Avgolemono

29 Oct

I promised my friend that this week’s post would have something to do with stuffed peppers and tomatoes.  But the flu has caught us here in Stevens Point in its swift and ferocious grip, and so I must write about Soupa Avgolemono.

Whenever I felt under the weather, Yiayia would serve me a hot bowl of this soup. “It has all the nutrients that will make you better,” she’d say.  Last spring, when she was still able to travel to visit me in Wisconsin, I had the chance to serve her some soup when she was feeling a bit “a-thee-a-the-tee,” or “indisposed,” her word for almost any ailment.

It wasn’t Avgolemono, but I did my best.  I threw in this and that: some broth, the little bit of orzo left in the box, roasted garlic and cherry tomatoes, a touch of olive oil, a squirt of lemon, lots of sharp grated cheese, and some wilted basil leaves that I had revived with a spritz of water.

I waited with trepidation while she took her first cautious sip.  I was expecting her very expressive nose to wrinkle up in quiet but unmistakable censure.  But her nose remained smooth, and all remained quiet, until at last she looked up and asked if I had, by any chance, just a little bit more.

Fortified by this modest success, I soon after attempted Avgolemono.  It’s not a difficult, exotic, or inventive soup that would ever be featured in a Greek gourmet magazine, but a prosaic one that almost every Greek, child or not, turns to when and however indisposed.  And since I, too, am now under the weather, I think I will make a pot.

Yiayia’s (and every other Greek’s) Soupa Avgolemono

4 cups chicken broth (home-made, or low-sodium store-bought)

salt to taste

1/4 cup orzo (or rice, or vermicelli)

3 eggs

1 large lemon, squeezed (to yield about 3 Tablespoons lemon juice.  You can add more or less depending on your taste.)

3 Tablespoons corn starch

1/4 cup warm water

Optional: fresh dill

Bring the broth to a boil over medium-high heat, adding a bit of salt to taste (you will need much less salt if you are using store-bought broth).  Add the orzo, reduce the heat , and cook until tender (about 10 minutes).

Meanwhile, separate the egg yolks from the egg whites in two separate bowls.

Whisk the egg whites until light and fluffy. Lightly beat the egg yolks, and  then whisk them into the egg whites.  Slowly add the lemon juice, whisking, until smooth.

Take one cup of hot broth from the pot, and slowly, slowly add it to the egg-lemon mixture, whisking all the while, until the eggs are tempered (the sign for me is that the bowl is warm).

When the orzo is cooked, dissolve the corn starch into the 1/4 cup of warm water, then slowly add it to the pot, stirring until dissolved.  Continue simmering the soup for 2 or 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Turn off the heat.  Slowly stir the egg-lemon mixture into the soup until well-blended.  Turn the heat back on to very low, and simmer for one minute.  Do not let the soup boil, or your eggs will curdle, and your velvety-smooth soupa avgolemono will more closely resemble egg-drop soup.

Serve with chopped dill, or without.  I really like this soup with a beet salad and fresh bread!

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