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Thursday, February 11, 2010

How to Make Something OUt of Nothing

Sometimes, the simplest ingredients are the best. Julia Child has a recipe for Vichyssoise (also known as Potato and Leek Soup) that has a total of 4 ingredients, one of which is salt. Her recipe calls for potatoes, leeks, water, and salt. That's it. Maybe a garnish of chives. And it's delicious! How can that be? Well, when you take high quality, flavorful ingredients and treat them right, you get perfection. Now, I'm not going to give you Julia's recipe. Hers is for a chilled version of this soup. But on a cold winter's night, there is nothing better than a warm bowl of soup, made with ingredients that are at their peak in winter! Here's my version of Potato and Leek Soup. Enjoy!


3 medium sized Russet potatoes (I don't mind a little texture in my soup, so I wash them thoroughly and leave the skins on. This is where a lot of the nutrients and fiber reside, so I like to keep the skins whenever possible)
3 stalks leeks, split and rinsed thoroughly, chopped (only use the white and light green part of the leeks)
3 cloves garlic (crushed, but not minced-you're going to puree the soup, so no need to make it any harder)
salt & pepper to taste
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 tsp. dried chives (if you have fresh, all the better, but save the herbs for a finishing touch at the end)
Chicken stock, water, or a mix to cover all vegetables.
1 Tbsp. sour cream, plain yogurt, or half-and-half

Begin by washing all the vegetables thoroughly to remove any dirt. Chop potatoes into cubes and leeks into semi circles. Don't worry about them being even or pretty because it's all going in the food processor (or blender) later. Saute vegetables in 2 Tbsp. olive oil (or an olive oil-butter mix) until leeks are soft and barely browned, about 7 minutes. Then toss in the garlic, salt & pepper and dried herbs. Saute for another 2 minutes. Then cover the vegetables with stock or water (I used a mix to save some money on stock) until everything is barely submerged. The more liquid you put in, the thinner your soup will be. You want it thick and luscious, so don't use more than necessary. Bring to a boil and cook for 20 minutes, until all the vegetables are soft. Time to puree. Put contents (in batches) into food processor or blender. Pulse until the soup has become all one color with very little chunks in the mix. Return to the pot and rewarm before serving. Finish soup with sour cream, yogurt, half-and-half, or nothing if you prefer. This only makes the soup a bit creamier, but is by no means necessary as it is a delicious soup all on its own.

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