It started with a leek….
Well, there’s almost never just one of them….
Leeks in the garden – some are flowering and forming seed heads – this is not the optimal time to harvest them. Looks like August to me. If you plant them in September, you can eat them all winter, you just have to wait for the ground to thaw to harvest them. Or plant them in a hoop house. They grow in the cold, just slowly.
except sometimes in a painting
Still Life with Copper Pan – and one leek – Jean-Simeon Chardin – 18th century
I had thought to make the bright green leek soup that had been in the New York Times last Wednesday.
This just looks so fresh and GREEN…so I went looking for leeks a the Farmer’s Market
I found leeks at the Farmer’s Farmer’s Market, and of course, couldn’t remember anything else that was in the soup…it was fresh spinach, but I’m pretty sure that I didn’t see any of that. Fresh pea shoots, yes, and fresh other greens, but not spinach.
Since the Soups of Italy was still out on the table…and the Ancient Romans ate leeks or porri I was sure there’d be at least one recipe.
I was surprised that there was this one, that judging from the smudges I have made at least once, that I had no memory of making at all. And if you can see something in your mind’s eye, can you taste something in your mind’s eye, can you taste something in your mind’s mouth? Anyhow, it looked like it would taste good.
I already had everything on hand – no need to go out in the cold for a grocery run!
This week’s soup:
Minestra di Patate e Porri
Potato and Leek Soup
Potatoes – 1-1 ½ #
Leeks – 2 #
Broth – 5-6 cups (or water)
Fettucinne – 6 oz dried/12 oz fresh
Bacon (2 strips smoky), water, butter, oil, celery rib, onion, garlic, sage leaves, freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 strips smoky bacon
1 # potatoes
1 # leeks
- In large heavy bottom pan, cook the bacon over medium high heat.
- Wash, peel and dice the potatoes. (Save the peels for broth making)
- Rinse and thinly slice the white and light green parts of the leeks.
- When the bacon strips are crispy, remove from the pot and put aside. Add the potato and leeks to the bacon grease and sprinkle with salt.
- Mix everything well and then add enough water to cover.
- Bring to a simmer, then cover the pot, keeping to a simmer, for 30 minutes. A hard boil is going to make the potatoes pasty, as in wall-paper paste pasty, so keep the heat gentle throughout.
- When they are cooled somewhat, puree them before adding them to the soup pot, although I often forget this step and have never regretted it. The potatoes are pretty cooked down and the leeks soft and lovely, and the back of a wooden spoon breaks things down and keeps things interesting at the same time.
1 # leeks
1 medium onion
1 celery rib
1 garlic clove
2-4 sage leaves
1 Tbl butter
2 Tbl oil
- Rinse well and thinly slice the 2nd pound of leeks, white and light green parts.
- Finely dice together the onion, the celery rib, the garlic clove and the sage leaves.
- Heat the oil and butter together in a heavy bottom soup pot. Add the leeks and the diced onion, celery, garlic and sage. Give them about 5 minute a few quick stirs until things softens and get fragrant.
5-6 cups broth
- Add the broth to the pot. Add the cooked potato and leeks to the pot. Stir everything well. Bring to a gentle simmer, and keep partially covered at a simmer for 30 minutes.
6 oz dried fettuccine or 12 oz fresh, cut into 2” pieces
¼ C grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
Cooked bacon, crumbled
- Put on a pot of salted water to cook the pasta – OK – reality check –IF you are going to serve and gobble down every last drop of this soup in the next hour or so, by all means, drop your store-boughten boxed dried little noodles bits into the soup and serve away….but IF you went to the bother of making noodles or the expense of buying fresh, take the time and trouble to boil them separately, and IF you’re looking at more soup then will be eaten at one meal and will have a leftover plan, then boil them separately. The combination of long cooked potatoes and cooled down pasta leads to a fairly nasty blob of starchy food-like-stuff by the time it cools down. If on the other hand, you have no interest in flavor or texture, just calories when you eat, I can’t imagine why you’re reading recipes in the first place and there are plenty of cans and containers of things on the grocery store shelves that you can heat in the microwave and eat directly from in less time than it took you to read this far. But it takes all kinds, and there’s room for everyone at the table who will please observe the Clean Hands/Clean Behavior Rule.
- Back to the recipe- put a pot of water on to boil, cook the fettuccine al dente, drain well.
- Add the fettuccine to the soup.
- Serve the soup with the grated cheese and crumbled bacon.
Adapted from Minestra di Lasagnette e Porri in Soups of Italy, pp. 170-1.
Soups of Italy