You’ve gotta hand it to our springtime herbs. They just keep popping up, undeterred, growing a tiny bit taller every moment the sun peaks out behind our ever-present Northwest clouds. Now that I’ve gotten a little taste of sunshine warmth, I really have to psyche myself up to get bundled up to work outdoors in the garden in less-than-perfect weather. In the meantime when the sun refuses to shine, I can at least manage to run outdoors to snip off some chives or sorrel to add some spring flavor to our meals.
Eggs are the perfect companion for spring herbs. They’re light and creamy while comforting but not in a couch potato, wintry way. More sunshine means the hens lay more eggs. They can be coaxed to lay during the dark months using artificial light but their natural instinct is to wait until the days start to warm up and lengthen. By the time Easter rolls around, they’ll be on their way toward full production.
This is the perfect time of the year to whip up a quick batch of the classic Greek specialty, Avgolemono soup. I don’t know why but I always resist cooking food that I can’t pronounce so from here on, I’ll refer to this bright and zingy dish as Egg Lemon Soup. I’ve livened mine up with lots of freshly chopped herbs a la Jerry Traunfeld in his Herbal Kitchen.
Egg Lemon Soup with Herbs (Avgolemono)
4 cups chicken broth
1/4 cup plus 2T long-grain white rice ( some recipes use orzo instead of rice)
3 large eggs, the fresher the better
1/4 cup chopped herbs — chives and/or chervil, tarragon or dill
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (more if you like to pucker up)
Salt to taste
Bring chicken broth to a boil in medium saucepan. Stir in rice and simmer over low heat, partially covered, until it’s tender but firm, 10 – 12 minutes.
In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs and lemon juice until smooth. Whisk a couple of ladles of hot broth, one at a time, into the eggs. Then vigorously whisk eggs back into the soup.
Switch to a wooden soup and continue to stir over very low heat until it thickens — just a minute or two. Remove from heat. ( I don’t want to scare you but don’t simmer or the eggs will curdle. This didn’t happen to me, but you do need to pay attention for a minute or two.)
Stir in herbs and salt to taste.
If you want to keep things simple, serve as is, right away. You can also add leftover shredded chicken and/or sauteed chopped vegetables like onions, carrots and celery for a more substantial meal.
A frittata is another wonderful weeknight, one-dish meal using the springtime egg & herb theme. I make these year-round but love this one using sorrel and other tender greens and herbs. My sorrel has been a real trooper this winter and was barely phased by the weather. I picked some of the newest leaves along with some kale that’s still standing. Some tangy pillows of goat cheese make this dish light and airy. The sorrel will lose it’s bright green color when cooked but still adds a little lemony punch to the flavor.
Springtime Frittata Recipe
6 fresh eggs
4 oz. soft goat cheese
1 large potato, cooked and cubed
1 cup chopped sorrel and/or kale
1/2 large onion, chopped
2 T olive oil
2 T butter
Salt & pepper to taste
Preheat the oven broiler.
In a oven-proof skillet, heat the oil and melt butter over medium-high heat. Saute onions until soft and translucent.
Meanwhile, whisk eggs in a bowl. Add sorrel, cooked potato, half the goat cheese, crumbled and salt & pepper to taste. Stir lightly together.
Pour egg mixture over onions in skillet. Dot with spoonfuls of remaining goat cheese.
Let cook until the eggs begin to set, around 3-4 minutes.
Transfer to oven, set under broiler and broil until brown and puffy on top, around 5 minutes.
Remove from oven and let it rest at least 10 minutes before slicing. If you want to use as an appetizer or tapa, cut into small squares.
A frittata is very similar to a Spanish omelet or tortilla. Here’s Sally’s recipe for a Spanish-style leek omelet.
Even easier still is to grab a few herbs from the garden, chop and toss into cheesy, scrambled eggs.
The more you cut your herbs, the more they’ll keep coming back but that very first taste of spring is something I’ve been waiting all winter for.