If you’d like to try something new that’s easy and delicious, not to mention an eyeful, this is it, and stepping out the door to harvest the fresh herbs is part of the attraction. This verdant spring soup might transport you to a land where the sun shines, the garden grows and the economy sizzles. A place where kitchen goddesses and gods lounge.
Known for his elegant meals, one might expect chef Jerry Traunfeld’s recipes to be complicated and snooty. Not so, as I’ve learned over and over again. This soup, from The Herbfarm Cookbook, is a classic example of his less is more approach to cooking – the use of fresh herbs in everything is his signature talent and that’s the main attraction. While plucking herbs straight from the garden is satisfying, they’re available at Farmer’s Markets and that’s fine too. The soup tastes as fresh as it looks, this one imbued with the flavors of early spring’s sorrel, parsley and chives.
Make an easy base that can then be transformed into something sublime by using herbs you love or have on hand. Herbs by the handful are placed into a blender along with the soup’s already cooked base. Puree together, return to the pot, reheat and you’re good to go with this robust, exquisitely flavored soup.
The base is made in forty minutes flat, thirty minutes for simmering, ten for prep. It can then be frozen or refrigerated and finished with fresh herbs just before serving. (Or, I made this in the early morning, including the herbs, refrigerated it all day long and it was great when we returned home late – a quick supper with bread, cheese and salad.)
From The Herbfarm Cookbook, Spring Sorrel & Chive Soup
2 T butter
1 medium onion
4 C homemade stock, chicken or vegetable
8 or 10 white button mushrooms
2 T long-grain white rice
1 t salt, less if using canned stock
1 large bunch of sorrel leaves, (about 2 cups after prepped), rinsed and spun dry
1 C coarsely chopped chives
Freshly ground black pepper
Garnish with thinly sliced sorrel. A drizzle of crème fraiche, sour cream or heavy cream are optional.
For the soup base: Melt the butter in saucepan, add the chopped onion and sauté, stirring often until softened, six or eight minutes/ Add the stock, the chopped mushrooms, rice and salt and bring to a boil/ Reduce, cover and simmer until rice is soft, about 30 minutes. (Since I didn’t have long-grain white rice I used Abrorio instead and it was fine.) Jerry seems to have designed the soup base around light-colored ingredients so that the green from the herbs will pop, and they do.
Prepare the herbs: Slice the center ‘vein’ from the sorrel/ Place half the sorrel and chives in blender (I added parsley too.)/ Pour half the hot soup over the herbs/ Place lid on the blender, holding lid with a towel, blend at low then high speed until smooth/ Pour into a second pan, puree the rest of the herbs and soup base in the same way/ Return it all to the stove and reheat, but do not simmer or soup will lose its bright color/ Garnish with a few reserved sorrel leaves, parsley, chives and a little cream if that sounds good.
Traunfeld suggests other herb possibilities: arugula, mustard greens, mizuna, spinach, lovage, dill, chervil, mint, lemon balm, parsley. And nettles.
This is readily transformed into Nettle & Chive Soup by cleaning and blanching nettles before blending, then proceed as above using nettles as the herb, or mixed with other greens. Nettles are waiting to be foraged in many of our local woodlands, but be forewarned – they pack a nasty stinging wallop. Wear gloves, handle with great care through the blanching process which neutralizes their sting. It’s worth the effort to make the nettle soup, which includes both an urban foraging and culinary adventure. And flavor-wise nettles have a softer countenance and are a delicious addition to soup. Any local woodsy park is likely to have nettles just off the beaten path. Wear gloves!