EVER DRINK A HEAD OF LETTUCE? I certainly had not, until I made the soup you see pictured up top. And what a taste-sensation — earthy romaine, pungent garlic, celery-ish lovage, and anise-y tarragon all mingled together in a brew of emerald-green deliciousness. Although the soup is quick and easy to prepare, I think it is elegant enough to serve as the first course at a formal dinner party.
You can make this soup with any number of lettuce greens. I used romaine, because it gives the soup a jeweled hue, while contributing lots of flavor. The dark outer leaves are particularly flavorful. To achieve the freshest romaine possible, I simply pulled an entire head out of my Herb Garden.
After pulling up the romaine, I snipped 20 leaves from my lovage plant (which, in its third year here, is now 6 feet tall!). Lovage is an incredibly easy-to-grow perennial. It has a strong celery flavor, with an undertone of anise.
To decorate the soup, I grabbed a few chive blossoms from the garden. There were only a few blossoms left on the plant, because I used the rest for Chive Blossom Vinegar. The lavender-pink buttons make an attractive garnish for soups, and of course you can pull apart and scatter the petals on everything from eggs to pasta.
Adapted, ever-so-loosely, from The HerbFarm Cookbook by Jerry Traunfeld (Scribner; 2000)
Ingredients for about 6 servings
1 full head of Romaine lettuce
20 Lovage leaves*
1 medium onion, chopped
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 clove garlic, minced
4 cups organic, low-sodium chicken stock (I used the no-sodium version)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
5 grinds of black pepper
2 tablespoons imported dried Tarragon
Garnish: a dollop of sour cream and one chive blossom per soup cup or bowl
*If you can’t find lovage locally, increase tarragon to 4 tablespoons.
Special equipment – a standing- or immersion blender; a heavy-bottomed, 4-quart sauce pan or pot; a 2-quart or larger pot
1. Making the soup base - Melt the butter over medium heat in the large sauce pot. Add the onions and garlic, stir to coat with butter, then cover the pot, and reduce heat to low. Cook until the onions and garlic are soft and just slightly colored — about 10 minutes. Add the stock, increase the heat until a simmer is achieved. Let simmer for about 5 minutes.
2. The lettuce, lovage, and seasonings - While the stock is simmering, slice off the root end of the romaine. Then roughly slice the lettuce crosswise into 1-inch pieces. You do not have to separate the individual leaves. Roughly chop the lovage leaves. Rinse both lovage and romaine in a big bowl of cold water, then drain in a colander.
Add the lettuce, lovage, tarragon, salt and pepper to the simmering stock. Stir with a wooden spoon until these leaves have thoroughly wilted — about 5 minutes.
3. Finishing the soup - Transfer, in 2-cup batches, the soup to the blender. Blend first at low speed (to avoid splashing) and then gradually increase the speed up to high until a smooth puree is achieved — about 1 minute. Pour each finished batch of puree into the smaller pot. Taste the soup carefully — you may wish to add more salt.
4. Serving - Ladel the soup into individual soup cups or bowls. Garnish with a dollop of sour cream and a chive blossom. If you don’t have chive blossoms at your disposal, the sour cream alone will suffice. Or, you can drizzle creme fraiche (thinned with cream to a pourable consistency) over the soup. Lettuce & Lovage Soup is delicious hot, warm, and even room-temperature.
Think you’ll try this uncomplicated but sophisticated soup? You can let me know by leaving a comment.
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