Like my musical appetite, my tastes in food are quite varied. I do my best to at least try everything once–quite an accomplishment given my vegetarian roots. Most things I like enough to try again. But there are a few dishes that just do not work for me.
I have an aversion to the knish, which is tragic given that I lived around the corner from Yonah Schimmel for a good chunk of my 20s. It is the rare gnocchi that turns my crank. The joy of a tamale has also proven elusive, though I did have one last year that made me rethink this stance. (It hailed from East Williamsburg and was stuffed with a generous portion of spicy cheese.)
I am not a big fan of starchy things, it seems. And if you must be starchy, you best not be bland.
CSA season is off to a slow start–no surprise given the miserable winter we had. The Sunday before last, in anticipation of my first pickup, I giddily cleared out my crisper by whipping up a massive batch of potato salad. Two days later, I collected lettuce, asparagus, leeks, beets, carrots, scallions and…more potatoes. Tonight’s share felt more springlike, with cucumber, cilantro, baby bok choy and sugar snap peas joining the asparagus, lettuce and leeks.
As I loaded my vegetables into the crisper, I was ashamed to realize that I hadn’t made a dent in last week’s storage crops. Compounding matters, I now had four giant leeks taking up the space normally reserved for beer.
Potatoes and leeks. The obvious choice is vichysoisse. But, being starchy and not particularly flavorful, this cold potato and leek soup doesn’t hold much allure for me. To quote Kanye: “We can make it better.”
- 3 tablespoons butter
- 4 large leeks, white and light green portions chopped and thoroughly rinsed
- 2 garlic scapes, sliced
- 4 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
- 8 cubes frozen concentrated chicken stock or 1 quart chicken stock of your choice
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 pinch nutmeg
- 3 tablespoons absinthe
- 1 cup good quality whole milk yogurt
- black and white pepper
- chives for garnish
- Bring a large pot up to medium-low heat. Add the butter. When the foaming subsides, add the leeks and cook stirring regularly until limp and translucent (about 10 minutes), taking care not to let them brown. Add the scapes and cook for a few more minutes. Add the potatoes and continue to cook for a few more minutes.
- Add the chicken stock, bay leaf and enough water to just cover the potatoes. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, pop a lid on and allow to simmer for 30 minutes or so until the vegetables are quite tender.
- Fish out the bay leaf. Add the absinthe, nutmeg, a generous pinch of salt, and plenty of black and white pepper. Pop the lid back on and simmer for another 5-10 minutes.
- Remove from heat and add several ice cubes to cool your soup down and thin it out a bit. When cool enough that you are unlikely to cause injury, add the yogurt and purée using an immersion blender or in batches in a standard blender. Taste and adjust seasoning with additional salt and pepper.
If lunch is a distant memory, you can eat your Newfangled Vichysoisse lukewarm or even hot, but this soup really shines when served cold. (Just remember that, as with most cold foods, it may need more salt.) Either way, be sure to garnish with a generous sprinkle of snipped chives. I bet some rye croutons would be awesome too.