The bright spot in winter's otherwise subdued green and brown market offerings? Citrus. The zing from grapefruits, oranges, and lemons—at their best from December through February—smack us awake and convince us that there is a sweet, tart light at the end of the cold, blue tunnel.
Soup may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you envision the lemon's best use. But at Souvla, a "fine-casual" Greek sandwich shop in San Francisco, chef and owner Charles Bililies's sleeper hit has been the avgolemono (or egg-lemon) soup. This is in part because he uses fresh-squeezed juice from perfectly in-season lemons, the acidity of which balances the richness of the egg and chicken in the dish. "The key is that it feels and tastes natural," he says. "Out-of-season lemons or store-bought lemon juice simply pale in comparison." The loyal following Bililies has gained because of this attention to detail has, in turn, gained him a second Souvla location, which will open this spring in San Francisco's NoPa neighborhood.
To choose lemons like Bililies does, go for bright yellow ones that are both firm and plump. Their beauty is not only in their nutritional value—the juice from one lemon contains over a quarter percent of your daily vitamin-C needs—but also in their endurance. These fruits stay good for one week at room temperature or in the refrigerator for two to three weeks.
So make this avgolemono soup now, or next week, or the week after—any time you need cheering up before spring arrives. It is also said to help cure colds, earning it the nickname "Greek penicillin." "Jewish New Yorkers have matzoh ball soup, Vietnamese people have pho, the Chinese have congee, and we Greeks have avgolemono," says Bililies. And now you can it too.
by Charles Bililies
Servings: 6 to 8
6 quarts chicken broth
2 cups fresh lemon juice
2 cups cooked white rice
4 cups shredded, cooked chicken
Extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
How to Make It
In a large, heavy-bottomed stock pot, simmer chicken broth.
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk eggs vigorously until frothy, about 5 minutes, incorporating lemon juice as you go.
Temper the egg mixture: Slowly ladle 1 quart of the hot stock into egg-lemon mixture, a half-cup at a time, while continuing to whisk. Pour the tempered mixture back into the pot with the rest of the warm broth. Add rice and egg and bring to a boil. Once at a boil, reduce to low heat.
Season with salt and pepper to taste. Divide soup into bowls, then finish each with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of parsley.