Picnic Fever

Oh, it’s been too long since I’ve written anything. We went camping, and soon after that school ended for the boys and Joe took them on a road trip to Lake Chelan. While they were gone, I had absolutely no desire to do anything but revel in being alone with Lilli and taking it very very easy. That is not to say I haven’t been keeping busy though.

Even though the weather here in Seattle has been sort of lackluster–typical gray days with little bursts of warm drizzle–I have nevertheless fallen in love all over again with picnicking. I wish every meal could be a picnic, even though it is much harder to get a 9 month old to eat when she isn’t sitting in a chair. We picnic in parks, and on hikes and out of the trunk of the car. It’s pretty much the Best. Thing. Ever.

I’ve also been working quite a bit in the P-patch, and last week I pulled up a few stragglers of green garlic. I had some garlic planted last season that I had trouble pulling out, and so I just left it, knowing that it would grow back next time around and make wonderful sweet tender green garlic stalks. I have a friend who has always raved about her favorite green garlic soup recipe, and how good it is with a little bit of créme fraîche and some toast, so my plan was to give her a green garlic present and hopefully get an invite to dinner in return. Alas, she injured her back this spring, and while I did give her the green garlic, she has been too laid up to have guests. I decided I could dream up my own good recipe, and try it out for myself. I even perfected the required créme. And even though it wasn’t perfect picnic weather in the evening, we took it to the park and ate it on a blanket, out of real bowls, since the park is so close to our house.

I looked around for recipes for this miraculous soup and came across several, but most seemed to go back to just one, from Alice Waters. I didn’t have any new potatoes, but I did have a leftover baked potato, so I took the peel off of it and put it in to give it some body. This recipe produced a soup that wasn’t very, well, green. I know, I know. The “green” refers to the garlic itself. But I had pictured a green soup so at the end I decided to change that by adding a huge handful of the overabundance of rainbow chard I have growing out back. I have to say, I was rather pleased with how it turned out. Too bad I waited until the end of green garlic season to make it! I think I might try out a version with roasted garlic and baby onions because there won’t be any more green garlic this year. I’ll let you know how it turns out.

A-ny-way.

Back to the picnic. I paired the soup with some zucchini fritters, tomatoes in balsamic vinegar, and a rosé that Joe and the boys brought back for me from Eastern Washington. Oh, and a handful of kalamata olives. And for dessert we had cinnamon grahams smeared with dark chocolate ganache–kind of a fireless, more indulgent s’more. Well, really, I went for a run after dinner and Joe had dessert. Then I had a chocolate protein shake made with coconut milk, which is sort of dessert like. Oh well.

Green Garlic and Baked Potato Soup
adapted from a recipe by Alice Waters
serves 4 (if you don’t kill your blender making it and spill soup everywhere)

1/2 lb green garlic, white and light green parts only, in 1/2″ pieces
4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 medium sized baked russet potato, skin removed and cut into chunks
5-6 big leaves of chard, rinsed and roughly chopped
2 Tbsp olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 Tbsp or so heavy cream, sour cream or créme fraîche, plus more for serving

Heat the olive oil in a small stockpot. Add the garlic and turn down heat to medium, toss in a pinch of salt. Cover and let the garlic sweat for a few minutes, until it becomes fragrant. It’s OK if it browns a little. Brown bits just mean more flavor later.

Add the potato and the stock, and bring to a boil. Let simmer until the garlic is very tender, about 5-10 minutes.

Turn off the heat and stir in the chard. Cover and let it sit just a few minutes, maybe 5, until the chard is soft but still bright green.

Process in your blender in 3 or 4 batches, or with a stick blender if you happen to have one. Stir in your cream of choice, and serve. Don’t let anybody stop you if you want to take it out for a picnic, even though soup isn’t usually a picnic food. Bonus points for real bowls.

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One thought on “Picnic Fever

  1. Pingback: Butter and Jam | Kernels and Seeds

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