Of soup and comfort

There are no words.

Roasted garlic. Rosemary. Leeks. It's poetry, non? I should think so.

I told you I'm gradually becoming a cereal person -- more specifically, a granola kind of girl. Slowly, I'm also turning away from my flurry of salads and toward soups. Maybe it's the change in the weather. Maybe it's the vent that hangs from my ceiling, the consequence of trying to change my furnace filter single-handedly. A bowl of soup is equal to a bear hug, as far as liquid food goes, and glancing at that vent -- well, a hug doesn't hurt.

I finished Alone in the Kitchen with an Eggplant not too long ago, and fell in love. It's such a compelling anthology of short fiction, all about food (!) and people eating alone. I would say, broadly speaking, eating is considered a social sort of thing, so this notion of communing solo intrigues me. What about those who eat alone, out of either necessity or choice? It's an interesting proposition.

My first instinct at mealtime is to turn on the television, but then I go about eating mindlessly -- never satisfying. Instead, I like to listen to music and have my meals on my kitchen island, or plunk myself down on the floor and eat while reading. It doesn't mean I haven't eaten meals while watching Sarah Jessica Parker wax on about human shortcomings, but, you know, I do my best.

I've come upon the realizations that Jenni Ferrari-Adler seems to have when she first moved to the American Midwest, alone, for graduate school. "Everything, I realized, growing light-headed, anything was delicious. In the next weeks I continued on in phases, first everything raw, then everything baked. I prioritized condiments. What wasn't delicious with Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce?" (This is a good point, I might add.) No, it didn't take subsisting on cabbage for me to figure it out, but through many a meal of rice and beans it's come about anyway: eating alone is a bit of a luxury; eating alone means you can eat an entire fennel bulb for lunch and call it good; eating alone means you can eat the same thing for five days straight -- out of financial necessity, desire or sheer laziness; eating alone means there's no one to please but yourself, and she ain't picky.

Well, not too picky.

Anyway. I digress.

Despite living in a big city, I've craving the slow pace. I know, I know -- grass is greener and all of that. But by that, I don't mean I want to crawl back to the country. I mean I want to let go.

Never one to let life dictate my choices, I've spent the last several years playing Master Coordinator, whipping and cajoling life to meet my wants and requirements. Perhaps it's time to sit on this very stool and eat some metaphorical soup for a while. If you had a bowl of this in front of you, you too might want to stand still for a while.

There are many fantastic recipes for Potato-Leek Soup, but when I came across Molly Katzen's recipe for a potato soup incorporating roasted garlic and rosemary, it didn't take much convincing. Although this recipe calls for chicken stock, a good-quality vegetable stock may, of course, be substituted.

As with many starchy soups, you'll find the liquid will dissipate in the refrigerator and you'll be left with a blob for soup. That's okay. Re-heated over the stove with a little liquid -- water, milk, cream, stock -- the soup comes alive again.

Potato-Leek Soup with Rosemary and Roasted Garlic

Inspired by Molly Katzen

Yields 4 large (or 6 small) bowls

3 cups peeled and cubed New potatoes (or potatoes suitable for boiling)
3 leeks, finely sliced (white parts only)
2 tbsp unsalted butter
5 cups chicken (or good-quality vegetable) stock
2 tbsp roasted garlic*
2 dried bay leaves
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
Pinch cayenne pepper, or a dash of hot sauce
1 cup (or more) of milk*
Salt and pepper

Sour cream or plain Greek yogurt (optional)

In a heavy-bottomed pot or a Dutch oven, melt butter over medium heat and add leeks, stirring to ensure even coating. At this point, I like to let the leeks cook at medium-low to avoid burning them. Unlike onions, leeks do not add depth of flavour once caramelized, so be sure not to do that. Cook until they've softened quite substantially -- around ten minutes, I would say -- and then add the potatoes, stock, garlic, bay leaves, rosemary, a couple cracks of black pepper and salt. Bring to a boil and then reduce to a strong simmer. Let it sit, uncovered, until the potatoes are fork-tender. At this point, add the cayenne (or hot sauce) and adjust the seasoning. Fish out the bay leaves. Purée using a blender, immersion blender, or food processor, and return to the pot. Stir in one cup (or more) of milk or cream until you've reached the desired consistency.

Ladle into bowls and serve with a dollop of sour cream or plain Greek yogurt, if desired.

*A note on the garlic: to roast, slice off the top of the bulb and wrap the remainder in alluminum foil. Place in a 350°F oven for about 40 minutes, until the cloves become soft and sticky to the touch. Once slightly cool, squeeze the garlic from its peel and mash into a thick paste. This can be done ahead of time.

*I take 2% milk in my coffee, so I used that. It worked very nicely. You could use cream, but, in my opinion, the creaminess of the potatoes renders it unnecessary. If you don't have milk on hand or are allergic/intolerant, water is a fine substitute.


Mary said...

You picked a great recipe to share with us today. Our weather has turned and it's time for soup again. I am new to your blog, but love the food and recipes you feature here. I'll be back often. I hope you are having a great day. Blessings...Mary

S. said...

Thank you so much for the kind comment! I hope you're having a great day yourself. S.

Leigh said...

Thanks for the book recommendation...since I moved, I eat almost all of meals at home, alone, and oddly, I find that it's quite comforting. My meals have been becoming simpler and simpler, devolving into just a baked potato and a salad some nights, but like you said, it's nice not to have to worry about anyone's tastes but your own. There's something luxuriously self-indulgent about the whole cooking-for-one enterprise.

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