Friday, June 13, 2014

Italian spring soup

New potatoes, chives and olive oil
I am happy that springtime seems to be giving way to summer, the days of fresh fruit are ahead of us. The farmers market opened yesterday, the slow start as we try to catch up to the rest of the country's growing season. Soon there will be peaches, tomatoes, beans, its going to be good. And the outdoor concerts, beach traffic, lackluster craft fairs and hot car seats that burn the backs of your legs... summer is the best.

New potatoes chives and garlic

Spring has been so enjoyable this year, with loads of tender vegetables, shoots and flowers. And am not quite ready to let it go. So I plan to fit a few more spring themed posts into the next week. Since its not really summer yet as far as the vegetables know.

I made this soup for my book club, all who are foodies, and everyone was surprised by the broth, as it is so simple it seems different and exotic. We probably all smelled of garlic afterwards! 

New potatoes and chives steamed for 8 minutes in olive oil.

My Italian Spring Soup was inspired by Marcella Hazan's Spring Vegetable Soup in The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. I don't claim to know better than her, but I made some changes, like adding asparagus and green onion, which is a good touch. And making it easier with frozen artichoke hearts. I did retain the simpleness of the broth, simply water with lemon juice added as the last thing. So bright, and full of clean flavors, surprisingly different.

Soup making with colorful potatoes
Easy prep for springtime soup

New potatoes have less starch than their larger cousins and hold together well in soup. They come in many shapes and colors. I found a charming mix of tiny blue, red and yellow potatoes. The color variation makes for a beautiful dish. 

Use what you can find, the red skinned ones are pretty, but the yellow have the most creamy texture.

A word to the wise. All the veggies begin as nice bright colors, once cooked they loose some of the vibrance. If served right away, all is colorful. The longer the soup sits in the pot waiting for your friends to arrive, the greens fade and fade. It is still delicious, and will recieve ohhs and ahhhs. 

Next time I make this for a party, I will add the final vegetables in a right-beofre-we-eat sort of way. To keep the asparagus and green peas more green.

Have more lemons on hand to finish the broth, mostly 1 lemon will be enough, I made a double recipe of soup and needed two whole lemons. If you taste the soup before you add the lemon juice, and then taste it after, it will become obvious if you want more lemon juice at that point. Or not. It comes across as bright tasting, not sour.

Everything gets more green
There are some either-or's in this recipe for easy spring conversions. green garlic, and spring onions if you have it. If you have garlic scapes some of them would be right at home here too.

Spring Italian Soup
servings for 4

Garlic, 2 tablespoons minced. or 1 head green garlic, chopped fine
4 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound new potatoes, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 spring onion, white and green parts sliced fine. Or 4 scallions, sliced.
4 cups water
rind from parmesan cheese (optional)
1 handful frozen artichoke hearts.
1 bunch asparagus, about 8 ounces, 1 inch lengths sliced on the diagonal
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup peas (thawed if using frozen)
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Good quality Parmmigiano-Reggiano grated

Slice the potatoes and place into the soup pot. Add sliced onion, minced garlic and olive oil. Put the pot over high heat, for about 40 seconds, stirring often.

When the garlic is fragrant add the sliced potatoes begin to stick, cover the pot with a lid and turn down the heat to low.

Cook covered for about 8 minutes, lift the lid a few times to stir the potatoes, they may begin to stick on the bottom, check that they don't brown.

After 8 minutes, or if the vegetables stick too much to the pan, cover with water and scrape the bottom. First bring liquid just to a boil, then turn to a low simmer. 

Add the cheese rind, asparagus, artichokes, and salt. Keep the heat low to retain the tender flavor of the spring vegetables. After about 15 minutes at a low simmer, when the potatoes are fork tender, add the peas. Take off the heat, the peas will warm through with the residual heat. Add lemon juice to taste.

Serve in soup bowls with large amounts of grated Parmmigiano-Reggiano cheese and slices of good crusty bread. 

Serve with crunchy bread and lots of grated parm

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