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Seasons’ Eatings: Potato Leek Soup and Caesar Salad

2012 April 12

by Kara Rota

Mel inspects the goodsNew York, NY – Alison’s Savoury Leek Pancakes with Spiced Fillet of Salmon were perfect for early Spring, appropriate for Passover or Easter meals and featured two of my favorite farmers’ market goodies this time of year: leeks and fresh eggs. I decided to carry both of those flavors over to my recipe this week: a rich, creamy soup made from potatoes, leeks and onions, and a baby romaine salad with Caesar dressing from scratch.

I’ve been on a Caesar kick lately and have experimented with a few variations, from a chunky, minimally mixed preparation with anchovy-rolled capers to a creamy, cheesy Caesar made in the blender, but the version included here is my favorite thus far. Potato leek soup is an excellent transitional meal this time of year: thick with potato, it’s comforting and hearty, but the fresh bite of the leeks, onions and thyme makes it light enough for Spring (and good to eat cold, too!)

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For soup inspiration, I began with Julia Child’s recipe for Potato and Leek or Onion Soup. I decided to go with both leek and onion and liked the sound of the fresh thyme in this Robert Irvine recipe. I headed to the 77th Street Greenmarket for potatoes and leeks from Gajeski Farm in Riverhead, Long Island. I had fresh thyme purchased at Fairway, from Rockhedge Herb Farms in the Hudson Valley, and my favorite butter from Kate’s Homemade in Maine. With the help of a sturdy food processor and a large stockpot, this soup is incredibly simple and rather quick to make, although I recommend refrigerating it, once cooked, for 12-24 hours and then reheating for maximum flavor.

Potato Leek Soup

Prep time: 25 minutes
Cook Time: 35 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour
Yield: 4-6 servings

Ingredients

  • 2 medium-large Russet or Yukon Gold Potatoes
  • 1 large yellow or white onion
  • 1 bunch leeks
  • 2-3 Tablespoons butter
  • 1 oz package fresh thyme
  • salt & pepper to taste

Cooking Directions

  1. Fill a stockpot half full with water and boil.
  2. Slice the potatoes, leeks and onions, add to the boiling water and cover.
  3. After 15 minutes, add half of the fresh thyme, salt and pepper. Recover.
  4. Cook for another ten minutes or until the leeks are bright green and the potatoes are soft.
  5. In batches, process the cooked vegetables in a food processor, adding butter as you go. Add the rest of the fresh thyme, reserving a few springs to garnish bowls in serving.
  6. Return the blended soup to the stockpot and simmer for 5-10 minutes, adjusting seasoning to taste.
  7. Serve with crusty bread, croutons, or, for Passover, matzo.

Potato Leek SoupAs much as I adore good Caesar, I often find restaurant incarnations too bland and heavy-handed, lacking in the anchovy and garlic and overly enthusiastic with the Parmesan. This version is strong, but good, fresh lettuce stands up to it well. Think of this recipe as an outline, and experiment with quantities to suit your taste. I prefer it without Worcestershire sauce, which provided the anchovy-like flavor in the original version – I find the addition of both ingredients to be overkill. I bought the eggs at the farmers’ market, from Knoll Krest Farm in Clinton Corners, NY. The anchovies were Cento, headquartered in West Deptford, NJ, and the lettuce was purchased at the Westside Market, distributed by Uncle Vinny’s of the Bronx. I’m still struggling with brands that are distributed/packaged by a local company, but likely produced/grown elsewhere. Does it help that the packaging at least carries fewer food miles? Am I still better off supporting a local company than a national corporation? It’s tricky. I’m trying to grow some basil on my desk at work. Baby steps.

Caesar Salad

Prep time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 0 minutes
Total Time: 30 minutes
Yield: 4-6 servings

Ingredients

  • 4-6 cups baby Romaine leaves, or 2 heads Romaine, chopped, torn or shredded
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 2-oz can anchovies, flat fillets or rolled with capers
  • 1 lemon
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • salt & pepper to taste

Cooking Directions

  1. Mince the garlic finely and combine it in a bowl or jar with the olive oil and the juice of 1 lemon.
  2. Drain the oil from the can of anchovies. Chop the anchovies finely and whisk them into the mixture.
  3. Wash the eggs first. Boil water in a saucepan and add 2 eggs. Cook for 1-2 minutes. Spoon the yolk from the eggs and add it to the mixture – discard the whites. Whisk briefly.
  4. Whisk in the grated Parmesan, and salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Toss with the shredded or chopped lettuce and serve, topped with grated Parmesan and black pepper.

Variation: Pulse the dressing in the blender for about 15 seconds with additional Parmesan for creamy Caesar.

Caesar SaladKara is a professional food enthusiast at Cookstr, a freelance food writer, and a sporadic livetweeter @karalearota. She lives on Manhattan’s Upper West Side with her boyfriend and their cat, Mel.