Lettuce Soup with Egg Balls

Lettuce Soup 2

Each week I browse through hundred-year-old magazines and cookbooks in search of the perfect recipe to feature. Occasionally a reader’s comment provides the inspiration for the recipe I select. Today was one of those times.

A month or so ago, Ronit Penso at Tasty Eats commented on a hundred-year-old menu that mentioned Lettuce Soup:

As for the lettuce soup – it was quite common in classic French cuisine. It’s interesting that it somehow lost popularity. I wonder why. I still use it in certain soups. It adds lots of body and creaminess without making the soup heavy.  . .

Ever since then I’ve had this urge to make a hundred-year-old lettuce soup recipe, and when I saw some awesome leaf lettuce for sale this week, I knew that now was the time to give it a try.

The Lettuce Soup turned out wonderfully, and was good either hot or cold. This nutrient rich soup contains several vegetables which results in a lovely, nuanced combination of flavors that beautifully combine the mild bitterness of the lettuce with the slight tanginess of onions and green pepper. It is lovely when served hot with small, delicate Egg Balls.

And, when served chilled,  this refreshing soup is perfect on a hot summer day. (I skipped the egg balls when I served it cold.)

Here is the recipe for Lettuce Soup with Egg Balls updated for modern cooks:

Lettuce Soup with Egg Balls

  • Servings: 4-5
  • Difficulty: moderate
  • Print

Soup

3 tablespoons butter

1/2 pound lettuce, coarsely chopped (approximately 6 cups, chopped)

2 cups chicken broth

1/3 cup onion, chopped

1/4 cup green pepper, chopped

1 sprig parsley

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/3 teaspoon sugar

2 tablespoons flour

1 egg yolk

1 cup milk

1/3 cup cream

Melt butter in large sauce pan. Add the chopped lettuce, and cook using medium heat until the lettuce is wilted, while stirring occasionally (8-10 minutes). Add the chicken broth, onion, green pepper, parsley, cloves, and sugar; cover the saucepan and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat and cool slightly; then puree using a blender or food processor. Return the pureed mixture to the pan.

In a mixing bowl, stir the egg yolk into the flour, then add a small amount of milk and stir to create a paste. Gradually add the remaining milk and cream while stirring to create a smooth sauce. Then stir the sauce into pureed lettuce mixture. Heat mixture until hot and steamy using medium heat; stir occasionally.  May be served either hot or chilled. If desired, serve with Egg Balls.

Egg Balls

1/2 cup fine bread crumbs

2 egg yolks

clarified butter or other shortening

Combine bread crumbs and egg yolk  in a bowl. Shape the mixture into 1/2-inch balls. Place the clarified butter or shortening into a frying pan, and heat until hot.  Drop balls into the hot butter, then gently roll the balls with a fork until all sides are a light brown. Remove from heat and drain on paper towels. Put several egg balls into each cup of Lettuce Soup.

Here’s the original recipe:

Source: American Cookery (Boston Cooking School Magazine, June/July, 1915)

Source: Source: American Cookery (Boston Cooking School Magazine, June/July, 1915)
Source: Source: American Cookery (Boston Cooking School Magazine, June/July, 1915)

The original Lettuce Soup recipe made 12 or more servings, so when I adapted the recipes for modern cooks, I divided the soup ingredients by 3.  The Egg Balls recipe did not seem overly large, so I did not need to make a similar adaptations to that recipe; however, I used one fewer egg yolk in the Egg Balls than called for in the original recipe because the consistency of the dough was better.

61 thoughts on “Lettuce Soup with Egg Balls

    1. When served hot, it’s classic; when served chilled (without the egg balls) it’s amazingly modern and reminds me of some chilled soups that I’ve had in some very nice restaurants.

  1. Thank you Sheryl, for the link to my blog/recipe. 🙂
    It’s so wonderful you’ve found a 100 year old recipe for lettuce soup! I find it very interesting that they’ve paired the lettuce with green peppers, as the classic recipes usually pair it with green peas. I will definitely give it a try soon. 🙂

      1. I’m also intrigued by the peas. The soup would taste different if peas were substituted for green pepper – but it might be quite tasty. An aside- When I made this soup, my husband commented that the color and consistency of the Lettuce Soup were similar to pea soup.

    1. You’re very welcome. Your blog is chock full of wonderful recipes (many of them modern renditions of old classics) and other great information.

      Your comment made me think about how peas have a more concurrent season with lettuce in the spring than green peppers. I wondered how people a hundred years ago would get peppers to put in this soup. My first thought was that peppers during the spring months were “gourmet” items back then and shipped to the northern part of the U.S. via train. I then looked at the date on the old magazine that included this recipe, and saw that it was the June/July, 1915 issue. I suppose that peppers are ripening by July, so maybe cooks used late season lettuce that was starting to go wild and crazy in their gardens in this soup. 🙂

      Another thought (though the magazine date doesn’t work with this scenario) is that this soup could be eaten in the fall. Gardeners sometimes do a fall planting of lettuce after the days begin to cool.

      1. Thank you Sheryl for you kind words! 🙂
        The information about the peppers is fascinating. So many ingredients that we now take for granted were at one time, or at a certain place, considered a novelty.
        Though I would originally pair the lettuce with peas, I definitely want to try the version with green peppers by pure curiosity! 🙂
        Thanks for digging all these wonderful old treasures. There’s always something new to learn from wise past cooks. 🙂

  2. Ewww! That was my first response to the title. Sorry. I am glad it turned out tasty for you but I’ll give it a pass. But as I think about it further, it is not unlike using green peas in soup.

  3. I love a cold soup in summer, but I’ve usually stuck with gazpacho. This looks like a great alternative. I never would have thought of it, and it did sound a little weird at first, but once I read the recipe, it sounded much better. I love that you hunt these things out for us. I never would have found it, that’s for sure.

  4. How strange! I have never heard of a lettuce soup before. In fact, when I think of lettuce, I don’t really think of it as being a tasty veg. This soup looks beautiful, though, and the egg balls are intriguing. Interesting find!

    1. The flavors of the other vegetables in the soup (green peppers, onions) co-mingle nicely with the mild lettuce flavor. The egg balls were surprisingly easy to make – and, though different, had a vague resemblance to croutons.

    1. I think that you’d like it. If you make it, be sure to let us know how it turned out. It’s always wonderful to get additional thoughts about these old recipes.

    1. The egg balls were very easy to make. I just put a slice of bread into my blender to get fine bread crumbs. I then combined the bread crumbs and egg yolks. I liked that the balls were easy to make, and that I didn’t have any problems keeping them in one piece when I fried them.

  5. I think I would like the lettuce soup. I am sure I would like the egg balls. Do you think the egg sizes were different a hundred years ago, as in smaller than our modern eggs?

    1. You may be right that the “average-sized” egg was smaller back then. It also crossed my mind that the typical bread used to make bread crumbs back then might have been enough different from modern bread that it would have affected how many egg yolks were needed to create a dough-like mixture.

  6. I have to admit that the title of this post gave me chills, and not in a good way. As I read through, I could see the possibilities but I’m still not really convinced!

    1. Oh dear, I didn’t mean to give you the chills. I once read a book about the psychology of food, and the things that affect people’s food preferences. I find it fascinating how fads, culture, prior experiences, etc. affect which foods someone likes.

      1. Oh, I agree ! Do you know this quote?
        “Tell me what you eat, and I will tell you what you are.”
        Anthelme Brillat-Savarin, The Physiology of Taste, 1825

        1. I love it. The quote (and author) are new to me. I may have to read his book. I just now googled Brillat-Savarin’s name, and I was amazed how well-known he apparently is. Foodies/food writers have been around for a long time. :).

  7. My Gram Bette used to make lettuce soup for me, and I still use her recipe. The egg ball addition is new to me–I will have to give those a try.

    1. It’s awesome that your your grandmother made Lettuce Soup – and that you still make it. I must admit that Lettuce Soup was new to me when I found it mentioned in an old menu. The egg balls reminded me a little of croutons. If you like croutons in soup, I think that you’d like the egg balls.

  8. I’ve had cabbage soup which I enjoy, so I bet I’d like this too! It’s so fun to learn about recipes that we’ve stopped making for one reason or another. Food has trends just like anything else I suppose.

    1. This soup is definitely different from cabbage soups that I’ve had, but I still like it, and think that you’d enjoy it. The lettuce has a much milder flavor than cabbage.

  9. I have to admit, when I heard the name of the recipe, I didn’t think it sounded very good. But then I looked at the photo and read the recipe, and I can see how it would be very tasty!

    1. The soup is actually quite nice. I find it intriguing to think about food trends and fads, and why some foods (like this soup) become less popular over time.

  10. When I had a big garden, I was always looking for lettuce recipes. We had lots of lettuce bread (like zucchini bread) but never lettuce soup! Thank you for the egg ball recipe too!

  11. Delicious soup which (with variations) I have been making since I can remember, but the egg balls? Certainly will try this out now. Thank you for posting. Your subjects I like and your photographs – wonderful!!!! Oh yes, btw – I follow you now 🙂 Carina

    1. Welcome! It’s wonderful to hear that you’ve enjoyed lettuce soup for years. This seems to be a soup that people either are very familiar with – or that they’ve never heard of. I think that you’d like the egg balls – in some ways they are similar to croutons.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s