Thursday, March 01, 2012

Stock and Awe

I've been enjoying weekly swaps with the Delighted Gardener for many months now. With her family of five children and two hard-working parents, she is more than happy to take some of my leftover bread off my hands at the end of the market week. And in return, she shares with me a variety of fresh produce from her gardens (and cold frames), lots of herbs, handmade paper, and a host of other treats.

One of her recent surprises (other than the early arrival of chickweed) was the offer of some homemade chicken stock. Although I still eat a mostly vegetarian diet, I've become what the Renaissance Man calls a "meat snob," and I will occasionally indulge in a bit of meat or meat product if I know personally where it's coming from. And since I've been to the Delighted Gardener's farm and know how she raises (and harvests) her chickens, I was pretty excited at the prospect of getting some soup stock without all the work on my part.

Boy, was that a great deal! Her chicken stock is way more rich (and fatty, yes, but sooooo good) than any I've made (not that I've made much), and it was a treat to put it to use in the dwindling days of February.

Around the same time, I'd been re-reading Full Moon Feast and getting hungry reading the recipes. I decided to try the winter minestrone recipe, using this rich stock as well as carrots, turnip, and dried beans from the garden; dried celery, canned tomatoes, herbs, a cheese rind from my food storage; and some fresh greens.

Oh wow. That was easily the most delectable bowl of minestrone I have ever made, with the perfect combination of flavors (including a bang-up combination of basil, red pepper flakes, and cinnamon) accenting the rich thickness from both the cheese rind and the chicken stock. Mmmmm... leftovers never tasted so tempting!

With the success of one recipe from the book, I decided to try another:

Stracciatella or Roman egg drop soup is a milder version of the egg drop soup you've probably encountered at Chinese restaurants. The only seasoning here was a bit of parsley-infused sea salt, some freshly ground black pepper, and a dash of nutmeg. Otherwise, the flavor all came from that rich stock, an egg beaten with some local Parmesan-style cheese, and fresh kale. I've never been a huge fan of egg drop soup, but I could not stop eating this. Oh heaven!

Talk about some souper finds!

Stracciatella (Roman Egg Drop Soup)

From Full Moon Feast. I can't improve on this!

2 c chicken stock
sea salt to taste
1/2 c shredded leafy greens (kale, chard, spinach)
Parmesan cheese
1 egg
black pepper

Bring stock to a boil in a small pan. Season with salt. Add greens to broth.

Grate Parmesan and add to egg, beating the two together. Whisk the soup while you pour in the egg mixture. (The egg cooks immediately.)

Pour soup into a bowl, and garnish with fresh black pepper and nutmeg. Savor.

Makes 2 c

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