OPB’s “Superabundant” explores the stories behind the foods of the Pacific Northwest with videos, articles and this weekly newsletter. To keep you sated between episodes, Heather Arndt Anderson, a Portland-based culinary historian, food writer and ecologist, highlights different aspects of the region’s food ecosystem. This week she offers a recipe for creamy, citrusy avgolemono soup.
It’s officially Spooky Season, and that means it’s time for apples, pears, peppers and pumpkins — but it’s also still nice enough out for backyard cooking. Since the weather is so mercurial this time of year, we’re mainly grilling stuff that can be turned into cozier dishes; yesterday’s sunshiny grilled chicken with lemon and herbs becomes today’s rich and smoky soup stock. This week’s recipe takes full advantage of that wee bit of planning, but it does require one skill that any intermediate-or-above home cook should master — one that allows you to turn raw eggs into a creamy sauce without scrambling them. Do you know what it is? Read on to find out!
Greek Fest, Indigenous Peoples’ AND National Farmer’s days, plus what to do with green tomatoes, and good things in markets
Freshly picked morsels from the Pacific Northwest food universe:
Portland Greek Fest
This weekend (Oct. 6-8), come to the Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Cathedral, and get your fill of grilled meats, honey-drenched pastries, and plenty of “opa!” at the 70th annual Portland Greek Festival. If you prefer to avoid crowds or just want homestyle Greek food from the comfort of your own kitchen, try our avgolemono soup recipe at the end of this newsletter.
Indigenous Peoples’ Day
Oct. 9 is Indigenous Peoples’ Day, and we honor and thank Oregon’s first stewards, including the nine federally recognized tribes — Burns Paiute; Confederated Tribes of Coos, Lower Umpqua, and Suislaw Indians; Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde; Confederated Tribes of Siletz; Confederated Tribes of the Umatilla Indian Reservation; Confederated Tribes of Warm Springs; Coquille Indian Tribe; Cow Creek Band of Umpqua Indians; and Klamath Tribe — as well as the Chinook Indian Nation still fighting for federal recognition.
To learn more about the history of Oregon’s 60-plus tribes, watch the Oregon Experience episode “Broken Treaties.”
National Farmer’s Day
Oct. 12 is National Farmer’s Day! From developing dry-farming techniques to new centers for urban farming, Oregon has been at the forefront of agricultural innovation for more than a century, making the state one of the best places in the world to eat. The Oregon Farm Bureau’s searchable database can help you find ways to support your local farmer by buying directly from U–picks, farm stands, and farmers markets around the state.
In the ‘Superabundant’ garden this week
We’re at that seasonal crossroads where the cool-season herbs are going gangbusters, and the winter greens are starting to look very lush; on the contrary, summer plants are looking kind of peaked, but the forecast still shows some warm days ahead. This is when vegetable gardeners face that annual quandary: what to do with all those green tomatoes? If you’re truly ready to yank everything out for the year to make room for winter crops (or give the garden a rest), you can cut the entire tomato plant at the base and hang it upside down in the garage or basement if you want the fruit to slowly ripen (or in a warmer spot if you want them to ripen more quickly). You can also just pick the fruit and lay it all in a cardboard box (again, in a cool garage is best) and they’ll slowly ripen over the coming weeks. Just curb your expectations — even if they turn red, they’re not going to taste nearly as good as tomatoes that ripened on the plant. Of course, you can always eat them green — you can fry them for biscuit sandwiches, cube them to add to pork belly hash, and use them to make pickles.
With shorter days and cooler nights, persimmons have also begun turning orange. The crispy-sweet fuyu persimmons we grow are lovely sliced into salads and roasted with sweet potatoes. We still like to buy a few hachiyas, though, even though they need to blet into jelly before you can eat them, unless you want to try drying them for hoshigaki. Yes, hoshigaki has a relatively high failure rate, but you’ll feel like a champ if you can get the old-school fruit preservation method to work (pro tip: mitigate mold by splashing your hands in shochu or vodka before giving the persimmons their daily massage).
Good things in markets
We continue to be awed by the sheer variety of peppers, in every color, shape and heat level imaginable. The apples and pears are bowling us over with their fragrance — Portland Nursery’s Stark Street location has its annual array of 30 or so types of locally grown pomes in heirloom cultivars like Cox’s orange pippin as well as new varieties developed by the nursery for Northwest growers. It is also officially decorative gourd (and corn, and millet) season — we go for dual-purpose squashes like Black Futsu butternut squash and Jarrahdale pumpkins, which taste as good as they look. While you’re at it, pick up a bouquet of dahlias to add color to your tablescapes.
Recipe: Avgolemono soup
When the Portland Greek fest came up in a work chat last week, OPB’s resident Greek (and “Superabundant” narrator) Crystal Ligori mentioned that she’s been wanting to learn how to make avgolemono — the chicken noodle soup thickened with a silky, lemony egg sauce (the name avgolemono specifically refers to this egg-lemon sauce) — but said she was nervous about messing it up. The eggs have to be carefully tempered in a little bit of hot stock before stirring them in, but even though it sounds kind of complicated, it’s not at all difficult to accomplish with a little practice. Tempering the eggs is really the only way to prevent them from scrambling in the soup, and besides, once you master the technique, all manner of custards, curds and carbonara are in your future. Feel free to tune this soup according to your preferences; we like it with tiny pasta (in this case, stelline) but rice is also great, and we like chopped fresh dill on top (though oregano is also cool). Makes 6-8 servings.
Notes: If you’d prefer to use rice, sub the ½ cup of pasta with 2 cups of cooked rice. If you don’t want to make chicken stock from scratch, use 6 cups of low-sodium chicken broth and white meat from a rotisserie chicken. You can also use a chicken carcass left over from weekend grilling for this soup — just make sure you can get 2 cups of meat off it.
1 3-4 lb fryer chicken
2 carrots, coarsely chopped
2 celery ribs, coarsely chopped
1 small yellow onion, coarsely chopped
5 cloves garlic, smashed
3 bay leaves
1 tsp peppercorns
2 sprigs thyme
3 sprigs parsley (stems are fine) plus more for garnish
1 tbsp fine sea salt (plus more to taste)
½ cup orzo, stelline (stars) or other tiny pasta
¼ cup lemon juice (juice from 1 lemon)
Black pepper to taste
¼ cup chopped fresh dill
- Make the chicken stock by placing the chicken, carrots, celery, onion, garlic, bay leaves, peppercorns, thyme and parsley in a stock pot, then add enough water to cover the chicken by about 3 inches. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer and skim the foam off the top. Cover and simmer for 90 minutes.
- When the chicken is fully cooked and the stock smells rich and delicious, carefully transfer the chicken to a large bowl and strain the stock through a fine mesh sieve. Set aside 2 cups of the hot stock for tempering the eggs, then return 4 cups of the stock to the soup pot. Save the rest of the stock for another use.
- When the chicken is cool enough to handle, remove the breast meat and shred enough to make 2 cups. Reserve the rest of the chicken meat for another use and discard the bones.
- Bring the soup pot to a boil, then add the salt and the pasta. Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the package (around 8 minutes), then reduce the heat to low and return the shredded chicken to the pot.
- Here comes the fun part! Whisk the eggs in a medium-size heat-proof bowl until light and frothy. Whisk in the lemon juice, then keep whisking while you slowly (slowly!) pour in the 2 cups of reserved hot stock to temper the eggs until it’s fully incorporated. ALTERNATIVELY you can chuck the eggs into a jar with a lid, shake it furiously, then add the lemon juice (shake again) and finally the chicken stock (shake until frothy; seriously, really go for it with the shaking). Don’t worry if you get a few scrambled curds — you won’t be able to tell in the final product.
- Reduce the heat to low, and slowly stir in the egg-lemon mixture. Bring the soup to the lowest possible simmer and cook until creamy and thickened, another 1-2 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste, then serve topped with the fresh dill.