My area's first farmers' market started last Saturday. And it's about time. When you live in a part of the world that is under a deep freeze for five months of the year, locally farmed produce simply can't appear fast enough. When the weather starts warming in April and May I start dreaming of fresh local ingredients. It seems like an interminable wait for the markets to get going in mid- to late June, but once they do, oh man. My kitchen fills up with things like spring onions and kohlrabi and green garlic and organic eggs from chickens who live a free-range existence at a heritage farm in the Cuyahoga Valley, only a few miles from my house.
I love the markets not only because it just makes sense to buy foods that don't have to traverse great distances to get to your table, but also because of the variety of produce available. You will have a hard time finding, say, garlic scapes at the grocery store. Just ask Husband, who recently traipsed around several states scouring supermarkets for spring onions on what turned out to be a fruitless search. With each store he visited came another text message: "None here. Just scallions." He even sent along this photo, snapped with his cell phone at the Manhattan Fruit Exchange in Chelsea Market, along with the query, "Green bulb onions? Same thing as spring onions?"
Those green bulb onions look great, to be sure, but spring onions they are not. However, five minutes into this year's first farmers' market visit I spied a card table laden with bunches of spring onions. "You are my hero!" I exclaimed to the startled grower, more than just a little melodramatically. I bought a large bunch for $2 and happily skipped along to the next table, where there was a man selling homemade date-nut rolls. Perfect.
I had planned on sharing this recipe last month but couldn't, thanks to the aforementioned paucity of spring onions in my life. I tucked the recipe away, certain it would have to wait until next year, when I could maybe grow my own. But the farmers of Northeast Ohio had different plans for me and my spring onion soup recipe. And for that I thank them: this is a tasty and simple soup, reliant on little but the flavor of the fresh onions for its delicious bite. As you eat it, you will begin to dream of what you will find at the market next week, and what you might be able to do with it.
So, spring onions: check. Now I await the gorgeous spicy crop from my local garlic farm.
SPRING ONION SOUP WITH BRIOCHE CROUTONS
Of course you can make croutons from any bread you like. I happen to have a loaf of brioche in the freezer and find that their crispy buttery crunch adds a pleasing textural dimension to this flavorful soup. Whatever bread you do use, just cut a few slices into one-inch cubes, toss with a tablespoon of olive oil and a pinch of kosher salt and black pepper, then toast in a 325-degree oven for 5-7 minutes.
One more note: this recipe doubles very easily, should you purchase more than one bunch of spring onions at the farmers' market.
2 T. olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 bunch spring onions, trimmed and sliced thinly (about 1 c. sliced)
1 c. chicken stock
1/2 c. water
1/2 t. kosher salt
1/2 t. dried thyme
Brioche croutons, to garnish
Place 2 T. of olive oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add the spring onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions soften a begin to take on a slight golden color, about 15 minutes.
Add the chicken stock, water, salt and thyme and stir to combine. Simmer the soup for 15 minutes, uncovered, stirring occasionally. Using an immersion blender, process the soup until smooth. (You can use a regular blender for this step, if you don't have an immersion blender.)
Serve with a few brioche croutons and a drizzle of olive oil.
Serves 2 as a first course.