Simple Spring Soup


frikeh herb soup IIEvery (early) spring I am reminded of why I have a vegetable/herb garden. Between the green garlic, sorrel, parsley, chives, and puny escarole I can flavor most anything and I haven’t actually “gardened” in many months. This is the joy of watching things come up and start afresh with no effort at all. It doesn’t look like much when you scan the muddy patches that I call my garden this time of year. However, we were away for a few days last week and I have yet to do much grocery shopping so we’ve been eating out of the pantry/freezer and the garden and we’ve been eating well.

Today’s lunch was a soup of frikeh (scorched green wheat) that I had cooked months ago and frozen, a bit of leftover chicken stock, water, green garlic, a chunk of onion and plenty of parsley and chives and a little squeeze of lemon juice.

frikeh herb soup prepIt took about 10 minutes to make and is just a template for a simple, brothy bowl of soup. Any grain would work and barley or farro would be particularly good. You could skip the grains and just use vegetables or leftover meat but plenty of herbs are key. Use any kind of broth or stock you have or just water. The little bit of lemon juice at the end and the herbs are what stand out here.

Spring Soup

Serves 2-3

2 stalks green garlic, trimmed and minced (greens and all)
1/2 small onion, finely diced
3 cups broth/stock/water
A little toasted cracked coriander (optional)
1 1/2 cups cooked grains (see headnote), frikeh in this case
1/3 cup chopped fresh herbs like parsley, chives, chervil
Squeeze of lemon juice
Olive oil

Saute the onion and green garlic in a bit of oil oil in a medium pot. When softened add the broth and the cooked grains. Bring to a boil. Add the coriander (if using) and stir in the fresh herbs. Salt to taste. Serve with a squeeze of lemon juice and a good drizzle of olive oil.

Happy Spring!

P.S. I’ve created a new section on my subscription-based Seasonal Recipe Collection called What’s for Dinner? It organizes the site by theme such as Creative Salads, Meals that Make Great Leftovers, Prepared Pantry, Kid-friendly Meals and the like. If you haven’t yet subscribed, you might consider it!

Jams & Fruit Compotes in Desserts (Rhubarb Crisp w/ Blackberry & Prune Jams)

fruit compote rhubarb crisp prepMy rhubarb is pushing up through the earth in my garden which means it’s high time to use up last year’s frozen rhubarb. It’s also time to work through the remaining jams and compotes I put up each year. My jams are really more like compotes–not very sweet and a bit looser than regular jams. I have long used these fruit preserves to sweeten, thicken and flavor desserts, from crisps and crumbles to pies, cobblers and tarts and coffee cakes. This weekend I added 1/4 pint each blackberry lime jam and Italian prune compote to frozen rhubarb for a simple crisp. I reduce the sugar I would have added to the fruit a little and I get more flavor, color and lovely syrupy fruit.

You could use most any kind of fruit, frozen or fresh and any kind of fruit preserve. I still have frozen peaches and may make a cobbler with those and some raspberry jam. Use what you have. I don’t think you can go wrong!

fruit compote rhubarb crisp

Rhubarb Crisp with Blackberry and Italian Prune Preserves

For the fruit:

1 tablespoon cornstarch (if you’re using really juicy fruit like rhubarb, berries or peaches–apples, pears, and the like certainly don’t need cornstarch)

1/2 cup sugar or brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom (optional but lovely with these fruits)

About 5-6 cups rhubarb, sliced into 1/2-inch pieces (fresh or frozen–thawed if frozen)

1/2 cup fruit preserves/compote (I used blackberry and prune)

For the topping:

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (or all purpose or a combination)

1/2 – 3/4 cup walnuts or almonds, lightly toasted and chopped or ground (optional)

Generous 1/2 cup rolled oats

1/2 -2/3 cup sugar (more if you like your desserts on the sweeter side–this will be quite tart if using rhubarb). And the amount of sugar will also depend on how sweet your jams are–if quite sweet reduce the sugar a bit.

1/2 teaspoon salt

7 tablespoons butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 375F.

In a medium bowl combine all the dry ingredients well and then stir in the melted butter and press everything together with your fingers to get varied size crumbs and then set aside.

In another bowl mix the cornstarch and sugar and cardamom, if using, and preserves (s) together and add to the fruit. Toss well to evenly mix.

Put the fruit mixture in a 9 x 13 pan and top evenly with crumble mixture.  Bake for 35 – 40 minutes, or until the topping is nicely browned and the fruit juices are bubbling and syrupy. Cool for about 20 – 30 minutes before serving.

White Beans, Roasted Tomatoes, Spicy Sausage

white bean sausage tomato soup parsley garlic oil

There are so many nights when I’m grateful for the work I put in at times when I don’t need to put dinner on the table in 30 minutes. Things like already cooked beans and a jar of veggie bouillon base and frozen, roasted tomatoes all add so much flavor. It’s not the time of year to be roasting tomatoes but the other two you can make anytime you have a bit of spare time.

In order to provide more tools for this kind of cooking I’m developing a new portion of my subscription-based Seasonal Recipe Collection that will feature posts on how to set yourself up for this kind of cooking–inexpensive, flavorful, quick as a result of some planning and forethought.

Last week, I had a few nights with very little time to get dinner ready. Luckily I had set out white beans to thaw, had a handful of roasted, frozen tomatoes lurking in my freezer as well as a spicy pork sausage. As usual I had some slightly has-been celery in the fridge. I always have onions and garlic and I had half a bunch of parsley.

These ingredients turned into a simple soup/stew topped with a garlicky parsley sauce. The beans, tomatoes and rosemary were so flavorful and rich I didn’t need the sausage at all (but my boys, big and small, love a little meat now and then). You can make it more brothy by adding more stock and/or bean cooking liquid, you can certainly add carrots or any kind of greens or other vegetables. You could toss in a handful of two of small pasta if that entices your eaters to enjoy it more. . .

White Bean and Tomato Stew with (or without) Sausage

Serves 4

Olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 spicy (or mild) pork sausage, cut into rounds
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped rosemary
5 or so roasted, frozen tomatoes, chopped up,  or 1 cup canned, roasted tomatoes (or just plain canned ones)
3 cups cooked white beans with their cooking liquid. I used Ayers Creek farm’s Zolfino beans (in case you’re local and have some on  hand) or canned beans, drained and rinsed
3 cups bean cooking liquid and/or water or vegetable broth/veggie bouillon
about 1/2 bunch of parsley, tough stems removed, the rest finely chopped
1 large clove garlic, minced and mashed with a little salt on your cutting board
3-4 tablespoons good olive oil
Salt and pepper

In a soup pot cook the onion, celery, sausage and rosemary in a bit of olive oil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft and beginning to brown. Add the tomatoes and cook for another 5 minutes. Add the beans, cooking liquid and/or water or broth and bring to a simmer. Cook for 5 more minutes. If you’re using canned tomatoes and water instead of broth let the soup cook for at least 15 minutes to concentrate the flavors.

Meanwhile mix the garlic with the parsley and olive oil.

Serve the soup with a generous dollop of the parsley garnish.