chilled spring greens soup with crispy prosciutto

chilled spring greens soup on

Today, I have for you a chilled spring greens soup with crispy prosciutto. I love this soup because it’s easy and delicious and a great reminder of how being wrong can sometimes save the day.

If you’re anything like me, you’re not necessarily fond of being wrong. Especially in front of other people. But, in it’s own serendipitous way, this soup proved me wonderfully wrong on two occasions. 

chilled spring greens soup on

It’s based on a chilled green soup I had at Frenchie in Paris a few weeks back. If you’re not familiar with Frenchie, you might not know that obtaining a reservation here is a major logistical feat. Or that on any given evening, the sidewalk outside is awash with Beautiful People, smoking and laughing and being generally very sexy and French. I’d scoped it out several times before deciding it couldn’t possibly live up to all the hype and striking it off my list. 

To be perfectly honest, I was intimidated by the effort required to secure a table. And all that sexy Frenchness. 

chilled spring greens soup on
chilled spring greens soup on

But when the lovely Sarah Pank, chief miracle-worker at Apartments Actually, managed to snag us a reservation, I wasn’t about to say no. Accepting her gracious offer was one of the smartest things I’ve done recently because, friends, that meal was phenomenal. All seven gorgeous courses of it. Working my way through crisp, seed-crusted cauliflower and silky foie-gras with apple confit and fresh berries with herbed ice cream, I savored every second of having my assumptions overturned.

A highlight of the meal was one of the the amuses-bouches: a tiny earthenware cup of chilled green soup, garnished with edible flowers, crunchy cured ham and creamy feta. It tasted like spring. When Beth suggested we try to recreate the soup as part of a lunch for our retreat guests, I was skeptical. It’s too cold out for a chilled soup. There’s no way we can come up with something as magical as the Frenchie version! Do people even like cold soup anyway?!? 

chilled spring greens soup on
chilled spring greens soup on

Beth gently insisted and I decided it wasn’t worth arguing over. The green soup I ended up making was fresh and bright. A riff on the classic marriage of peas and ham, in a springier incarnation. We garnished it with a few drops of pistachio oil and crumbles of salty jambon de Bayonne from the market. It was my favorite part of the lunch. 

So in addition to being fresh and light and just the sort of thing I want to eat on a warm spring day, this soup serves as a reminder that I don’t know nearly as much as I think I know. And that that’s a wonderful thing.

chilled spring greens soup on

P.S. The Paris culinary retreat sold out in record time. (Thank you all for your wonderful support!) A lot of you wrote me asking about upcoming trips, so I wanted to let you know I've got details on the Portugal retreat headed your way next week. If you're not already on my mailing list, sign up here to get priority notice for all upcoming tours and events. XO!

Chilled Spring Greens Soup with Crispy Prosciutto

Chilled Spring Greens Soup with Crispy Prosciutto

  • 5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • ½ a medium fennel bulb, diced
  • 1 teaspoon coarse sea salt, divided
  • 3 medium zucchini
  • 1 large bunch spinach (about 1 lb), rinsed and tough stems removed
  • ½ cup loosely packed flat leaf parsley
  • 2 cups English peas (from about 2 lbs. unshelled peas)
  • 1 small head green garlic (or 2 cloves regular garlic), thinly sliced
  • 2 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar
  • 6 very thin slices prosciutto (serrano ham, jambon de Bayonne and pancetta are great also)
  • Pistachio oil, to garnish (or good quality extra-virgin olive oil)
  • Edible flowers, to garnish (I used borage, chervil and thyme flowers from my garden)

*Notes: Feel free to substitute herbs for the edible flowers. You’ll want to use more delicately flavored herbs so they don’t overwhelm the soup. Fennel fronds, tarragon, thyme leaves, small mint or basil leaves, or a few snipped chives would work well.

- If you don’t plan to eat all the soup at once, add the lemon juice and vinegar only to what you plan to eat at one sitting. They will cause the soup to lose its color if added too far in advance. (It tastes fine, but looks a little drab.)

- For a vegetarian or vegan version, substitute a creamy feta or some finely-chopped pistachios for the prosciutto.

chilled spring greens soup on

Heat 4 tablespoons of the oil in a Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed stock pot over low heat. Add the fennel and half the salt. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until very tender, about 20 minutes. You don’t want the fennel to brown. Add the zucchini and cook for 5 minutes. Add the spinach, parsley, peas, garlic, the remaining ½ teaspoon salt and 3 cups of water. Raise the heat to medium and cook, covered, until the spinach has just wilted and the peas are tender, about 5 minutes longer. Take care not to overcook the vegetable or the soup will lose its bright color.

Remove the soup from the heat and puree in a blender in batches until very smooth. Take care not to fill your blender more than ⅔ full so the steam from the soup doesn’t blow the top off and burn you. If you don’t have a blender powerful enough to puree the soup very fine, strain it through a fine mesh sieve. Transfer the pureed soup to a large bowl, thin with cold water to your desired consistency and place in the fridge to cool completely.

Remove the soup from the fridge 30 minutes to one hour before serving so it can warm up a bit. (When it’s ice cold, it looses some of it's depth.) Add the lemon juice and vinegar just before serving. Taste and add more salt and/or acid as necessary.

While the soup is warming up, crisp the prosciutto. Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil over medium heat in a large sauté pan. Add the ham and cook, turning once or twice until crisp, about 5 mins. Transfer to a  paper towel lined plate to cool slightly.

To serve, ladle the soup into serving bowls and garnish with a swirl of the pistachio (or olive) oil. Top with edible flowers and serve with the crispy prosciutto.

Makes 6 first-course servings.

chilled spring greens soup on

cracked crab with three sauces

cracked crab with three sauces on

I am currently knee deep in boxes and bubble wrap. On Monday, Beau and I signed a stack of papers that was at least two inches thick, which made this whole house buying business feel awfully real. The keys to our little bungalow will be in our hands tomorrow.

As you can imagine, I haven’t had much time to cook. Beau and I have been subsisting on scrambled eggs with whatever vegetables we have rolling around in the fridge and a couple tablespoons of Boursin thrown in. (On a side note: If you’re going to eat the same meal over and over again, I highly recommend this one. Scrambled eggs with Boursin is pretty sexy and it only takes five minutes to make!)

So, as I was saying, packing and paper-signing and calling movers and selling a ton of crap because our new house is smaller than this one hasn’t left me a ton of time to cook. But tomorrow is New Year’s Eve and I couldn’t imagine leaving you without a recipe for ringing in the new year!

cracked crab with three sauces on

May I propose the Cracked Crab Supper. This is our annual Christmas Eve meal, but it would make an equally fine New Year’s Eve spread. I look forward to cracked crab all year. We cover the table in newspaper, boil up a huge pot of Dungeness and serve a variety of sauces alongside. Everyone gets a crab cracker and a pick. Plates are strictly forbidden. After the meal, we roll the whole glorious mess into the newspaper and trot it out to the compost. Done and done. (Did I mention I love this supper?)

cracked crab with three sauces on

Fresh Dungeness bathed in melted butter feels quite luxurious. There’s also something about having permission to eat with your hands that feels  just a little bit naughty. Throw in a bottle (or ten) of champagne and you have the perfect meal for a New Year’s Eve gathering!

I wish you all a delicious end to 2015. And I look forward to writing you next from a new house and a new year!



Cracked Crab with Three Sauces

  • 6 Dungeness crab, 2-2 ½ lbs each
  • 1 recipe Sauce Verte (see below)
  • 1 recipe Spicy Smoked Paprika Aioli (see below))
  • 1 recipe Drawn Butter (see below)
  • 2 lemons, cut into wedges
  • Several pounds of ice

*Notes: For everything you ever wanted to know about cooking and cleaning Dungeness crab, I refer you to my friend Becky’s excellent tutorial. She is a fantastic chef and knows pretty much everything there is to know about sustainable seafood. 

- If you would rather not cook live crab, you might be able to sweet talk your fishmonger into killing and cleaning it for you in the shop. Take it home and cook it immediately as the meat deteriorates quickly. Of course, you can always buy pre-cooked and cleaned crab from the store, but it's never as delicious as freshly-cooked. 

- Some people serve whole crab and have their guests clean them at the table. I find this a little off-putting (read: gross) for those who are not die-hard crab lovers and seafood aficionados. I prefer to clean the crab and remove the innards before serving.

- The crab can be cooked up to 6 hours in advance. Store in the refrigerator until you’re ready to serve it.

cracked crab with three sauces on

Heat a large pot of generously salted water over high heat. If you do not have an extremely large pot, you will need to cook the crab in batches.

While the water is heating, fill a large bowl or pot (or a clean sink) with ice. If you are cooking the crab in batches, be sure to save some of the ice for the rest of the crab.

When the water comes to the boil, place as many crab as will fit in the pot. Be sure they are completely submerged. Bring back to the boil and cook for 15 minutes. Transfer the crab to the ice and cover with cold water. This will stop the cooking. Once completely cold, remove the crab from the ice water. Clean the crabs if you didn’t have your fishmonger do it. Dry thoroughly and store in the refrigerator if not serving immediately. 

If you want to eat your crab cold (like we do), just take it out of the fridge about 20-30 minutes before you plan to serve it to let it warm up a bit. 

If you want to eat it hot, steam the crab for 5-10 minutes just before serving. The time will vary depending on how large your crabs are and how cold they are when they go in the pot. Taste the meat often as you steam the crab to be sure you don’t overcook it.

Serve crab accompanied by sauces and lemon wedges.

Serves 6-8.

cracked crab with three sauces on

Sauce Verte

  • 1 cup parsley, chopped fine

  • 1/2 teaspoon thyme, chopped fine

  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped chives

  • 1 small clove garlic, minced

  • ¾ cup olive oil

  • 1 tablespoon capers, chopped

  • 2 ½ tablespoons lemon juice

  • Salt, to taste

Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl and stir to combine. Adjust seasonings to taste. Transfer to small bowls and serve alongside the crab. This sauce doesn't hold particularly well, so I recommend making it no more than an hour or two before you intend to serve it. 

Makes about 1 cup.

Spicy Smoked Paprika Aioli

  • 1 cup mayonnaise, preferably homemade

  • 2 garlic cloves, grated on a microplane or minced

  • 1 -3 teaspoons lemon juice, depending on whether your mayo already has lemon or vinegar in it

  • ¾ teaspoon smoked paprika

  • ¼ teaspoon cayenne, or to taste

  • Pinch fine grain sea salt

Combine all the ingredients in a small bowl and whisk to combine. Adjust seasonings to taste. Transfer to small bowls and serve alongside the crab. This aioli can be made up to 2 days in advance and will get spicier as it sits. Store, covered, in the refrigerator.

Makes about 1 cup.

cracked crab with three sauces on

Drawn Butter

  • 8 oz (2 sticks) high quality salted butter

Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat. Once melted, the butter will foam. Skim the foam then pour the butter into a clear heatproof container like a Pyrex measuring cup. Wait for the milk solids to fall to the bottom then carefully pour off the liquid butter, leaving the solids behind. You can use cheesecloth if you want your drawn butter to be extra clear. I usually don’t fuss with the extra step since it wastes some of the butter. Heat the drawn butter in a small saucepan just before serving. Transfer to small serving bowls and serve alongside the crab.

Makes about ¾ cup.