juice, to taste
1/4 to 1/2 cup heavy cream
Put chicken stock in a large saucepan or small stockpot (at least 4-quart capacity) and bring to a boil. Prepare an ice bath under a large, metal bowl.
Meanwhile, sauté the bacon in a large sauté pan until browned and fat is rendered. Remove strips and put them in the stockpot with the stock. Pour out all but about 1T fat from sauté pan, add 1T butter. Add onions, celery, leeks and rosemary sprig to pan. Stir to combine, add a pinch or two of salt, and sweat for 10 to 15 minutes, being careful not to brown vegetables. Add more pork fat if needed. When soft, add parsley, deglaze the pan with vermouth, and reduce the vermouth briefly. Add these ingredients to the stock.
Bring the stock back to a boil; add the sugar snap peas and cook for about 2 minutes. Add the lettuce, bring back to the boil and cook for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the peas, bring back to the boil, and cook until everything is just tender. The lettuce gets dark and slimy, but don’t fear: All will be well. The peas should still be quite bright green …don’t overcook or it will all turn grey.
When all vegetables are tender, immediately pour the soup into the large bowl over an ice bath and stir to cool. This will keep it from overcooking and darkening. When cooled to room temp, remove rosemary sprig and bacon strips.
Puree the soup with a stick blender (or, using in a traditional blender, in batches) and strain the puree into another pot or bowl. You’ll need to work for a while with a rubber spatula to push the soup out and leave the solids behind. This is one time where pressing hard and stirring around is not just fine but required: You want just the fibers left behind. If you leave too much vegetable matter in the strainer, your soup will be thin, and you won’t have enough to make six servings.
(The soup can be refrigerated at this point for a day or two.)
To serve cold:
Add cream as desired, being careful not to overwhelm the fresh, green flavor. Start with 2T of cream; taste. Adjust seasoning with salt, white pepper, and small amounts of lemon juice.
To serve warm:
Heat soup over medium-low. Add cream as desired, being careful not to overwhelm the fresh, green flavor. Add cream as desired, starting with 1/4 cup; taste. Adjust seasoning with salt, white pepper, and small amounts of lemon juice.
Ladle into bowls and add swirls (or a dollop) of lemon crème fraiche and droplets of chive oil. Garnish with an edible flower, if desired.
Lemon Crème Fraiche
1/2 cup crème fraiche
Zest of 1/2 lemon, finely grated
Lemon juice to taste
Fresh ground pepper
Stir up crème fraiche with drops of lemon juice and some of the zest, starting with about 1 tsp. Add a pinch of salt and a grind of pepper. Taste and adjust amount of lemon juice/zest to taste. If you need to thin more, but don’t want to add more lemon juice, use milk. Put into squeeze bottle or drop by the spoonful into soup.
1/2 cup oil, preferably mild olive oil
1 bunches chives, cut into thirds (divided use)
Salt to taste
Blanched one third of the chives for 10 seconds and shock in an ice-water bath. Puree the blanched and raw chives in a small blender container with the oil and the salt. Taste for salt, and add more oil if the salt or chive flavor is too strong. Let the puree sit for several hours. Strain twice to remove solids.
Tami of Running with Tweezers posted a gorgeous roasted eggplant soup recipe in honor of her mother, and invited her blog-buddies to post about their favorite soups. With a head of cauliflower in the fridge, a brisk chill in the air, and my own parents’ anniversary dinner to cook, I knew exactly which soup to share.
I first made a variation on this soup last winter as one of the last few Soup of the Fortnight installments. But it bears repeating, because although it’s based on an Epicurious recipe, you know I can’t make anything without a little (or a lot) of tinkering. Plus, it’s such a luxurious soup, and it goes so well with a wide variety of sandwiches and salads to make a satisfying supper — you might never guess how easy it is to make simply by tasting it.
Here’s my adapted recipe, perfect for a chilly evening:
Blue Cheese Cauliflower Soup
1 (1-pound) head cauliflower, cut into small florets
1/4 cup butter
1 medium onion, chopped
3/4 cup chopped celery
1/4 cup all purpose flour
3 cups chicken broth
1 cup milk, or more as needed
3 ounces Gorgonzola (or other mild blue cheese), crumbled
Ground white pepper, to taste
In a medium pot of boiling water, blanch 1 cup of the nicest-looking cauliflower florets until just tender, about 2 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water, and set aside.
In a large, heavy saucepan, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, and remaining cauliflower. Cover the pan and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are tender, not brown — about 8 minutes.
Add flour and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the chicken broth and 1 cup of milk, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cover partially. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until vegetables are tender and soup thickens — about 20 minutes.
Using an immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth. (If using a traditional blender, puree in two batches.) Thin with additional milk, if desired. Gradually add the cheese, stirring until melted. Season with salt and white pepper, to taste.
Ladle soup into bowl, and garnish with the reserved cauliflower. Serves 4.
Ack, I hate it when I look up and realize that (a) it’s almost the weekend and (b) I haven’t written anything since the previous weekend. Chalk it up to a busy week, I suppose.
Which is not to say that we haven’t been cooking — and eating — quite a lot. Saturday we did our usual trek to the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market in the morning. Although the light wasn’t as gorgeous as it was the week before, there were still plenty of gorgeous specimens to photograph… many of which you’ll see in the week’s menus.
Saturday evening, we roasted a little chicken from Hoffman, which made us realize — duh! — that yes, Virgina, there is a huge difference between these coddled birds and even the Rosies and Rockys at Whole Paycheck. Just like the pork and beef from Prather, I’d much rather spend the same money to have a little of this kind of chicken than a lot of the commercial stuff. Anyway, sermon over…
I’d also bought a bagful of broccoli di ciccio and turned it into a tasty side dish with orecchiete and sauteed chickpeas. For such a simple recipe, it was incredibly satisfying — and even better the next day for lunch, with some of the leftover chicken meat shredded into it.
The next morning, I got up early and baked a Red Velvet cake from the Lee Bros. cookbook, in preparation for a dinner that evening with friends. Just like every other recipe I’ve tried from that book, it required a bit of interpolation to make it work, but the end result was pretty good… and definitely red! I realized in the process that I hadn’t done much baking at all, in a very long time. That’s going to change — I really miss it!
There’s nothing we like better than puttering around the house, tidying and cooking and getting things ready for a dinner party. In this case, an impromptu meal with our friends Sean and DPaul, who we hadn’t seen for dinner in far too long. They’d spent the afternoon putting up a truckload of preserves, so by the time they hit our living room, they were well ready for a drink… and to sit down!
We drank our Manhattans and ate a plate of radishes with Irish butter and fleur de sel, and listened enviously to their tales of pear butter and other seasonal spreads. Ah, another thing I haven’t done this year — not even a batch of pickles. Sigh.
Dinner was a salad of marinated roasted beets served with bleu cheese crumbles and rosemary-roasted walnuts; the Zuni Cafe cookbook’s mock porchetta — our old standby — with roasted teeeensy potatoes and chunks of fennel; and, of course, that Red Velvet cake.
Monday night brought a soup-and-sandwich supper: The triumphant return of the cauliflower and Stilton soup from a Soup of the Fortnight of yore, paired with BAT (bacon, avocado, and tomato) sandwiches. Yum! So much fun to take good bacon — this time from Prather Ranch — and pair it with pain de mie and one of the last superripe heirloom tomatoes of the season.
And then Tuesday, we ate a very simple dinner of chorizo tacos and soupy beans. Man, those Fatted Calf boys know how to make tasty sausage — I think theirs is even better than my own! Paired with Rancho Gordo ojo de cabro beans and fresh-masa tortillas, I can’t imagine a better quick-weeknight dinner. Or breakfast! We smashed up some of the beans, tossed in some leftover chorizo, doused it all with good salsa roja, and stirred in some of RG’s chips, and sprinkled with queso… chilaquiles on a weekday, be still my beating heart!
More food later… must go pay the bills.
In honor of spring finally springing in my hometown, and also Arbor Day (April 28) and Green Day (no, not the band — Japan’s Midori no hi, April 29), let’s investigate all manner of green soups.
Here are a few I came up with, off the top of my head:
- cucumber gazpacho
- new mexico green chile soup
- avocado soup
- pea soup (fresh spring peas or split peas)
- posole verde
- cream of asparagus
- fava bean & artichoke
- herb soups like sorrel, watercress, etc.
- cream of spinach or broccoli
You could even do a chilled melon dessert soup.
But, in the end, I decided to make my friend Jan’s Creamy
Pea, Lettuce & Leek Soup with Lemon Crème Fraiche and Chive Oil.
Not only did I forget to take a photo, but neither did anyone at the Seattle party where this soup made its debut… so I can’t even poach one! Trust me, it was gorgeous. I’m so glad I was making it for a dinner party, or I might not have bothered with the creme fraiche or the chive oil — and they definitely made the dish much better.
In honor of Passover, I decided to make the Russ & Daughters Mushroom-Barley soup from the NYT Jewish Cookbook.
(Yes, it’s shown with a decidely un-Jewish grilled bacon-and-cheese sandwich.)
If I made this soup again, I think I would use a LOT less barley than the recipe calls for. I kept adding more and more liquid, and still it was a bit too much like porridge. I finally gave up — realizing I was going to throw the balance off even more. And it needed a LOT more salt than called for.
I made the Cream of Cailiflower and Stilton Soup from Epicurious, replacing the stilton with Irish blue cheese. (I had found other Irish cauliflower-cheese soups elsewhere, but they didn’t sound as good.)
We served it with corned beef sandwiches.
It was delicious, and I can’t wait to have the leftovers for lunch!
For my second attempt at Italian soups for the fortnight, I made tortellini en brodo. Actually, I made about 100 tortellini, and now I have LOTS in the freezer…
We made a Fettuccine and Garbanzo soup from Molto Italiano. It called for a whopping 1 tsp. of saffron threads, which (of course!) gave it a lush, decadent flavor — even though the soup was entirely vegetarian — and turned the fettucine pieces a lovely shade of gold. It was very simple and tasty, although the quantity of pasta seemed way too generous; next time, I will reduce the pasta by half.
Jumping the gun on Mardi Gras a little bit, we made gumbo this weekend.I followed Mayhaw Man’s step-by-step from his eG foodblog, scaling down to about 1/3 of a recipe (4 chicken thighs and 13-oz package of Aidell’s andouille). Had to wing it a bit on the veggie ratios — it’s more of a pictorial than an actual recipe — but it turned out fabulously.
Another gumbo recipe said that you really want the veggies (onion, garlic, celery, pepper) to be really well chopped before adding them, and apparently using a food processor is more than OK in this case. I took that advice, and ended up with a gumbo with plenty of good mouthfeel and body.
Even with the scaled-down recipe, we had enough for 2 generous bowls last night, plus 3 lunch-size servings. We’ll definitely be adding this to the regular soup repetoire.
Last night, I made the world’s simplest Chinese soup: Egg Drop Soup.
Now that I know how easy it is, I’m sure I’ll make it a lot more often. Let’s see if I can resist the temptation to tinker with simplicity.
It took about 2 minutes… this was the sum total of my mise-en-place, not including 3 cups of stock.
The small dish is soy, a pinch of sugar, and a pinch of salt; the large one is simply a beaten egg.