With today’s blenders and food processors, this springtime soup is a snap to make. Quenelles are classic French dumplings. Most often made with fish (though there are chicken, meat and vegetables versions), they’re light as air – actually a mousse made with fish, and a bit of cream lightened with egg white. In times past, making quenelles involved pounding and forcing through fine sieves; now food processors do it in seconds. Forming the classic oval shapes with spoons is fun, but takes some practice; use a small ice cream scoop or spoons to form balls if you’d rather. And the spinach soup is also delicious without quenelles, perhaps topped with grated Parmesan cheese.
• 1 bunch scallions
• 6 c. chicken stock
• 3 c. peeled and diced boiling potatoes
• 1 lb. young spinach, washed and any thick stems removed
• Salt, freshly ground pepper, and nutmeg to taste
• Salmon quenelles, recipe follows
Finely mince the scallions, separating the white and green parts.
Bring the chicken stock to a simmer, and add the potatoes and white part of the scallions. Simmer until tender, about 10 minutes. Add the spinach and green parts of the scallions, and simmer just until cooked through, about 2 minutes. Purée in a blender or with a hand-held blender. Serve in shallow soup plates with 3 of the quenelles in each individual plate and drizzled with the sour cream. If the soup is not going to be served immediately, plunge the pot in which it was cooked into a vat of cold water to stop the cooking process. Otherwise the soup may turn a khaki green instead of a bright green.
For the salmon quenelles
• 1/4 lb. EACH skinned, uncooked salmon and smoked salmon
OR 1/2 lb. uncooked, skinned salmon
• 1/3 c. heavy cream
• 1 large egg white
• 1 T. tomato paste
• 1/4 tsp. freshly ground white pepper
• kosher or sea salt to taste
• 1 T. white vinegar
In the bowl of a food processor, combine the salmon, cream, egg white, tomato paste and pepper. If you’re using smoked salmon, extra salt may not be needed. Otherwise add a half teaspoon kosher salt to the mixture, and process until smooth. Either way, test the mixture by sautéing a tablespoon in a skillet to taste; add more salt if needed.
Bring a large, wide pot or skillet of water 2-3 inches deep to a bare simmer; add 1 T. white vinegar. Use 2 large spoons to form oval mounds of the paste by scraping the contents of one spoon into the other. Gently drop the quenelles one by one into the simmering water. Poach until they float to the top and have stayed there for about a minute. Remove with a slotted spoon to a plate. They can be made ahead and reheated, covered with plastic wrap, in the microwave on low heat before placing into the soup. Serves 6.