Sunday, December 14, 2014

Turnip, Leek, Potato, and Spinach Soup

Despite, or perhaps because of, it's simplicity, leek and potato soup is one of my favorites. Through some beautiful culinary alchemy, potatoes, leeks, butter, salt, and water turn in something magical that needs no further enhancement. But that certainly doesn't mean there isn't room for experimentation! This riff on classic pays homage to the classic Potage Parmentier without hiding the extra zing from the turnips or hint of earthy greens. It's surprisingly filling for such a light dish, able to become a meal with just a salad or a heartier one as a companion to your favorite sandwich. Tossing in some beans, cooked grains, or a poached egg (or any combination of the three) is my favorite way to fortify this recipe, and create a delicious, healthy meal out of the orphan ingredients in my fridge. The extra soup freezes beautifully, and there will still be plenty to save even after you dig in heartily.

Turnip, Leek, Potato, and Spinach Soup
adapted from the New York Times
makes 8 servings

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 large leeks, white and light green part only, halved lengthwise, cleaned and sliced or chopped
Salt to taste
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 pounds turnips, peeled and diced
1 large russet potato (about 3/4 pound), peeled and diced
2 quarts water, chicken stock, or vegetable stock
8 ounces baby spinach or kale, chopped
A bouquet garni made with a bay leaf and a couple of sprigs each thyme and parsley
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Chopped fresh tarragon and/or chives for garnish

1. Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy soup pot over medium heat and add the onion, leeks and a pinch of salt. Cook, stirring, until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, 30 seconds to a minute. Add the turnips, potatoes, water or stock, salt to taste, and the bouquet garni. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat, cover and simmer 45 minutes, or until the vegetables are very tender and the soup is fragrant.  During the last few minutes of cooking, add the spinach by handfuls, cooking until the just wilt down. Remove and discard the bouquet garni.

2. Blend the soup in batches in a blender (cover the top with a towel and hold it down to avoid hot splashes), or through a food mill fitted with the fine blade. The soup should be very smooth. Strain if desired. Return to the pot. Stir and taste. Adjust salt, add freshly ground pepper, and heat through. Serve in small bowls or espresso cups, garnished with chopped fresh tarragon and/or chives.

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