Easter is early this year. I barely noticed Palm Sunday creeping up on me until this morning, ushered in by the kids at church swishing green palm fronds in the air as they passed me in the aisles.
Usually, Easter brings a slight renovation of my taste buds (not to mention my health — cheap chocolate and hot crossed buns, anyone?) But an early, wintry Easter like this year’s has caused a tangle in the cravings department. Easter is a fresh green season — the joyous end to a sparse Lent, colour and springtime riding on the coattails of Holy Week. But when Easter sneaks up in March, divorced from new grass and sunshine, my associations get all mixed up. The gray skies and occasional snows taunt me with chili and hot chocolate, while the stores offer up impossibly green asparagus. The lilies look pretty, but out of place. Suddenly I realize how the supermarkets capitalize on the changes of seasons, and even our most beloved holy-days.
For this edition of Spoony Sundays, I followed a comment I received a few weeks ago on this blog. The commenter passed along a recipe for Greek Egg-Lemon Soup, or as we cultured folks might prefer to call it, Avgolemono. On our way to the grocery store however, I realized that I hadn’t copied down the recipe, let alone made a list. To save me from pure frustration upon returning home to cook the soup (“arghhhhh, we don’t have any garlic!?”), I dashed into the books section and grabbed a Reader’s Digest soup cookbook. There it was, my Avgolemono staring out at me from the page with its spartan list of ingredients.
This soup’s velvety richness is enough to warm you through the last grips of winter, while splashes of lemon zest and delicate spinach begin to tickle your tongue with spring. This soup is surprisingly satisfying given its humble ingredients; it’s as lean as a broth soup but twice as filling. I’d never heard of a Greek soup before, and being a long-time admirer of their cuisine, I just had to give it a try.
There’s also a bit of magic in watching this soup come together. Just when you think that all you’ve got in your pot is another boring broth, you whisk in the egg and egg whites and an opaque stew emerges. I can say now that the Greeks succeeded not only at civilization, philosophy, and baklava, but some pretty great things in bowls too.
Greek Avgolemono Soup
2 Tbsp olive oil
3 scallions, thinly sliced
1 medium onion, chopped
3 minced garlic cloves
1 Tbsp. fresh oregano
4 cups reduced sodium chicken broth
½ cup white wine or vermouth (optional)
1 package frozen spinach (or the equivalent fresh, for even more green colour)
¼ cup chopped fresh parsley
½ cup orzo pasta
2 tsp grated lemon zest
3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice (more to taste)
½ tsp. salt
1 egg + 2 egg whites
- Heat oil over medium heat and saute scallions, onions, garlic, and oregano until vegetables are soft.
- Pour in broth and optional wine. Add spinach and parsley, and bring to a boil. Add orzo pasta, reduce heat, cover and simmer for 10 minutes or until orzo is tender.
- Stir in lemon zest and juice and season with salt and pepper. Lower heat.
- In a small bowl, whisk together the egg with 2 egg whites.
- Remove 2 cups of the hot liquid and whisk it into the egg mixture. Over low heat (boiling will cause the eggs to curdle) and whisking constantly, pour the mixture back into the simmering soup. Cook for another 2 minutes or until the soup has thickened.
- Serve with a fresh mint garnish and toasted pita bread.