Friday, April 25, 2008

Soup Among the Cherry Blossoms

Everything here is in bloom, fragrant with nectar and painting the yard with splotches of pigment that Monet would be proud of. With all this beauty and new life, I'm craving fresh, light and aromatic food. This soup cuts the chill of spring evenings while resounding the crisp and beautiful notes of springtime. For best results, enjoy in the garden at dusk.

Spring Mussel Chowder

12 oz. cleaned thinly sliced leeks (pale parts only)
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
12 oz. beer (preferably lager)
24 oz. water
3 lbs. of new zealand mussels, thawed, meat removed from shells and chopped, reserving shells
1 tbsp. dried thyme
2/3 cup orzo
1 cup fat free half and half
1/4 cup Pernod liquor
salt and pepper to taste
3 Tbsp. chopped fresh dill
1 barely ripe avocado, diced
18 grape tomatoes, halved

Saute leeks in butter in a stockpot over medium heat until translucent, about 8 minutes. Deglaze the pot with beer and water and bring to a boil. Add shells and boil 5 minutes. Remove shells and discard. Keeping the liquid boiling, add thyme and orzo. Cook until orzo is about one minute from al dente, then add chopped mussels. After one minute, turn off the heat and add half and half, Pernod, salt and pepper and dill. Place one quarter of the tomatoes and avocado in the bottom of a bowl. Pour soup over the mixture.

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