Monday, March 23, 2009


I am in full-on spring eating mode, which means I want to eat nothing but green, lemony things all day long. So although ordinarily I wouldn’t say a broccoli soup sounds exactly irresistible, this soup, full of not just broccoli but also leeks, green onion, chive, Parmesan, and lemon, called out to me with a siren song the instant I first saw it at Orangette. Obviously the superstar here is the lemon-chive cream, which would make a delicious dip on its own (and indeed, is reminiscent of some perfected form of sour-cream-and-onion potato chips), but the soup is nothing to sneeze at later. A far cry from heavy, army-green, cabbage-smelling cream of broccoli soups you may have met before, this is a simple, light (but with those rich spikes of cream), fresh concoction that’s the perfect way to celebrate the coming of spring. Even A, who confessed he was suspicious of this soup while I was making it, gives it the thumbs up.

I’m not a huge sour cream fan, so I used crème fraiche instead. (It only came in half-cup containers, so I ended up making a half-recipe of the lemon-chive cream, and that was plenty sufficient for the four servings of soup we got.) It was mad delicious (I may have licked the container clean when no one was looking), but it did lack a little zip, being not as sour as actual sour cream, so I ended up doubling the lemon juice. Next time I may try Greek or European-style plain yogurt instead.

For the soup:
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 medium leeks, white and tender green parts only, sliced
1 small yellow onion, coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1½ pounds broccoli, both crowns and stems, trimmed and coarsely chopped
5 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 rind (about 2 inches square) from a piece of Parmesan cheese
¾ teaspoon kosher salt, or less if your broth is well salted

For the sour cream:
1 cup sour cream, crème fraiche, or plain yogurt (preferably Greek yogurt)
2 scallions, white and pale green parts only, very thinly sliced
¼ cup minced chives
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
½ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon pressed or minced garlic

1. In a stockpot or Dutch oven, warm the butter and oil over medium heat. Add the leeks and onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until they have softened and the onion is translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for one minute. Add the broccoli, stock, Parmesan rind, and salt and stir to mix. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook, partially covered, until the broccoli is tender, about 20 minutes.

2. While the soup cooks, prepare the cream. In a medium bowl, stir together the sour cream, scallions, chives, lemon zest, lemon juice, grated Parmesan, salt, and garlic, mixing until fully combined. Taste, and adjust as necessary. (If you are using crème fraiche, you may want to add more lemon juice; if you are using yogurt, you may want to use less lemon juice and/or add some olive oil and a pinch of sugar.)

3. To finish the soup, remove the Parmesan rind. Using a blender and working in small batches, purée until very smooth, then return the soup to the pot (or purée it in the pot with an immersion blender). Add a few dollops of the cream mixture (about ⅓ cup) and stir to incorporate. Taste for seasoning, and adjust as necessary. If needed, rewarm the soup gently over low heat. Serve the soup with a spoonful or two of the remaining cream on top.

Serves: 4–6
Time: 40 minutes
Leftover potential: Good. The freshness of this soup is one of its main selling points, so I wouldn’t keep it for days on end, but I did eat the leftovers for lunch the next day, and as usual with soup, the flavor had only improved overnight.

Friday, March 06, 2009


This is as sexy as lima beans will ever get.

Of the many varieties of Rancho Gordo heirloom beans I received for Christmas, the ones I was most unsure what to do with were, ironically, the big, reddish-brown-and-white-dappled, supposedly chestnut-flavored Christmas lima beans. So I was excited to find this recipe from the Rancho Gordo cookbook (which my library annoyingly doesn't have) at the Kitchn. Although it was written for Florida butter beans, it mentioned that Christmas lima beans could be used instead. Score!

I hardly need to bother saying that it was delicious. As if anything could taste bad when covered in caramelized onions and bacon! But the beans themselves had a wonderfully savory flavor (I can’t vouch for whether it was reminiscent of chestnuts or not, having never to my knowledge eaten a chestnut to begin with) that made this dish more than the sum of its parts. The only flaw was that, although I cooked them even longer than the recipe called for, they didn’t turn out quite soft enough for my taste. The one I tested before declaring them done and turning off the stove was perfectly tender, but when we began to eat I discovered that most of the others were firmer and a few were downright crunchy in the middle. I’m not sure I can blame the recipe—I was a little impatient, what with being distracted by watching the Oscars while I cooked, and these are big honkin’ beans, possibly bigger than the Florida butter beans, so maybe I needed to adjust the cooking time accordingly. Anyway, it’s an easy fix: allow plenty of time to cook them and make sure they’re fully soft, and with very little effort you’ll have one heck of an elegant-yet-comforting (and very pretty, if I do say) dish that’ll please bean-lovers and lima-phobes alike. I’m so happy that I have a stash of enough Christmas lima beans to make this three more times in the future.

½ pound Christmas lima beans
4 slices high-quality bacon, diced
2½ medium yellow onions
2 celery stalks, diced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
Salt to taste
¾ teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Place beans in a stockpot and cover with three inches of cold water. Soak for 4–6 hours.

2. Add more cold water if needed to cover the beans by 1 inch. Place stockpot on the stove and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer, partially covered, until beans are beginning to soften, about 1 hour.

3. In a medium, heavy skillet over medium heat, sauté the bacon until fat is rendered and bacon is beginning to brown, 8–10 minutes. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.

4. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of bacon fat from the pan and reserve. Chop half of an onion and add to the pan over medium heat. Add celery and garlic and sauté until soft and fragrant, about 10 minutes. Add vegetables to the beans, reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer until beans are tender, 1 to 1½ hours. When beans are nearly soft, season them with salt.

5. After adding vegetables to beans, cut the remaining 2 onions in half, then slice them thinly. Add the remaining 2 tablespoons of bacon fat to the skillet and set over medium-low heat. Add the sliced onions and a few pinches of salt. Cook, stirring, until onions wilt. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are medium brown, soft, and caramelized, 45 minutes to 1 hour. Add 2 tablespoons water and stir to loosen any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Add the thyme and season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the bacon to the onions and heat gently.

6. When beans are fully tender, place them in serving bowls (drain off any excess liquid first) and top each serving with some of the onion-bacon mixture.

Serves: 4
Time: 2–3 hours, plus soaking time
Leftover potential: Good.