Memories of Greece and Greek food take so many shapes in my mind. The smell of the freshly brined olives wrapped in newspaper from the tiny island markets, the big lunches with my family in la Plaka or the Greek restaurants in Chicago where my stepfather lived and dined for many years, I am always transported back when presented with a bowl of Avgolemono, or lemon-egg soup. This is a wonderful soup with which to begin a holiday menu whether it be Easter, Yom Kippur, or just Sunday dinner served with a large Greek salad and baby lamb chops for the meat eaters.
This soup is tangy, thanks to the lemon, and creamy without needing cream. Dotted with a grain, rice, or orzo and specks of fresh parsley, the flavor is always fresh and minerally, and always satisfying. Avgolemono is traditionally made with fresh lemon, egg, and chicken stock, but can also be made with a rich vegetable stock, and with the addition of shredded mushroom stalks in place of the chicken. Because we have many friends and customers that do not eat meat, or meat with dairy, for both religious and dietetic reasons, I experimented with this recipe to omit the chicken and enjoyed the results.
2 tbsp. olive oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
5 cups garden stock, plus 1 cup water
1/2 cup orzo or rice
1 cup shredded and diced elephant foot mushrooms
3 tbsp. lemon juice
Fresh parsley for garnish
Heat the olive oil in a medium pot and saute the onions over medium-high heat, until they are soft and translucent–about 4-5 minutes. While the onions are cooking, bring another pot of salted water to a boil, and add the orzo or rice.
When the onions are ready, add the garden stock and water, reducing to a bare simmer. When the orzo or rice is nearly done — firm, but mostly cooked — drain the boiling water and add the pasta or rice to the garden broth. Add the shredded mushrooms to the pot. Let this cook 5-8 minutes, then taste the soup for salt.
Beat the eggs in a bowl. Whisking constantly, add the lemon juice to the eggs. You will need to temper the eggs before you add the egg-lemon mixture to the soup. You’ll need both hands to do this. With one hand, whisk the egg-lemon mixture vigorously. With the other, slowly pour in a ladle’s worth of hot broth. Do this at least twice.
Turn the heat off the soup. Whisk the soup with one hand while you pour the hot egg-lemon mixture in with the other. Serve at once, garnished with parsley. This will pair nicely with notes of citrus in a glass of Sauvignon Blanc from Raphael Vineyards.