Alice Waters Taught Me All I Need To Know About Green Garlic Soup (with Sorrel)

I want to discuss green garlic again.

In one of the greatest cookbooks ever published, Chez Panisse Cooking, Alice Waters and Paul Bertolli write: “Garlic is commonly used as a mature plant when the bulb containing many cloves has formed. Green garlic is the same plant pulled from the ground at a much earlier stage, before the bulb forms and when the plant resembles a leek, with a stalk about 1/2 inch in diameter.”

That quote was probably my first introduction to green garlic. Though it may have been years later that I actually got my hands on any. Because even in Los Angeles, where we have year round access to the greatest produce in the world green garlic is only just now becoming fairly common at the springtime Farmers Market. To make this point I“ll quote Alice Waters once again: “Until recently, green garlic never appeared in the market and was largely unrecognized by cooks. The quality of green garlic is unique and of great use in the kitchen”.

So you see green garlic is not exactly a new ingredient to me, but it’s not exactly a staple in my life either. It took me a while but reading her words has made me a little bit obsessed with green garlic at the moment. So I am bringing it back for another look. This time in a soup. I have much to learn and Alice Waters may be the perfect teacher.

green garlic soup ingredientsIn the past, when I’d see green garlic I’d usually pick up and bunch and use it to start all kinds of dishes by chopping it up and sautéing it as part of a mirepoix like base. I honestly did not think much about it because I typically used it whenever I was throwing together somnething I was making up as I went along.

But recently I stopped myself. Turned off the autopilot and decided to taste green garlic, raw and unadorned.  I was impressed and completely agree with Alice Waters that “when cooked it has none of the hot, pungent qualities of fresh garlic cloves. Its flavor, although unmistakably associated with the mature form, is much milder.”

Although I did not say it at the time these quotes from Chez Panisse Cooking were what inspired me to choose green garlic as the subject of a Market Matters post a few weeks ago. I made a Green Garlic and Goat Cheese Souffle. It was the first time I had ever let green garlic have a center role in something I was making. But it won’t be the last.

Because today the sweetly mild notes of green garlic once again come front and center. Only this time I am going to use another quote from this revered cookbook and follow the advice of Alice herself.  Because Alice believes that “the flavor of green garlic is most clearly captured in a pureed soup made with new potatoes and finished with cream.”

Her version is close in concept to a pureed leek and potato soup. She substitutes the green garlic for the leeks and uses waxy red potatoes. The same potatoes I prefer to use when I make Leek and Potato Soup myself.

sorrelI can imagine how divine her soup must be. But I want to tread some new ground here. So I am going to make a soup that brings the sweetness of green garlic to the front. But I am going to make a much more rustic soup. I’ll use new potatoes, but I am going to use a creamy yellow-fleshed new potato. The skin of new potatoes is practically non-existent so I am not going to peel my potatoes. This will add to the rustic quality that will be further enhanced by roughly pureeing the soup rather than going for a smoother more silky texture.

I am going to add a touch of cream as does Alice Waters, but I am going to add mine after the cooking, and it really is going to be ‘just a touch’. I think the addition of just 2 T of fat at the end will bind the flavors in my soup without giving the impression of a cream-based soup.

Lastly I am going to swirl a couple of de-veined sorrel leaves into the hot bowl. Not enough to flavor the broth, but the bright sour bite will be an unexpected touch and will keep your palate focused on the all the flavors in the bowl. Or so I think.

Green Garlic Soup with Sorrel serves 6 CLICK here for a printable recipe

  • 2 T grape seed oil
  • 24 stalks of green garlic, bulb and very pale parts only, roughly chopped
  • 1 large shallot, roughly chopped
  • kosher salt, as needed
  • 4 small young potatoes, such as yukon gold
  • 1 c water
  • 1 q chicken stock
  • white pepper to taste
  • 6 large sorrel leaves
  • 2 T cream
  • 2 T italian parsley leaves, minced
  • 1 T unsalted butter

green garlic soup with sorrelHeat a medium sized stock pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Add the oil, the green garlic and the shallots as well as a big pinch of salt. Cook stirring often until the vegetables have softened and a re very fragrant about 7 minutes.

Add the chopped potatoes. If you are using a young thin skinned variety there is no need to peel (but you may if you prefer. Get the potatoes well coated with the oil and cook 2 or 3 minutes to combine the flavors. Add the water and continue to cook until the pan is nearly dry, stirring often.

Add the chicken stock and bring the heat to low. Simmer about 1/2 hour until the vegetables are very soft. Stir the pot often and break up the vegetables as you work with the back of your wooden spoon.

Remove the pot from the heat, add the minced parsley leaves and let the soup cool somewhat before continuing. Using an immersion blender, process the soup until a chunky puree is formed. If you prefer a more elegant presentation you may take this all the way to a smooth puree. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and white pepper.

Using a paring knife slit the sorrel leaves on either side of the center stem to remove it.

To serve place both halves of a sorrel leaf on the bottom of each of six soup bowls. Reheat the soup to nearly a boil and then stir in a touch of cream and butter. Ladle the hot soup over the sorrel leaves in each bowl. Wait about 1 minute for the sorrel leaves to “cook”, then use a fork to bring them to the surface of the soup for presentation. Serve immediately.


Greg Henry