Saturday, January 10, 2009

Avgolemono (without the "avgo")

My father's parents emigrated from Greece early in the last century; he and his eleven - count 'em - brothers and sisters were born in Chicago, but Greek was his first language. Thanks to this heritage, my own siblings and I were exposed to foods like baklava, spanakopita, dandelion greens with garlic and lemon juice, and a number of other things that seemed fairly exotic in our primarily Catholic, Irish and/or French Canadian working class neighborhood. One of my all-time favorite things that my father used to make was a thick, pale yellow soup called avgolemono, which was sort of like cream of chicken soup as imagined on Mount Olympus. It was made with chicken stock, lemon juice, and an egg beaten in at the very end. Sometimes (but not usually) he would throw in some shredded, leftover chicken, but I never really watched the process. I just ate the results.

Years went by when I would occasionally think about recreating this soup, especially after my father passed away in 2007, but I never bestirred myself until a recent craving inspired me to make a workmanlike effort. I looked at a few different recipes and then winged it by messing around with a dash of this and a splash of that, and  it turned out really tasty: definitely a "make again." I think this version has the perfect amount of nice, bright lemon flavor, but you can adjust the tartness to suit your taste. Also note that the turmeric is purely for color, but few things are nicer than a bowl of cheerful yellow soup on a grey, wintry day: something comforting and delicious that makes you think of a warm, sunny place where figs and olives grow on trees. (NB this is particularly good if you have a cold, or are just in need of the liquid equivalent of a hug.)

~ 2 tbsp. Earth Balance, other vegan margarine, or olive oil
~ 1 cup chopped onions
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, dried parsley, marjoram
~ 2 tsp. dried dill (or a handful of fresh)
~ 1/4 tsp. turmeric
~ Fresh black pepper
~ ½  cup dry white wine
~ ½  cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice
~ 4-5 cups vegan "chicken" stock (I use Better than Bouillon)
~ 3 cups plain, unsweetened soy milk
~ 1 tbsp. corn starch or arrowroot powder
~ ½ cup long grain basmati rice, cooked in 1 cup broth
~ Optional additions: 1 cup cooked chickpeas and/or 1 cup frozen spinach, to be added after the soy milk and cooked rice

~ Cook the rice according to package directions and set aside.
~ In a large, deep pot, melt the margarine and sauté the onions and spices over medium heat for about 10 minutes.
~ Add the wine to deglaze the pan, stir, and cook another minute or two.
~ Pour in the lemon juice and the vegetable broth, and bring to a boil.
~ In a separate container, mix 1 cup of soy milk and the corn starch with a fork until smooth.
~ Add the soy milk mixture and the cooked rice, stir well, and then add the chickpeas and/or spinach, if using.
~ Add the remaining two cups of soy milk, mix well, and simmer over low heat another 10 minutes until thickened to your desired consistency, adding a little extra water or broth to thin if necessary.
Serve hot with crusty bread; add a green salad and a glass of wine for A Perfect Meal.


  1. WOW! That Soup sounds delish and it looks like a bowl of sunshine.
    Happy New Year btw.

  2. I just made this and it is really easy and so good! I love the clean lemony dill flavor at the start and the warm heartiness of the rice -definitely a bowl of summer on a cold wintery day.

  3. I'm so glad you liked it, Rachel. (It's currently helping me to survive this winter's Cold From Hell!)

  4. The first time I made this, I used the Rapunzel bouillon cubes and it was amazing, but VoR said the "Better than Chicken" really made it. So I went out bought some "Better than Chicken" and it is definitely a stronger flavored soup that turns up the deliciousness another few degrees! Thank you so much for sharing this delicious recipe!

  5. I love this soup so much. I make a "cheater" version and throw in TJ Harvest Grains (and call them Orzo :) ) when I have no rice handy and need a bit of a sunny lemony pick-me up and it turns out great. I also use frozen dill to really amp up the Greeky goodness. This is one of my absolute favorite soups - thank you for sharing it!

  6. I have messed around with your soup again! Tossing in the rice and a cup of lentils and letting them both cook in the stock is a perfect way to add cheap protein to your dinner and save a little time. This meal is amazing. And my toddler loves it. So you have six thumbs up from us!