Venetian grandmothers only use dadi di brodo (soup cubes) when there’s some sort of “culinary” emergency (all of their parsley and winter herbs died during particularly cold weather – it just happened once …). Usually, we have garden and wild herbs thriving on a sunny window sill and there’s a more protected, moist and quiet place for those herbs that dislike sun (such as sorrel and wild garlic) downstairs in the garden that you can see below.
We make soups simply using herbs, sea salt, black pepper, a hint of cinnamon, red peppers, lemon juice and the herbs which differ according to the season. Then we garnish with a few drops of olive oil (often this comes flavored with lemons and chili) and use heaps of grated parmesan and freshly ground black pepper. That’s how we prepared the chick pea – pasta soup you can see above.
Now in spring, instead of using an artificial dado di brodo as the soup cube is called in Venice, we use parsley, spinach, spring leeks and spring onions and the first tender carrots ! We simply cook these herbs and vegetables so the soup takes on a light green color.
Sorrel is a favorite to flavor soups and risotti but you must be careful with this herb as the heat turns the vividly green leaves brown. As we don’t eat VERY hot soups hot in Venice (restaurants do offer them hot of course but that’s because otherwise they would be misjudged), garnishing soup with these sensitive leaves is possible when cooking for the family.
We might also use the first dill (aneto) now offered at the Venetian markets, chili-flavored olive oil and coconut milk to flavor our brodo, like the lemon-flavored horseradish-wild garlic cream soup you can see below.
This is a perfectly healthy and vegan soup lunch, the way my grandmother has been cooking soups in Venice for over 70 years. But then it’s up to anyone to be creative and find your personal spring mix!