Spring is the most glorious season of the year in DC. There are flowers, literally, everywhere. For a few weeks, it seems like there isn’t a tree in the mid-Atlantic region that’s not in bloom. Dogwood, cherry trees, and my favorite redbuds are on every street corner. And then there are the fields of daffodils, the flowers blooming up and down every street in the city, and you should see my neighborhood – gardens in bloom everywhere. It’s gorgeous. I love it.
Unfortunately for me, spring in DC also brings epic amounts of pollen – obviously – and every year my body completely revolts. I usually spend several weeks of the spring holed up indoors and even that isn’t enough to keep me from coming down with a miserable case of spring allergies. In the worst years, I’m virtually unintelligable. This year I thought I was getting off easy and I got cocky and went out for a run on Sunday morning. I waited until the worst pollen time (5:00-10:00 a.m.) was over, but I was out the door at about 10:05 and apparently I didn’t wait long enough, because I am a mess now. Yesterday I spent the entire day sneezing and rubbing my eyes. Fortunately, my office is well acquainted with my allergy woes and they know I’m not contagious! Still, by the end of the day I was a pretty unhappy girl and desperately in need of something soothing and nourishing. I knew exactly what I wanted – green soup. Between the leeks, potatoes and spinach, I enjoyed each and every nutrient. Now, I’m not delusional – I know that green soup isn’t going to cure my allergies. But it’s a nice way to celebrate the season while I stare wistfully at the gardens outside my window. Here’s to a few days of low pollen counts…
Spring Green Soup
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 leeks, white and light green parts only, cleaned
3 potatoes, large-diced
5 cups water
1 tablespoon Better Than Bouillon vegetable base
4 large handfuls baby spinach
freshly ground pepper to taste
- In a large cast iron pot, heat olive oil over medium-high. Chop leeks and add to oil. Season with a pinch of kosher salt and stir to coat with oil. Allow leeks to cook down for about 5 minutes.
- Add potatoes and season with another good pinch of kosher salt. Stir potatoes and leeks together.
- Add water and Better Than Bouillon and bring to a boil. Cook for 20-25 minutes, until potatoes are fork tender.
- Add spinach and stir into soup until spinach is wilted down. Blend soup in a high speed blender or in the pot with an immersion blender until it reaches the consistency desired. Season to taste with freshly ground black pepper. Garnish with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and serve immediately.
Source: Covered In Flour
This dish is perfect for a special spring meal… the risotto is creamy and warm, with a subtle flavor from the shallots and spring onions. And the “spring chicken” adds the perfect touch to make this a meal instead of just a side. This made a wonderful Easter dinner in this non-ham-eating household, but would be just as good on any mid-spring night. If you’re not living in DC, where summer has arrived in all its blazing glory, you might just be able to warm yourself up with this on one of the last cool nights of the season. Please do, and then tell me how it goes. I’m dying to live vicariously as I dump cold water over my head. Farewell, spring!
Spring Onion Risotto with Roast Chicken
1 roasted or rotisserie chicken
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 large shallot, sliced (not minced)
1 cup arborio rice
1 cup dry white wine or dry sherry
3-4 cups chicken broth
4 spring onions (scallions), sliced
kosher salt and black pepper
2 tablespoons creme fraiche or sour cream
- In a large, heavy pot over medium-high heat, melt the butter and olive oil together. Add the shallots, season with kosher salt, and cook until just beginning to caramelize.
- Add the arborio rice and toss to coat with the buttery, shalloty goodness. Toast rice for approximately 1 minute, then add wine and cook down, stirring frequently, until wine is absorbed.
- Meanwhile, warm the chicken broth in a small pot. After wine has been absorbed, add a ladle or two of chicken broth to the rice and allow it to absorb, stirring frequently. Continue adding broth a ladle or two at a time, stirring often, until you run out of broth and/or the rice is tender and creamy.
- On the last addition of broth, toss in the scallions and allow them to cook briefly with the rice. Finish off by stirring in the creme fraiche or sour cream.
- Arrange a bed of risotto in serving bowls and place chicken over the risotto. (You can either roast your own chicken while making the risotto – you’ll have to give the chicken a head start – or just use a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store and keep it warm while the risotto cooks. When you are nearing the end of the risotto cooking process, you can take a break from stirring to carve the chicken.)
Source: Covered In Flour
I’m ashamed to admit this, as a proud foodie, but this was my first Julia Child recipe. I’ve been intimidated by Julia, and her cookbooks, for several reasons, including:
1) All the French words. (And nowhere did I find the phrase “I am a pineapple,” which is pretty much all the French I know.)
2) The sheer volume of butter and cream.
3) Her height. I’m 4’11”. Julia was tall enough to conk me on the head with a copper pot without lifting her arm.
Suffice it to say, these factors had me staying away from Julia. Far, far away. But, like most foodies and bloggers and food bloggers, I made a beeline for the movie theater when Julie and Julia came out, and despite the ridiculous amount of butter in that movie, I decided to get over The Fear and give Julia a chance. I started small, as you can see, with potage parmentier, or potato and leek soup, which happened to be the first recipe in Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume 1 and the first dish that Julie Powell cooked in Julie and Julia. It only seemed appropriate, and there really wasn’t much butter at all. Bonus! I cut the recipe in half and made a couple of tweaks. I hope Julia doesn’t mind. If she does, I’ll have to look out for copper pots…
Potato and Leek Soup
2 cups potatoes, peeled and medium-diced
1 1/2 cups leeks, rinsed well and medium-diced
1 quart chicken stock
salt and pepper
1 tablespoon butter (it’s Julia, after all)
- In a large stock pot over medium-high heat, warm the chicken stock. Add the diced potatoes and leeks, bring to a boil, and then turn down to low immediately. Simmer, partially (mostly) covered, approximately 50 minutes, until the potatoes and leeks are softened.
- In a food mill or with an immersion blender (not a food processor), process or blend soup until consistency is smooth or chunky, as you prefer. If necessary, thin with water to bring consistency to desired point.
- Stir in a pat of butter (approximately a tablespoon, but you can do more if you want to because it’s Julia) and season to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish with chives and serve in cream soup bowls.
Source: Adapted from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume 1.