Soup does seven things

I have been terrible at getting hungry and not wanting to cook. I love cooking, but lately it has been quick things on bread, everything I can do with an egg, and frozen pizzas (though, Trader Joe’s has a knack of illuding you into feeling fancy with their “frozen galettes”).

I owe my gratitude to Mr. David Lebovitz for getting me out of my rut and inspiring me with this lovely and simple Potato and Leek soup recipe. I am glad that it is vegetarian and has a dairy-free base, allowing you the option to add a spoonful of cream if you wish for a richer version. You can add nearly anything as a topping. My fridge and condiment drawer being quite barren, I broke out the white truffle oil that I got from a trip to Galena last year to experimentally top off my first bowl and was very pleased. Spinach leaves, fried shallots or creamy marscapone would have done the trick as well. The white pepper Lebovitz suggests adds an interesting flair and I am glad I stumbled across the recipe or else it is something that would have never crossed my mind for this soup. Having said that, the more you read and the more you cook, or not even cook, but simply do and perform, the more you will know about things – gain an understanding. I need to venture outside of comfort barriers I linger behind at times due to familiarity or indolence. It is then that I discover these wonderful things, sometimes so small, like fancy white pepper in a soup.

I aim to make more soups and stews this winter, and this little fit may have seduced me into it. Homemade stews are healthy, turn your kitchen into this alluring little fragrant cove of roast veggies and herbs, and are fairly easy as long as you can chop. My pot of choice is a heavy hand-me-down from my great-grandmother (Nonni). That mustard-colored-flowered pot holds heat very nicely and I am sure it has softened a billion garlic cloves in its lifetime so far. Knowing that Nonni was a great cook helps me hold myself accountable every time I set it out and pour in a tablespoon of oil on the bottom. When I can get the recipe from one of my aunts I will try and recreate her chicken cacciatore….in that pot.



Potato and Leek Soup

2-3 tablespoons butter or oil
4 leeks washed and sliced
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
1/4 teaspoon chile powder
6 cups water or broth
1 1/4-pounds pounds potatoes , peeled and cubed
2 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon freshly-ground white pepper

  1. In a large pot heat the butter or olive oil over medium heat
  2. Add sliced leeks and season with salt. Cook over moderate heat for about 5-7 minutes, stirring frequently, until completely soft and wilted.
  3. Add thyme and chile powder. Stir for about 30 seconds, cooking them with leeks to release  their full flavors.
  4. Pour in the water or broth. Add the potatoes and bay leaves.
  5. Cover and simmer until potatoes are tender when poked with a sharp knife. This could take from between 15-30 minutes depending on the potatoes used.
  6. Using a slotted spoon, take out the bay leaves. Puree the soup with the white pepper in a blender covered with a thin towel to let out the steam from the hot liquid. Make sure to do this in increments, filling the blender only half-way each time. This can also be done using an immersion (stick) blender.
  7. Pour into soup bowls, top with desired condiments and enjoy.

Serves 6-8


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