Thursday, November 13, 2008

Green Bean Soup: Color Me Convinced

Thanksgiving is near and as I reflect on all that I'm thankful for in 2008, things as varied as change coming to the White House, no more diapers, and low gas prices, I must say that joining a CSA program has been a highlight of the year. Each week since May, my kitchen has been filled with fresh, organic produce, provided by Farmers Fresh Food. The glorious summer bags loaded with juicy sweet blueberries and homely but heavenly heirloom tomatoes were bookended with the greens of spring and the greens of fall. Chard and spinach filled the spring bags, while kale, arugula, turnips and lettuces came in the past couple months.

A consistent player throughout the late summer and fall has been the weekly one pound bag of green beans. Before this year, I only made green beans one way: cooked to death in pork stock, like any true Southern cook should. This method works very well for the flat, hearty Romano or pole beans that came in the summer. But what about the skinny, delicate haricots verts that are available now? Here's my latest discovery, and what a revelation it is, because it combines a technique and a vegetable that don't get much play in my house: green beans pureed into a soup. If you're still with me, then you're braver than I. Green bean soup sounds like baby food to me. Blech. We don't do those little jars in my house anymore. The kids eat real, whole foods, just like the grownups.

Facing an abundance of green beans and knowing that more would be in my near future, I made the soup and now I'm hooked. Try it. And if you think of a clever name to tell the kids, let me know. Both of my girls pronounced the soup delicious, although they weren't crazy about the name "Green Soup."

Green Bean Soup with Lemon Scallion Butter

Lemon Scallion Butter

1/2 cup chopped fresh scallions
1/4 cup unsalted butter
grated peel of one lemon
Two tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 small garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste

1 medium onion, chopped
1/4 cup unsalted butter
2 pounds green beans, trimmed and chopped
4 cups chicken broth, or vegetable broth
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste
1 cup cream or half-n-half, optional
Freshly ground pepper

1. To make lemon scallion butter, combine the first five ingredients in blender or food processor until well blended. Set aside.

2. To make the soup, cook the onion in the remaining butter until translucent. Add the beans and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the chicken or vegetable broth and salt. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and cook until the beans are tender, about 15 minutes.

3. Puree the soup in the blender, food processor or food mill. When using a food processor, I find it easier to remove the green beans from the broth with a slotted spoon and puree them until smooth. Put the pureed beans in a separate pot, adding broth until you get the consistency that you like. Warm the soup over low heat and add the cream, if you're using. The dairy is nice, but it mutes flavor and I like my soup intensely green and lemony.

4. Find your nicest soup plates and pour out a portion of the soup. Place a spoonful of the lemon butter in the middle of the soup. Makes about 4 reasonable servings.

In fall and winter, this soup is perfect with homemade buttermilk biscuits with shavings of good quality ham. In spring, I'd go with a chicken salad sandwich on white bread, cut into triangles.

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