Green Garlic Soup

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At the farmer’s market last week, I spotted green garlic and I recalled a whole section about green garlic in my favorite cookbook: Chez Panisse Cooking. On page 105, Paul Bertolli and Alice Waters write: “Garlic is commonly used as a mature plant when the bulb containing many cloves has formed. Green garlic is the same plant pulled from the ground at a much earlier stage, before the bulb forms and when the plant resembles a leek, with a stalk about 1/2 inch in diameter. Until recently, green garlic never appeared in the market and was largely unrecognized by cooks. The quality of green garlic is unique and of great use in the kitchen. When cooked it has none of the hot, pungent qualities of fresh garlic cloves. Its flavor, although unmistakably associated with the mature form, is much milder.”

When I got home I took their advice: “The flavor of green garlic is most clearly captured in a pureed soup made with new potatoes and finished with cream.” Here’s how you make it.

You will need:

5 tablespoons unsalted butter

24 young garlic plants, 1/2 inch in diameter at the root end, white part only (8 oz.), halved lengthwise

3/4 cup water

1 pound, 6 ounces small red potatoes, peeled and quartered

1 1/2 quarts light-bodied chicken broth

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

2 to 2 1/2 teaspoons white wine vinegar

Freshly ground black pepper

Sourdough bread

Melt the butter in a 6-quart noncorroding pot. Add the garlic and 1/4 cup of the water:

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Bring to a simmer, cover tightly, and cook for 15 minutes. Add the potatoes and remaining 1/2 cup water…

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..and cook at a simmer for 20 minutes. Add the chicken broth, cover the pot, and allow to bubble gently for 20 minutes.

Puree the soup in batches in a blender (I used a hand blender) for two minutes. Pass the puree through a medium-fine sieve into a bowl. Stir in the cream and salt. Add the vinegar, 1 teaspoon at a time, tasting the soup after each addition before you add the next. (Some vinegars are more acidic and strongly flavored than others.)

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Reheat the soup gently and serve it in warm bowls. Grind black pepper generously over each portion and serve with grilled slices of sourdough bread that has been brushed with melted butter and sprinkled with chopped fresh thyme or small croutons tossed in butter and baked until very crisp.

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As you can see, I went the “grilled bread” route, only I toasted it in the oven at 400 degrees for a few minutes. The green you in the soup was my clever idea to cut some of the green garlic stalks into the soup. I’m not sure if that was a great idea, but it gave it some color.

Did I love this soup? I can’t say yes. What I loved about it was that it was seasonal, it tasted really fresh, and it was a cinch to make. But the next day, when I tasted it, I just couldn’t get into it again. I plan to write a memoir about this experience: “How Green Was My Garlic.”

6 comments

  1. This looks fabulous. I regret even more that I didn’t get any garlic planted now. I wonder if I could plant garlic now to get green garlic. Perhaps an experiment is in order.

  2. I’ve never seen that in my farmers market…definitely would like to try. I’ve seen young ginger though, and I wonder if you can do the same with it…

  3. I’ve been eating green garlic for the past two months, fresh from the garden. The best use I’ve found is the simplest. Slice the bulb thinly, cook in some butter and serve tossed in with some pasta – it’s such a simple dish but incredibly tasty.

  4. see, you love the ingredients, but i wonder how you would have felt about that soup if it’s the *exact* same soup, and on the menu they didn’t mention how fresh or seasonal the ingredients were.

    what would you say then? “oh, i would have liked this more if the ingredients were fresh and seasonal”?

    this is what i can’t stand about people who preach about green/farmer’s market and seasonal ingredients. just because it’s the freshest, there’s no direct correlation to good food.

    it seems like there’s this push to say, “use A+ ingredients, your food will be great!”

    so in your instance you got:

    A+ ingredients => B to B+ dish

    it just seems possible to make:

    B to B+ ingredients => A+ dish.

    or is that not possible in the land of progressive foodies?

  5. I recently had a brush with green garlic as well. Wasn’t sure what to do with it … was tempted by the soup option, though it seemed a bit bland. I ended up going for a nice shrimp stir-fry recipe I found on Chez Pim.

    Here in LA, the restaurant Lucques is featuring green garlic in delicious and sophisticated ways:

    Clams steamed with white wine and vermouth with fennel, green garlic, spring onions and herbs, served with toasted bread with a green garlic aioli; Grilled Alaskan halibut with farro, green garlic, black olives and kumquat salsa; Pancetta-Wrapped Salmon on Black Rice with a Sautée of Green Garlic Scapes and Rhubarb. yum!

  6. This soup sounds delicious – delicate and creamy. I have never seen green garlic anywhere — any leads on where to find it? From the other posts it sounds like planting it might be the only option?