Today is officially the first day of spring and what better way to celebrate than to hit the farmers' market and see what is available. Here in Southern California we are fortunate to have beautiful produce at our fingertips routinely, and one special treat that is here briefly is young garlic. Garlic may be available year-round, but the season for young garlic is terribly short, only a few weeks in spring and early summer. At a recent jaunt to the farmers’ market I stumbled across a crate of these naked-looking new bulbs, soil still clinging to their roots and stalks. Their nearly skinless, barely formed cloves have a crunch similar to Granny Smith apples. These immature heads when harvested early are filled with a milky juice that is both pungent and sugary.
For the time-pressed cook, young garlic has a practical payoff: there is no need to remove the annoying raspy skins, as with mature garlic. You can slice and sauté an entire head like an onion, and the green parts of the young garlic are also edible. Young garlic is an excellent candidate for soups, roasting alongside meats and puréeing for mashed potatoes, aioli and the like.
Coming away from the market with new found inspiration as well as a bunch of beautiful young garlic, some spinach and a couple of potatoes, I rushed home and got cooking.
Young Garlic & Spinach Soup
Inspired by Heidi Swanson
- 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
- 3 young garlic bulbs with green stalks, bulbs cut into small dice, and green stalks sliced into 1 inch lengths*
- 2 russet potatoes, unpeeled, ½ inch dice
- 1 bunch spinach
- 1 quart chicken stock
- ¼ cup crème fraîche
- ½ tsp. freshly ground nutmeg
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
Start by washing the spinach really well in several changes of water. Spinach tends to hold dirt on the leaves and stems. Rinse until the water runs clear. Set aside.
In a good sized soup pot melt the butter over low heat until it is softly foaming. Add the young garlic, stems and all and cook until softened and translucent, 5-8 minutes. Add potatoes to the garlic along with the stock and simmer, covered for 20 minutes until potatoes are tender. Take off the stove and add the spinach, stir in until wilted. Purée in small batches using a conventional blender (or you can use an immersion blender if you have one). If using a conventional blender use caution. The hot liquid can create pressure and burst out of the top. To insure against this, use a kitchen towel over the lid holding down firmly. Once puréed add back to the pot and heat gently. Whisk in crème fraîche, add freshly grated nutmeg and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Serve, garnished with chive blossoms if desired.
*If you have trouble finding the young garlic, a substitute of 1 bunch green onions and 3 cloves of garlic would be fine