Yeah, I had never heard of it either.
Apparently, The Sister's Fiancé grew up with the stuff, and so (not entirely sure how this happened) I decided to make it. I went on a hunt for recipes, and talked with him about what it's supposed to be like - the hope being to come up with a recipe at least somewhat like the traditional soup he remembers - the only hitch is, he's currently in a different state, and cannot taste what I make or give much direction in what I'm doing.
Still, with some basic ideas in my head, I decided to do a test-run of the soup.
I started off Saturday morning with a jog - it was crisp and cool, and the perfect way to get myself going. I followed that up with a big bowl of Oh She Glow's Carrot-Cake-Oatmeal (holy crap, does that girl make some good hot cereal!), and a round of disc golf with The Boyfriend. By that time the dew was gone and the sun was just beginning to warm things up. On our way back, we stopped at the Cider Mill for fresh apple cider and pumpkin doughnuts. Seriously, does life get any better than this?
After that it was off to The Mother's, where I was greeted by this:
(Morning Glories climbing up the gutter spout.)
(Cody, with his 'Critter' toy.)
And all sorts of late-summer produce fresh from the garden:
(Heirloom, Roma, and Cherry tomatoes - this is only one of the baskets!)
(Green Beans and Dragon Tongue Beans.)
What a glorious day, indeed! It was all bolstering my confidence, leading up to the soup. Even getting stuck in traffic and then having to go back because I'd forgotten my purse couldn't dampen my mood.
I was kind of just winging it, so I'll give you the run-down of the recipe and what I did, with notes and any changes I would make in italics.
Green Bean Soup
Attempt # 1 *Ding!* and she's off!
Ingredients (makes about 4-6 servings):
1 lb. fresh green beans, ends cut off, and cut into 2 inch pieces (this was way too big - next time I'll trim to 1 inch)
1 lemon, juice of (I didn't think of it this time around, but would add it next time)
2 TBSP extra virgin olive oil (or other cooking oil), separated
1 large onion, cut in half (I used yellow, but Vidalia or red would work fine as well)
1 Poblano pepper, seeds removed ( next time I would use 2 of these)
1 Seranno pepper (here I was careful to remove all the seeds)
3 large carrots, cut into thick 1 inch juliennes
1 cup Greek yogurt (I used full fat, but others would probably work as well. You could also substitute with sour cream, or even cream cheese. If you use cream cheese, you may have to add a little more liquid.)
2 TBSP butter
2 TBSP flour
6-7 cloves garlic, minced (sounds like a lot, but I used a little less and it was hardly noticeable)
1 TBSP (plus more for garnish) Paprika
1 1/2 tsp. cumin
Lots of kosher salt, and fresh cracked black pepper
Optional: 1/4-1/2 tsp. cayenne pepper (I know it sounds like a lot of hot peppers, but the finished product was still verging on bland. In fact, I intend to use more peppers next time, or leave some of the seeds in, for a nice kick.)
A quick note: Many chefs will tell you, the proper way to season is to salt at every stage of cooking. This is called seasoning in layers, which I very rarely do - however, for some unknown reason, every stage of this dish seemed bland. I seasoned liberally, and at the end added even more. Don't be afraid of the salt, here. Remember that you'll be making a roux and cream sauce at the end, and all the seasoning going into the dish will have to flavor a large amount of finished soup.
In a large pot, bring to a boil enough water to cover the green beans. Generously salt the water, and add the juice of 1 lemon. Once the water is boiling, add the green beans and cook until just al-dente. (If the green beans are getting over-cooked sitting in the hot water, you can remove them to an ice bath, but be sure to save a few cups of their cooking liquid for later in the recipe).
Slice peppers into halves or quarters, removing stems, seeds (according to how much heat you like), and veins. (Note: be sure to wear gloves when handling/de-seeding hot peppers.) Roughly chop 1 half of the onion.
Heat over medium-high 1 TBSP oil in a large pan. Once the oil is glistening, add the peppers (skin side down) and chopped onion. Add a large pinch (about 1 tsp.) kosher salt, and let them char/sauté for a several minutes, stirring occasionally, until slightly blackened.
Reduce or turn off the heat, and add to the pan the garlic, cumin, and paprika, and cook just long enough to toast the spices. Be careful not to burn the garlic.
Remove (with fork or tongs) the Poblano pepper and set it aside. Transfer the rest of what's in the pan to a food processor.
To the food processor, add 1/4 cup of the green-bean cooking liquid, and another small pinch (1/2 tsp?) salt. Blend until smooth, and set aside.
Return the pan to medium-high heat, add the second TBSP oil, and once it's hot add the carrots. Then pour (watch out for steam) 2 TBSP water into the pan - stir it around and then let it cook until the water has evaporated.
Meanwhile, slice the second half of the onion into 1/2 or 1/4 round rings. Once all the water has steamed off of the carrots, add the onions and sauté on high enough heat to develop some char to the carrots, and color on the onions. Add another large pinch of salt, and cook until carrots are just barely tender.
Dice, very finely, the cooked (and now cooled) Poblano pepper. I used the tines of a fork to help hold the slippery pepper in place, and also to guide my knife for very uniform little juliennes. Then I chopped the slices into very small bits, big enough to be seen throughout the soup but small enough not to give too much of a kick to any one bite. Add this to the pan with the onion and carrot right at the end of cooking, then transfer the contents of the pan to a bowl and set aside.
Return the pan back to low heat, and add 2 TBSP butter and, as the butter melts, 2 TBSP flour. Stir together in the bottom of the pan to make a roux. You want it to be smooth, and cooked long enough that it starts to turn a little brown and all the uncooked flour flavor gets, well, cooked out.
In a bowl, combine the yogurt with 1 cup of the reserved green bean water. Add the food processed peppers to this, and then add the whole thing to the roux in the pan. Add salt.
Bring to a simmer (but not a boil) for several minutes, stirring frequently, until thickened. Add the carrots/onions and green beans. If the cream is too thick, and it's looking more like a casserole than a soup, add more water. If it's too thin, let it simmer longer to reduce down. (I initially added 1.5 cups water to mine, and it looked too thin. Because I already had the veggies in and didn't want it to over-cook, I added some water/cornstarch mixture to thicken it up. Well, thicken it up it did! After I turned off the heat the whole the kind of coagulated... whoops. I suggest if it really is too thin, and reducing it down just isn't going to cut it, to add more yogurt, or possibly more flour (be sure to let it cook for a few minutes) to make it a little creamier).
Add salt to taste, and lots of cracked black pepper.
Garnish with a dash of paprika.
This was really quite tasty, but was amazingly mild considering the amount of spice and salt I'd added. It really is important to salt, season, and taste every step of the way with this.
The Sister and I were in agreement about more hot peppers (and perhaps different varieties - her Fiancé has now promised to send some New Mexican green chiles for me to play with) and more garlic and spices. The whole thing needed to be bumped up a notch. I think, even with more hot peppers, that a little bit of cayenne would give it just enough kick to make it through all the flour/butter/yogurt to the taste-buds.
Still, it was tasty, and the entire pot got eaten despite its surprising fillingness. Definitely room for improvement, but certainly not a bad start.
Not a bad start to the recipe, and not a bad end to my wonderful Saturday.
After making this soup with The Sister's Fiance (now husband), the primary change that we made was to add New Mexican red chiles. We used both dried chiles, pulsed along with their seeds in a blender until powdered, and New Mexican Chile Powder - I'm sure using just one or the other would be fine. Add these chiles in adition to the rest of the hot peppers, and they lend a great depth of flavor (without too much spice) to the recipe.
The soup was a huge hit!