4-9-10

LEEK & JERUSALEM ARTICHOKE SOUP

SERVES 4

I could eat soup every day, and there have been plenty of times — like the first few weeks of this year, for instance, when my body was reeling from a holiday season of overindulgence and continuous travel — when I have. No really: Every. Single. Day. How did I not go bonkers with boredom? Well, Anna Thomas’s new book, Love Soup, was certainly a terrific resource — but also, I’ve found that once you get in a soup-centric frame of mind, inspiration pops up every time you head to the market. I love the simplicity of soup. I love it’s soothing lightness. And I love the routines that cooking it encourages. (During my most dedicated soup-making jags, I’ve been known to start building a broth before starting the coffee or chopping garlic and greens before brushing my teeth.)

But most of all I love soup’s forgiveness. Rare are the ingredients that don’t taste lovely after a few hours at a slow simmer, and few are the mistakes that can’t be remedied with an extra cupful of stock and a sprinkle of pepper. As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not a natural recipe-follower; I’m a tinkerer rather than a line-reader. That’s a culinary temperament that’s led to innumerable baking fiascoes — but for soup, it’s spot on.

I took out my measuring cups for this one, though, not only to share it with you — but because I suspected from the start it would be a keeper. A variation on a classic leek and potato soup that substitutes those knobby springtime tubers, Jerusalem artichokes, for spuds — it’s deeply flavored with roasted garlic and a splash of milk, but dead easy to make. I finished my version with a handful of baby fiddlehead ferns that’d seduced me at the Greenmarket — but that was really just gilding the lily. In matters of soup, as with so much else, less really is more.

6 cloves garlic, unpeeled
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 leeks (white parts only), thinly sliced
5 cups chicken stock
1 lb. Jerusalem artichokes, scrubbed and chopped into 1-inch cubes
1/4 cup milk
salt and pepper
1/4 lb. fiddlehead ferns (optional)
juice of 1/2 lemon

1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Toss garlic cloves with 1 tablespoon olive oil. Spread garlic on baking sheet. Place baking sheet in oven and roast garlic for 35 minutes or until it is very soft. Squeeze garlic from their papery husks into a bowl, and set aside.

2. Heat remaining oil in a large dutch oven or stockpot over a medium flame. Add onions and leeks and stir. Saute onions and leeks until they are soft and translucent, about 6-8 minutes. Add garlic, chicken stock, and Jerusalem artichokes, and cover. Reduce heat to medium/low and simmer until artichokes are tender, about 20-25 minutes.

3. Using an immersion blender, gently pulse the soup for 30-45 seconds, so that half the leeks and artichokes are pureed but chunks still remain. Stir in milk, season generously with salt and pepper, and — if you are including them — fiddleheads. Cover again and simmer gently for another 5 minutes, or until fiddleheads are bright and firm but no longer raw and crunchy. Stir in lemon juice. Remove from flame and ladle into bowls. Serve with garlic bread or toasts topped with melted fontina cheese.

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