photo by Jamie Tiampo
First things first: This is a spring soup. It’s meant to be made when asparagus and fava beans are in season. Just because you can find these items in the supermarket in November, when they have been flown in from the other half of the world, doesn’t mean you should give them a second thought. Eat this soup when our half of the planet is awakening from its long winter nap and you’ll feel renewed, too.
That said, when I was finished preparing it, I worried that this light little soup might not be substantial enough to satisfy The Husband. Poring over the Italian cookbooks in my library, I came across several recipes for “bread dumplings.” Now, I have never met a dumpling I didn’t like, from gnocchi to pierogi, but these were news to me. Most dumplings require some sort of batter and a bit of prep time. I couldn’t believe you could get away with using bread as the batter. Turns out that bread dumplings are a snap to make and, even better, when I added them to the soup, they absorbed a ton of flavor from the broth and puffed up like little balloons. The Husband was happy.
Bread Dumplings (recipe follows)
1⁄2 pound shelled fresh fava beans or shelled fresh lima beans, or 12⁄3 cups thawed frozen limas or favas, or a combo
3 leeks (about 11⁄2 pounds)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 cups Homemade Chicken Stock (page 10, add preparation time) or canned broth
1⁄2 pound asparagus
1⁄2 pound small white mushrooms
2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano
1 cup shelled fresh or thawed frozen green peas
- Prepare the Bread Dumplings.
- If using fava beans, bring 1 quart salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the shelled fava beans and blanch for 1 minute; immediately transfer them with a slotted spoon to a bowl of ice and water to cool. When they are cool enough to handle, gently peel the skins from the beans.
- Trim off and discard the green parts of the leeks, leaving about 5 inches. Cut the white parts in half lengthwise and then into 1-inch pieces (about 31/2 cups); rinse them well and pat them dry.
- Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low; add the leeks and cook for 5 minutes, or until they have softened.
- Meanwhile, bring the chicken stock to a boil in a 4-quart saucepan. Trim the asparagus. Peel the bottom half of the stems if the stems are thicker than 1/3 inch; slice the asparagus crosswise into 1-inch pieces (about 11/3 cups). Clean, trim, and quarter the mushrooms (about 22/3 cups). Add the asparagus and mushrooms to the leeks and cook for 2 to 3 minutes more, or until almost tender. Microplane-grate the cheese (about 11/3 cups) or grate on the fine side of a box grater (about 2/3 cup).
- Add the leek mixture to the chicken stock along with the favas and peas. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low; add the dumplings and cook for 8 to 10 minutes, until they are cooked through. Stir in the cheese and serve.
Beat 2 large eggs in a medium bowl until frothy. Stir in 2 cups fresh white or whole wheat bread crumbs, 2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano (about 1 1/3 cups Microplane-grated or 2/3 cup grated on the fine side of a box grater), and 2 tablespoons chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves. Roll into 12 balls. Cook in the soup as directed above.