I love lovage. You could probably tell that from the banner on this blog. Several times, I have tried to make the banner reflect my big theme – pantry — but I still come back to a field of the herb named lovage. Since it’s one of the first herbs to emerge from my pot garden in spring, it reminds me of regeneration, a time to start again. The prospect of the pantry starts in the garden after all. And so it goes…
Like many names, the word lovage has an etymological history that evolved from culture to culture, generation to generation. Did you ever play the word game called “Telephone?” It’s the one where people gather in a circle, initiate a word or phrase and whisper it person to person all around until it reaches the last one who blurts out something – to everyone’s surprise — dramatically metamorphosed from the original. Well, that’s what happens to words and phrases over history, nuanced by contextual associations and variations in native tongues.
Some say lovage originated as love-ache. We could certainly read into that. Plausible, since the word “ache” (pronounced “aitch”) meant parsley, a similar looking herb. Actually, it seems to trace back to its Latin-named genus, Levisticum, which is related to a like-sounding word referring to Liguria, a section of the Italian Riviera where it grows naturally. Lovage is more closely related to celery and carrots (of the same genus) than to love. Its flavor and the texture of its leaves are reminiscent of celery – no surprise – and faintly resemble the after-taste of young carrot greens.
Here, I combined onion, potatoes and a rutabaga from last fall with homemade chicken stock to create a creamy but non-dairy soup infused with lovage leaves. I stirred in a large spoonful of orange marmalade from the pantry to complement the rutabaga. (Orange and rutabaga are a great combination. I put orange zest in scalloped potatoes and rutabaga with great success.) Garnished with chopped lovage leaves and additional marmalade, this is one of those dishes that cross between late winter and early spring with a remembrance of past bounty and the promise of a growing season ahead.
Potato and Rutabaga Soup with Lovage and Orange Marmalade
1 small onion, chopped
Butter or vegetable oil, or a combination
1 small or half large rutabaga, cubed
2-3 medium potatoes, peeled or not, and cubed
4 c homemade chicken stock or vegetable broth or water
Salt and pepper
In a large pan over medium heat, saute the onion slowly in butter or oil until translucent. Add the rutabaga, stir to coat with oil and cook for a few minutes. Add the potatoes and a little broth, cooking to braise the vegetables lightly. Add additional stock to cover the vegetables and cook over low heat, covering the pan, until the vegetables are tender and falling apart, about 20 minutes. Add about ¼ c of chopped lovage leaves to wilt them. Puree with an immersion blender or use a food processor. Add more stock, or water, if the puree is too thick for soup. Season with salt and pepper. When ready to serve, stir a teaspoon of orange marmalade into each bowl and garnish with lovage leaves – snipped or whole depending on how tender they are – and a little spoonful of marmalade.