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.”

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