Long-forgotten favourites lettuce soup, honey flummery get new twist
Food columnist Julie Van Rosendaal tests out a cookbook of fresh versions of old recipes
New York food writer Tamar Adler became one of my favourite food writers with her first book, An Everlasting Meal: Cooking with Economy and Grace, a meditation on day-to-day cooking and eating.
In it, she makes practicality pleasurable, writing about feeding ourselves well by leaning heavily on the remnants of previous meals. She inspires the reader to revisit even the most familiar and mundane cooking methods with a new perspective.
In this week's column, I offer two takes on her recipes for lettuce soup and honey flummery.
- For more of Julie Van Rosendaal's tasty dishes, bookmark cbc.ca/juliesrecipes
In Something Old, Something New: Classic Recipes Revised, Adler reintroduces long-forgotten dishes, recognizing their potential and bringing them back into our current culinary consciousness with historical and cultural references and explanations.
Beyond kitschy, trendy-again dishes like devilled eggs and cream pies, she unearths classic recipes from their fussy sauces and garnishes, rethinks their ingredients and revisits techniques and polishes them off to in a way that makes the reader wonder why they were lost to begin with.
Chapters are devoted to specific dishes and ideas, but Adler devotes an entire chapter to soup: a staple all over the world, made frugal or fancy depending on the pantry and occasion.
"Probably the lightest of this category is cream of lettuce soup," writes Adler, "which once went by titles as regal as a tiara: lettuce à la crème, lettuce à la reine, cream of lettuce Bostonienne, velouté of lettuce Sevigné."
Yes, you can make a tasty soup out of those out-of-control heads of lettuce in the garden, or even those wilting in your fridge, rendering them less than salad-worthy.
The whole operation is quick, Adler says, and the result even better the next day. Improvisation is welcome; a handful of English peas or asparagus give lettuce soup more substance, as do a few small new potatoes, simmered until ultra-tender along with the lettuce.
- ¼ cup salted butter.
- 1 small onion or the white part of one leek, chopped or sliced.
- Kosher salt.
- Handful of fresh parsley, chervil or cilantro, or 8 to 10 fresh tarragon leaves.
- 3 to 4 cups water.
- 2 or 3 heads of Boston, romaine or other green leaf lettuce, about 340 g, chopped.
- 2 tbsp heavy cream, optional.
- Little croutons, for optional garnish.
Melt half the butter and sauté the onion, adding salt at the start. Use medium-low heat until completely tender, adding a little water if it threatens to brown.
Add the herbs and mix through.
Add the water, bring to a boil, then add the lettuce and lower the heat to a simmer. Cook for two minutes.
Purée in batches in a blender until completely smooth. Be careful; it will be hot.
Return to the pot over low heat and add the remaining two tablespoons of butter and the cream, if using.
Season with salt.
Serving: Hot or cold and garnished if you like with little croutons.
Another of my favourite chapters in this book tackles dessert, from Charlotte Russe to Baked Alaska, including the history of each.
But I couldn't resist making a honey flummery. This version of the 17th century British moulded pudding is set with plain gelatin. That's like an Italian panna cotta, although there are versions that are more like packaged puddings, thickened with cornstarch, flour and eggs.
It's light and summery, and could be topped with seasonal fruit in place of the meringues and pistachios, although the latter options add a satisfying saltiness and crunch.
If the flummery in my photo looks a bit firm, it's because in the heat and my rush to pack for summer holidays, I left the stand mixer beating the cream for too long, turning it to butter.
So pictured is a firmer flummery without the whipped cream folded in. It still tasted fine.
This recipe is from Something Old, Something New: Classic Recipes Revised by Tamar Adler.
- 2 cups whole milk
- 1 envelope unflavoured gelatin.
- ¼ cup cold water.
- 2 egg yolks.
- ¼ cup honey.
- 2 tbsp sugar.
- 1 cup heavy cream, whipped.
- Vegetable oil for greasing mould, optional.
- Crushed pistachios.
- Crushed meringues.
- Orange or tangerine zest, optional.
Heat the milk in a saucepan over low heat.
Sprinkle gelatin over water in a wide bowl to bloom.
In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, honey and sugar. Once the milk is just hot, ladle a little into the yolk mixture to temper, then add the yolk mixture to the pot of milk.
Stir over low heat until creamy. Move from the heat and add the bloomed gelatin.
Transfer to a large bowl and chill if you like over a bowl of ice, until it's the consistency of cream.
Fold in the whipped cream and pour into a well-oiled one-½ to two-quart mould. Alternatively, as I did, pour into individual serving bowls and then you don't have to worry about taking it out of the mould to serve.
Chill covered overnight. Take it out of the mould and top with crushed pistachios, meringues and zest.
Serving: Six people.
Listen to Julie Van Rosendaal on her experiments with fresh takes on old dishes:
- MORE RECIPES | Try these yummy ways to bake desserts with peaches
- MORE RECIPES | Explore French cuisine with the family and these flaky croissants
- MORE RECIPES | Spicy cheese Syrian fatayer a savoury sample of Islamic world cuisine
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With files from the Calgary Eyeopener.