Simple spring cooking — soup

255It always feels a little like kismet when you read a blog of someone you like and they express an idea very close to your own.  This happened to me recently with a local person’s blog, Cook with What you Have.

In our last couple of deliveries from the farm, we’ve been starting to get less and less of the winter stuff (the hard squashes, the root vegetables, potatoes) and more of the tender foods of spring — overwintering things like broccoli, the rapini or fresh shoots of overwintered plants like kale, cabbage, etc.  Soft herbs like cilantro.

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Once these things start showing up, I find my cooking becomes less elaborate.  Instead of soups with lots of ingredients and heft, I’m more apt to be in the kitchen putting a light saute on a tender vegetable.  Flavoring with salt, pepper, and olive oil.  Maybe chili flakes.  Still, keeping it simple.

Reading Katherine’s blog, I noticed she was also feeling the same kind of impulse with spring.  The return of the sun makes us think about gardens and it puts into our minds the growing season and simple things.  She had an idea for a simple spring soup that had me intrigued because it was so simple and clean for this time of spring eating.

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I recently bought some farro and I was eager to try making something with it.  In the soup recipe from Katherine, she used something else but noted that any grain could work.  I didn’t have any leftover grain but decided to make some and then keep it in the fridge for making soup one night this week.

I used the “pasta” method which works well with grains of all sorts (except Japanese sticky rice):  Bring a pot of water to a boil, add your grain, cook for the normal amount of time minus 10 minutes, drain off the water, let the grains steam for 10 minutes covered off the heat.

This makes great brown rice.  Boil 30 minutes or so, drain and let steam 10 minutes.    For emmer farro, I boiled for 20 minutes, drained, and let steam 10 minutes.  It was perfect — chewy but tender.  I added a bit of salt and some bay leaves to the water while it boiled to give it a little head start on flavor.  It then went into the fridge to wait for the night of soup making.

Yesterday was a crazy day from a food standpoint.  I had a late day appointment but needed to go back to work to finish a project which I thought would take an hour but ended up being closer to two hours.  Between the daylight and the sunshine, my body felt like it was much earlier than it was.  I had a plan to bake some blondies for friends who would gather the next day, so I decided to get that going before starting the soup.  By the time I got to soup, it was already nearly 8:30 p.m.  Thankfully, soup was just minutes away.

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Katherine’s recipe intrigued me because of the coriander seed.  I’ve been recently quite taken by coriander and I was excited to see what it might add to the soup:

  • 2 stalks green garlic, trimmed and minced (greens and all) — I didn’t have it so I just pressed a couple of cloves of regular garlic through my press
  • 1/2 small onion, finely diced — we had a small cipollini onion from the CSA so I grated it to make sure it’d cook quickly and fade away in the soup but it could have just been minced finely
  • 3 cups broth/stock/water — I had a jar of frozen turkey stock I made at Thanksgiving but I’m sure it was less than 3 cups.  I used what I had.
  • A little toasted cracked coriander (optional) — I just threw a bit into a hot pan to toast and then ground it in my Japanese grinding bowl
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked grains (see headnote), frikeh in this case — I cooked 1 c. of dry farro so I had whatever amount that turns into when cooked
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh herbs like parsley, chives, chervil — I had a bunch of cilantro (maybe about 1/2 of the average store size bundle) which I chopped up, stems and all!
  • Squeeze of lemon juice — I used half a lemon
  • Salt — I also added in plenty of black pepper
  • Olive oil

Because I had it, I added in some tender overwintered broccoli which I just chopped finely.   I knew it would add good flavor and texture to everything else.  This recipe is one of those wonderful basic ideas which you can take in any direction depending on what you have or what you like.  I would think fennel would be nice or even a Japanese radish.

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The technique is very simple.

  • Saute the onion and garlic in olive oil just to get it going.
  • Add the broth, grains, and any other veggies you’re cooking (my broccoli)
  • Add the cracked coriander or other seasoning you like
  • Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer long enough to bring things to warmth (or to cook a bit like my broccoli)
  • Stir in the cilantro and lemon, off heat
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Serve with flavorful olive oil drizzled on the top

243It was a 10 minute soup at the most.  It took me longer to rinse the herbs and broccoli and to toast the coriander than it took for the soup to come together.

Given the late hour, it was perfect.  Anything heavier would have been terrible given the time I went to bed.  This was light — the grain provided enough sustenance to fend off hunger but the clean flavors of the herbs and the broth made it feel light and easy for the system to process.  With a piece of toast, I was in heaven.251

Happy spring.

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