I hate summer. I hate its heat, its dankness, its sticky horrors. I grew up in Atlanta, and my parents are from one of the world’s hottest cities, which I visit
against my will frequently in their company. This is all just a long way of saying that summer and I have had our seven minutes in the closet. I’ll pass on a second round.
Of course, living in New York, it’s not my call. I hate what summer does to this city. I hate the steaming subway platforms, and the heightened smell of excrement, and how all my favorite parks foam with mosquitoes. I hate pressing my face into a neighboring armpit on an overcrowded bus. Sure, there are things that leaven it—ice cream, afternoon thundershowers, barbeques, tomato season, half-frozen beers pulled from the cooler, and the beach—but they don’t bridge the gap.
What I hate in particular is how hard summer makes it for me to cook in my apartment. Every meal involving the stove or oven is an ordeal. A boiling cloud of heat rolls through the air, and no amount of fans suffice. Even with the unit set to polar capacities, the air will not condition. Guests sweat, and sigh, and don’t come back next week for dinner.
But I have triumphed. For at least one evening every few days, I have a dish that passes muster. A dish that doesn’t take too long to make, and is refreshing when served chilled or hot from the pot. The ingredients and methodology of its making are, respectively, hilariously cheap and wondrously fuss-free. Even its name is a feat of linguistic economy (as words for food around the world often are).
Presenting avgolemono, the eponymous Greek soup. Avgo, meaning ‘egg,’ and lemono, meaning ‘pineapple.’ [Oh, how I tease]. The egg-lemon tincture is a marvelous emulsion, rich with sunny yellow colour from the yolks, and buoyant with soft, peaky whites. Tasting it, you find four layers: chicken, if your stock is of any pedigree; silk, from the rice or orzo simmered in the stock; the luxe taste of barely cooked eggs; a lovely sharpened spike of lemon.
In making this recipe, I have to credit the person whom I first watched make it; Mrs. K., the mother of my friend E. Having grown up in Istanbul, she calls it terbiye, but it’s the same idea. Avgolemono is a generous enough umbrella.
I liked it best the day after its making, plucked from the fridge, with a salad of roasted asparagus, baby lettuce, and pine nuts, a cold-brewed iced coffee, and a functioning air conditioner.
The recipe follows after the jump.
4 cups homemade chicken stock
1/2 cup rice or orzo (I used Arborio rice, left over from a bout of risotto)
2 eggs, separated
zest and juice of 2 lemons, or to taste
pepper, to taste
Over medium heat, bring chicken stock to a boil. Add rice or orzo, and cook, stirring every 1-2 minutes, until tender. As rice or pasta cooks, whip egg whites until the peaks are soft (for fledgling cooks, that’s beating it until the point where lifting the beater makes the whites rise into a shape like a Hershey’s Kiss). Gently fold yolks, lemon juice, and zest into the whites. Temper the eggs by slowly pouring in 3 cups of the stock, stirring constantly. Remove stock and rice or pasta from heat, slowly add tempered eggs, douse with pepper, and serve immediately.