Soup, Beautiful Soup
Warm and comforting soup really is beautiful, especially now that the weather has become cooler (and as I look out my office window, snowy as well). Soup can also be extremely healthy as it is so easy to digest and almost all the nutrients stay in the broth.
These past few weeks, Country-Style Leek & Potato Soup has been my soup of choice—perhaps because it is so quick and easy to prepare, perhaps because each spoonful offers the reassurance that life is good and all is well.
In the past month I’ve prepared this soup once a week. This all began when I discovered some very beautiful leeks at our neighborhood market and some equally nice looking local potatoes. Twice I prepared the basic recipe. Once with broccoli and, just yesterday I remembered to buy some fresh baby spinach to swirl in at the end for color, taste and well being.
Healthy and Delicious
This recipe is gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan if you choose to omit the butter. The nutrient-rich skin is left on the potatoes and enhances the soup’s “country-style.” A combination of russet potatoes along with Yukon golds and/or red potatoes are used as the russets will break down and give body to the soup while the Yukons and reds will retain their shape. Additional thickening and creaminess comes not from flour or cream, but from pureeing 1/4th of the soup and returning it to the pot.
And did I mention that this soup is delicious?
Quick-cooking Vegetable Stock
If you have an extra moment, make your own quick-cooking (35 minutes) vegetable stock from
- the leek’s darker green leaves
- 1 cup each of roughly chopped carrots and celery
- 2 cloves of peeled, smashed garlic
- 6 parsley stems
- 2 bay leaves
- a sprig or two of fresh or ½ teaspoon of dried thyme
- 8 cups of water
Simmer the stock for 35 minutes. While it is simmering, slice and dice the leeks and potatoes and prepare the soup just to the point of adding the stock. When the stock is finished, strain and measure it. If you have less than called for in the recipe, add enough additional stock or water to equal that amount.
If you are short on time, use purchased chicken or vegetable stock or water and a concentrate such as one of the Organic Better than Bouillon bases diluted according to the directions on the jar.
A Very Versatile soup
Add some broccoli, spinach, watercress, kale or chard. The broccoli is best cooked separately in some of the stock and then pureed with a portion of the soup to turn it a light green. Add some cooked broccoli florets to the finished soup.
Finely slice the kale leaves and cook them in some of the stock before adding both the stock and the kale to the finished soup. Spinach and watercress both cook in seconds so they are great swirled in at the end. Chard takes a little longer to cook so give it a few minutes to wilt in the soup.
To prevent the potatoes from discoloring, keep the diced potatoes covered in water until you need them. Drain them well before adding them to the soup.
Yield: 14 or more cups
3 tablespoons butter or olive oil
6 cups thinly sliced leeks, white and light green parts only
10 cups ½-inch diced potatoes (about 7-8 cups russet and 2-3 cups of Yukon golds and/or red potatoes)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Large sprig of fresh or a half teaspoon of dried thyme
2 bay leaves
8 cups water or chicken or vegetable stock
Optional: 3 cups baby spinach or watercress
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Freshly chopped parsley and/or thinly sliced scallions for garnish
Heat the butter or olive oil in a large soup pot. Add the leeks and potatoes to the pot and sprinkle lightly with salt and freshly ground pepper. Stir in the thyme and bay leaves and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes.
Stir in the water or stock and bring the mixture to the boil. If using bouillon paste, add it now. Lower the heat so that the soup simmers, partially covered for 20 minutes. Puree 1/4th of the soup in a blender. Return the puree to the pot. Swirl in the optional spinach or watercress. Taste and adjust the seasonings.
Serve the soup garnished with fresh, chopped parsley and/or thinly sliced scallions.