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Chicory & Rice Soup With Lemon-Chili Relish

Simple, refreshing and perfect for a light springtime meal, this soup checks off a lot of boxes. I love soup year round, but I particularly love these fresh soups that can strike that tricky balance of being satisfying yet incredibly light at the same time. This soup highlights two of my favorite spring veggies- garlic scapes and curly endive (also known as frisée). Endive can be wonderfully bitter in flavor which makes it pair really well with bright flavors like garlic and lemon. I threw in some leftover cooked rice to help bulk this soup up and then topped it with the most luxurious lemon-chili relish. I cannot take credit for the relish as I was inspired to make this from Heidi Swanson’s cookbook Near & Far.  The relish calls for preserved lemons which I was lucky enough to pick up at our local farmers market from Blue Bus Cultured Foods, but you can grab a jar at most supermarkets or speciality food stores these days. And if you cannot get your hands on preserved lemons you can make the chili oil and then serve the soup with a drizzle of fresh lemon juice and zest.  There’s no rules with this recipe! It’s very forgiving.

Ingredients:

  •     2 Tablespoons unsalted butter or bacon fat
  •     1 large onion, finely chopped
  •     3 garlic scapes, finely chopped (or cloves)
  •     3/4 pound hot Italian sausage, casings removed
  •     fat pinch of salt
  •     1 bay leaf
  •     3 sprigs of fresh thyme (or 2 teaspoons dried)
  •     1/2 cup white wine
  •     4 cups of water
  •     3 cups cooked rice
  •     2-3 cups chopped chicory (endive, escarole, or radicchio)
  •     whole milk yogurt for serving
  •     salt and pepper for serving

Lemon-Chili Relish

  •     4 tablespoons olive oil
  •     1 garlic scape, finely chopped (or garlic clove)
  •     2 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes (add a bit more if you like a stronger kick)
  •     1 preserved lemon, rinsed, seeded and cut into small pieces

Directions:

  1. Heat the butter in a large saucepan over medium high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic scapes and cook for 1 minute longer. Add the sausage and use a wooden spoon to break the meat up a bit. Cook until it’s no longer pink on the inside and lightly browed. Add a hefty pinch of salt, the bay leaf and thyme. Pour in the wine followed by the water and bring to a low boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes. Add the rice and continue to cook for about 10 minutes longer. Toss in the chopped chicory and give the pot a good stir.
  2. While the soup cooks prepare the relish. Heat 4 tablespoons of olive oil in a cast iron skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and chili flakes and cook, tilting the pan a bit to swirl the oil and spices around until the chili flakes toast a bit and infuse the oil, about 5 minutes. Be careful to not burn the garlic. Remove the pan from the heat and add in the preserved lemon pieces, pressing them into the mixture with the back of a wooden spoon.
  3. Serve the soup with a dollop of yogurt, additional salt and pepper and a spoonful of the lemon-chili relish.
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