Avgolemeno (Lemon Orzo Soup)
Avgolemeno is a traditional Greek soup made with a few simple ingredients: chicken stock, lemon juice, egg, and orzo (a type of small pasta). The first time I tried it was at a Greek restaurant in Seattle that probably doesn’t exists any longer. It was a cool old place on Capital Hill, the kind of mom-and-pop joint with murals on the walls, surly waiters, and a popular cheese appetizer that they would set on fire and yell “Opa!” every couple minutes. In the years that I visited, I don’t think I ever ordered an entrée – I went strictly for the soup and hummus. It was a light dinner that I could count on to fill me up without weighing me down, and just the kind of meal I’ve been craving now that Spring is upon us. Both the soup and the hummus are very easy to make, low in calories, and high in flavor.
Avgolemeno (Lemon Orzo Soup)
- 6 cups chicken stock
- ½ cup orzo
- 3 eggs, beaten
- ¼ cup fresh squeezed lemon juice, from about 2 lemons (see How To for the best juicing method)
- 2 cups precooked chicken, shredded (optional)
- 2 Tbsp. fresh chopped parsley (for serving)
In a large soup pan over medium heat, bring chicken stock to a boil, then immediately reduce heat to low. Add orzo to stock and allow to simmer until soft, about 18 minutes.
In a bowl, whisk together eggs and lemon juice until combined.
Once pasta has cooked, carefully ladle about ½ cup of soup into the egg mixture, while whisking constantly. (This is called tempering. Eggs harden when they cook, so you need to slowly increase the temperature of the egg to keep it from scrambling.) Repeat with a second ½ cup, whisking constantly.
Remove the soup from the heat and slowly pour in the tempered egg mixture, whisking constantly, for about 5 minutes.
If you’re adding chicken, now is the time to do it. Stir until warmed through, about 2-3 minutes.
Ladle into preheated bowls and sprinkle with chopped parsley.
Hummus is an excellent source of protein, and tastes great when spread on sandwiches, mixed into salads, or used as a dip for veggies and pita bread. Sure, you can buy good hummus at the grocery store, but why would you when it takes 5 minutes and a food processor to whip some up at home?!
- 1 15-oz. can chickpeas, 2 Tbsp. canning liquid reserved
- ¼ cup tahini (see Notes)
- 2 Tbsp. fresh squeezed lemon juice (from about ½ a lemon)
- 2 gloves garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- ¼ tsp. Kosher salt
- Fresh cracked pepper to taste
- ¼ tsp. paprika, plus more for serving
- 1 tsp. fresh chopped parsley (for serving)
- Assorted cut vegetables, Greek olives, and pita bread for serving
In a food processor, combine all ingredients except parsley. Blend until smooth and creamy and no chunks remain, about 2-3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with paprika and parsley. Serve with cut vegetables, Greek olives, and sliced pita bread.
Notes: Tahini is a sesame seed paste that can be found in most grocery stores, either with the peanut butter, or sometime in the ethnic food section.
Juice a Lemon
Hand squeezing citrus (lemons, oranges, and especially limes) can be a frustrating ordeal. Up until a few years ago I was cutting the fruit in half, then using a spoon to basically mash the pulp into submission, with varying success. It wasn’t until I attended a cooking demonstration at a wine festival (of all places) that I learned this fool-proof method.
1) Cut one end off of the fruit, about ¼-inch thick:
3) Set a strainer over a small bowl and squeeze lemon, end piece, and 3 side pieces until there is no more juice left in the fruit. Brilliant, right?!
Sidekick: With this light meal a dry white wine would work best, such as a Sauvignon Blanc or a Pinot Grigio.