Inspired by my friend Betsy Williams’ intriguing lovage soup and lovage-lemon pesto, I decided to get better acquainted with this leafy perennial herb.
Lovage (Levisticum officinale) is widely cultivated throughout Europe and parts of Asia, but it’s not so common in these parts.
Fortunately, Gilbertie’s Herbs grows it (organically), so I was able to purchase a plant at my local garden center.
Once released from its little pint pot into fertile soil, my lovage leapt out of the ground.
This fuss-free plant looks like celery or flat-leaf parsley (it’s in the same family) on steroids. It grows 6-8′ tall in a season.
Lovage smells somewhat like celery, but the taste is much more complex. Celery, citrus, a little bit of anise, a little musky, it’s subtle, layered.
For a few years I snipped a few leaves for this or that but didn’t actually tackle a recipe.
I appreciated the circus of beneficial insects feeding in its yellow-green umbelliferous flowers, though.
This was my year to get better acquainted.
I was determined to actually follow Betsy’s recipe. As usual, I found myself substituting, improvising right from the start.
There’s a method to my madness, it’s the fun part of cooking.
- 2 tbs. herb butter
(Oops, all out of herb butter from Betsy’s improv herbal cookbook, Mrs. Thrift Cooks but I’ve got thyme growing in my front steps and a bit of parsley; that works)
- 1 large yellow onion, chopped
- 4-5 sturdy scallion greens, sliced
(Oops- no scallions around, but better yet, my back slope was full of ramps)
- 2 quarts chicken stock
- 3 medium Russet potatoes, peeled and chopped
(I had small Yukon Golds on hand, guessed the equivalency and added one for the pot, no sense making it too thin)
- 2 packed cups young, tender lovage leaves
(Too early in the season – my plant was only big enough to harvest 1 cup. But I had a cup of fennel fronds a few bits of celery greens and lots of chives)
- Salt and pepper
(my nice herb salt added yet more herby goodness)
Melt butter in heavy stock pot over medium-high heat. When it froths, reduce heat to medium and stir in green and yellow onions. Cook until fragrant, about five minutes.
Pour in chicken stock and stir in chopped potatoes. Simmer, covered, until potatoes are tender. Stir in lovage and simmer, covered, a further five or six minutes.
Remove from heat and puree with an immersion blender or in a blender. Season with sea salt (herbed) and freshly ground pepper.
It was getting late, I was tired, hungry and determined to dine on lovage soup.
I don’t have an immersion blender.
Big mistake: I dumped the entire contents of the stock pot into my cracked old Cuisinart. It’s great for making pesto, but liquids …
When I hit the switch, lovely, fragrant lovage soup immediately oozed out all over the counter and dripped to the floor.
Regroup: Dumped it back in the pot, cleaned up and started again.
This time I strained out the liquids and processed the solid parts in smaller batches.
The potato-herb puree was so delicious, I came close to eating it all before recombining with the broth.
Next time I’ll use even more potatoes to make a thicker soup – or just eat. I’ll bet it would be good as a cold soup, too, maybe with cream.
Now that it’s summer, I can walk out the back door to snip herbs growing within easy reach of the kitchen – and improvise to my heart’s content.
I hope you have fun improvising too.