I just got back from a very important wedding in St. Louis, where I ate frozen custard twice and, in one memorable sitting, twelve tea sandwiches. Today marked my third visit to LAX in the past week, and between that and the general fattiness lining my mouth I was hoping to make something light and simple.

So this is the soup I made after a nap, when I could fathom leaving the apartment and getting nice green beans at the store. Whatever other spring vegetables you like in a soup would be ideal here, obviously. The part of this recipe to steal is the leek-tarragon-lemon-parsley part. And maybe also the couscous and the chickpeas, they’re very nice. The part you can futz with is the specific veggies. I really wanted green beans in there, so that’s what I bought. I also had some peas and artichoke hearts in the freezer, so I used those too. What else. Really fresh little carrots, zucchinis, spinach, asparagus. Asparagus would be great. If I had had any of those things I would have used them, but I stuck with beans, peas, and artichoke.

If you steep the tarragon in the soup as it simmers you get a delicate licorice flavor without bits of dried herb floating around. The lemon zest at the end complements that sweetness, and with a little grassy parsley in there the result is a very subtle, fresh, soup.

Spring Vegetable Soup with Lemon
serves 4-5, depending on how hungry they are

Soup base:
1 T olive oil
3 leeks sliced and washed thoroughly
2 stalks celery, sliced
7 C vegetable stock
1 t dried tarragon

Here are the approximate veggies I used–go wild:
2-3 C green bean pieces (about 1″ long)
2/3 C green peas
2/3 C chopped artichoke hearts

Finish with:
1/2 C israeli couscous or orzo
1 can chickpeas
zest of half a lemon
1/2 C chopped parsley

Heat the olive oil in a dutch oven or soup pot over medium high heat. Add the leeks and a big pinch of salt. Stir those around while you prepare the celery, then add it as well. Saute until the veggies are wilted, and add the stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer.

Stick the tarragon in a tea infuser and pop it in the soup. (This is sort of like a bouquet garni, which I have never made because I am lazy–a tea infuser, however, is very easy.) Then add the green beans. From this point the soup cooks 20 minutes–that’s if you like a tender but not mushy green bean. I have grown to loathe squeaky green beans so I go out of my way to cook them thoroughly.After ten minutes, add the peas, artichoke hearts, couscous, and chickpeas. Bring back to a boil, and reduce again to a simmer for the final ten minutes.

Turn off the heat. Stir in the lemon zest and parsley and serve immediately. A baguette wouldn’t be inappropriate.

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