Tuesday, June 5, 2012

lovage, actually

Levisticum officinale (Garden Lovage) Otto Wilhelm Thomé

"I chose this for you because you seemed like the kind of person who'd be up for trying something new."

It's five o'clock on a drizzly Thursday afternoon and the line-up at Real Foods Fredericton  stretches through the small storefront and out the door.  Leah Antsis is walking me through the contents of my weekly grocery box. Among the still-crisp Honey Crisp apples, Chef Carson's new spring greens and the first local organic tomato of the season, she has tucked a Ziploc bag filled with fresh chives and... leaves that look like the sort of thing you'd yank out by the roots if you saw it growing in your garden.

Leah explains to me that it's lovage, that it has a flavour reminiscent of celery (the hollow stems make excellent straws for your Caesars, she says) and hands me a recipe for "Old-Fashioned Lovage and Potato Soup." Which of course I had to try.

One of the earliest cultivated herbs in European gardens this towering perennial giant (plants can reach 2m) gradually, and somewhat inexplicably I now think, fell out of fashion. 

Sunday was unseasonably cool and windy, the perfect time to try out the hearty soup recipe.  The key adjustment that I made to the recipe as Leah provided was using a leek instead of an onion.  Maybe it's Julia Child's influence but potatoes and leeks belong together.  I also used butter instead of olive oil (again... Julia Child made me do it.)

As promised the lovage gave a strong hint of celery to the typical potage parmentier but there was something else, something more complex.  There's a hint of anise, fennel and tarragon in there too.  It would be delicious with seafood or in stocks.  

And so, with a big thank you to Leah at Real Food Connections for giving me the original recipe and the inspiration,  here is the soup that has basically converted me into a one-woman Lovage Advocacy Council: 

the how to

Heat butter over medium-high heat and add thinly sliced leek. Saute until softened and add the potatoes and stir.

Add the stock and milk, lower the heat slightly and simmer until potato is softened. 

Add the lovage and liquefy the soup adjusting with more milk or stock if required.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and reheat.  Be careful not to let the soup boil.

Garnish with lovage leaves or snipped chives and serve with crusty bread.

No comments: