Saturday, March 2, 2013

Avgolemeno kicks off March

March promises to be full of rain and sleet around here.  These are soup days.  It feels like it should be spring but instead, the weather leaves us chilled.  Soups have the appeal of stews with a light touch.  They are satisfying on these days when many of us step out for a run or hike and the promise of warmer, more active days ahead.

We are planning a number of soup and salad dinners this month.  Happily, there are better and better choices for canned, frozen and shelf-stable soups with more attention paid to lower sodium and better ingredients.  Still, nothing beats homemade and even the most fast-food tainted among us can taste the difference.  Throughout March, we’ll show off some fast soups and “short cut” soups to get more soup ladled out into bowls everywhere.

The Broth Question
The first short cut is to find your favorite low sodium broth that you can go to as a base.  We prefer broth over bouillon cubes and low-sodium whether canned or in aseptic packages.  You can always add more salt later (and herbs and spices) but you cannot take it out so start with a broth that tastes of vegetables, poultry, beef or whatever is on the label—not just salty water.  Buy a few different brands and have a little taste test to find your house brand.
(To make your own broth from scratch, see the simple method from November 27, 2009’s post at http://purefoodsproject.blogspot.com/2009/11/whats-next.html)

This recipe for Avgolemeno Soup, the famous Greek soup using only broth, rice and lemon thickened with eggs, is a great example of an easy yet impressive “homemade” soup.  It is nothing short of amazing with your own homemade broth, but you will be happy with what can be done at the end of a work day using a canned low sodium versions. 

Sometimes, just before serving, we add spinach to extend the meal or cooked chicken leftovers which help to deepen the broth's flavor.  For a vegetarian version, vegetable broth can be used in place of chicken broth.  Now, no matter how it sleets outside, a bowl of Avgolemeno and a salad will make you feel better. 

Avgolemeno
Serves 2, may be doubled and tripled

Ingredients
1 14-oz can low sodium chicken broth
2-3 ounces water
½ cup cooked rice*
2 eggs
juice of half a lemon
salt, black pepper, dill (dried or fresh)

*orzo, the tiny pasta that is shaped like rice can substituted.  Cook it in the simmering broth for about 8 minutes before adding egg-lemon mixture.

Method
  1. Heat broth and water in a saucepan over medium heat.  Add rice and stir to break up any clumps.  
  2. While broth heats place the eggs in a small bowl and add lemon juice.  Whisk to combine as you would with scrambled eggs.  
  3. Ladle a ¼ cup of hot broth into the eggs.  This will “temper” the eggs so that they will not curdle when poured into the hot broth.  
  4. Remove broth from heat and using a fork or wide spoon stir the broth and rice while pouring the egg mixture into the broth.  The soup will thicken and each rice kernel will don a coating of lemon0infused eggs.  
  5. Taste the soup and add salt, cracked black pepper and dill to your taste.  
Serve immediately.  Promptly cover and chill any leftovers.
Bonus: this is good reheated for breakfast!