Leek Soup with Dill Oil

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Growing up in Forest Hills, NY, there used to be a quaint french restaurant on the main street, called La Fondue. I think every week for months, on the weekends when I was 13 years old, I would enjoy my favorite soup – Onion Soup soaked in french bread and topped with overflowing melted burnt cheese. I stopped cold turkey and then restarted this onion soup obsession of mine when I was pregnant. Relax…. it was years later! I was craving onion soup like a mad woman on the edge. I can’t tell you why, but it settled the nausea. Probably something subconscious – like regression, fetal position, womb, soup…. get it ?  what ever, sounds psychological.

In any event, as you know (or not) I have been a member of a CSA for years now, so am always on the lookout for interesting recipes that speak to me. This soup does just that. It’s a Mediterranean version of my long lost love onion soup, only this version is made with leeks and is much healthier. Leeks originally came from the Mesopotamian region and yet somehow became the national symbol in Ireland. In Ireland, leek & potato soup is a staple in their diet. The leek soup presented here is also made from a leek and potato base, but then spruced up with some forest green dill oil, Parmesan cheese and toasted almond flakes for crunch.

I made the dill oil by pureeing fresh dill and olive oil, then used a portion of it in the soup base, and the remaining as a drizzle across the tops of the soup. Soup aside, the oil is also great drizzled on just about any kind of egg, or crackers with cheese and even as a base for a salad dressing.  Be sure to slice the leeks lengthwise and clean in between the leaves to make sure there is no dirt hiding. I regularly find pockets of mud layers in. It’s sneaky like that, and you really don’t want it in your soup. I can’t tell you how many times I thought I cleaned the leeks properly only to find myself chewing on grit later on. It’s especially embarrassing when I have guests over, and they are wandering if the grit is part of the meal. Thanks to 101 Cookbooks for sharing this recipe.

 Yields 8-10 servings

Ingredients

1 small bunch of fresh dill
9 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3.5 pounds ( 1.5 kg) leeks, thinly sliced
6 tablespoons unsalted vegan butter
Sea salt
2 large, thin-skinned potatoes, thinly sliced
3 medium garlic cloves, thinly sliced
6 1/2 cups (1.5+ liters) vegetable broth
toasted almond slices, for topping

grated Parmesan cheese, for topping

Directions

  1. Use a food processor to puree the dill and olive oil into a creamy emulsion. Set aside.
  2. Cut the dark, tough green leaves from the leeks, trim off the roots, and rinse well. You can slice the leeks lengthwise to get in between the layers.
  3. In a large soup pot, heat the butter and 5 tablespoons of the dill oil over medium-high heat. When the butter has melted and is bubbling, stir in the leeks and a couple big pinches of salt. Stir well, then cover. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the leeks soften up, 6 – 8 minutes. Now, stir in the potatoes and garlic and cook, uncovered, stirring regularly, for another 15-20 minutes or until the potatoes are very, very soft. If the leeks at the bottom of the pot are starting to burn, lower the heat and scrape the bottom of the pan when you’re stirring. Stir in the hot broth, and use a hand blender to emulsify. Bring back to a simmer, serve topped with almonds, grated cheese, and a generous drizzle of the remaining dill oil.

Leek, Mushroom and Lemon Risotto (Gluten Free)

Here in the Northeast, winter has started early. We have been seeing temperatures hover in the 30 degree mark for weeks. Normally we don’t experience this chill until late January early February. In fact, New York had one of it’s biggest snow storms in recorded history just two weeks ago dumping almost 3 feet of snow with the wind drifts.

My everyday walk with my dog for 40 minutes has now dwindled down to a quick hop and jump up the block and around in 10 minutes flat. So both my dog and I have a lot of pented up energy. He has been sniffing away at my garbage, wrestling with all my papers in there, and I have been cooking good ol’ comfort foods.

This past week I returned to my Italian fare… Risotto.

As a child I used to visit with my famalia in Italia every year, twice a year. I would stay with my aunt, who regularly made pasta every night for dinner. Sometimes she would indulge herself into making a Risotto. This would involve nursing this creamy dish for at least a good hour, while her armed tired from the stirring of this heavy dish. It was a good workout as beads of sweat used to gather by her brow. I think she enjoyed it.

Interestingly with all the pasta mia familia consumed, everyone of my cousins was THIN. Go figure… (no pun intended). Fresh pasta with a fresh suggo (marinara sauce) paired with red wine (for the adults) was a diet to thinness.

In any event, back to this Leek, Mushroom and Lemon Risotto I prepared. The combination of leeks with the chewy texture of mushrooms already lends this dish to a hearty fare. The lemon just lightens up the flavor with a delicate sprinkling of Parmesan. What’s even more perfect about this dish is that everyone, including the kids will love it. It is just that good and versatile.

To clean leeks: with a knife slit the leek lengthwise and clean between the layers with running water
The rice is first cooked briefly in a soffritto (flavor base) of onion and butter to coat each grain in a film of fat, this is called tostatura. When it has evaporated, the heat is raised to medium high and very hot vegetable stock is gradually added in small amounts while stirring gently, almost constantly: stirring loosens the starch molecules from the outside of the rice grains into the surrounding liquid, creating a smooth creamy-textured liquid. At that point it is taken off the heat for the mantecatura when diced cold butter and finely grated Parmigiano cheese is vigorously stirred in to make the texture as creamy and smooth as possible. It may be removed from the heat a few minutes earlier, and left to cook with its residual heat.
Serves 4
Ingredients
2 leeks, cleaned, trimmed and chopped
8 ounces Cremini mushrooms, wiped and coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 garlic cloves, crushed
6 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, roughly chopped
1 3/4 cups short grain brown rice
5 cups hot vegetable stock
grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesen cheese
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Directions
  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan and cook the garlic for 1 minute taking care not to burn it. Add the leeks, mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes, or until softened and browned. Remove the mixture from the pan and set aside.
  2. Add 2 tablespoons of the butter to the pan and cook the onion over medium heat for about 5 minutes, or until golden and soft.
  3. Stir in the rice and cook for about 1 minute. Add a ladleful of the stock to the pan and cook gently, stirring occasionally until all the liquid is absorbed.
  4. Gently stir in more liquid as each ladleful is absorbed; this should take 20-25 minutes in all. The risotto will turn thick and creamy, and the rice should be tender, but not sticky or gluey.
  5. Just before serving, stir in the leek and mushroom mixture, remaining butter, grated lemon zest and juice and half the Parmesan. Adjust the seasoning to taste.
  6. When serving, sprinkle remaining Parmesan and springs of flat leaf parsley.

Cauliflower and Leek Soup with Toasted Hazelnuts (Vegan, Gluten Free)

When I started foraging for dinner ingredients this afternoon, I found a few autumn vegetables for this soup.  Cooler weather always has me craving snuggly socks, a toasty blanket and a soup that just warms me up. The great thing about cauliflower, beside the lovely potato like taste and all the vitamins, is that the soup get a creamy thick consistence without using cream, or any other kind of thickener. By also adding lemon to the soup you get this fresh taste. Top with toasted hazelnuts and  you get that warm nutty crunch that makes this a hearty winters’ soup. Purée in a blender for the smoothest, creamiest results. Make the soup up to a day ahead, and store in the refrigerator. Reheat over medium-low heat, stirring frequently.


Recipe courtesy of Chef Peter Berley, author of The Flexitarian Table

SERVINGS 8-10

INGREDIENTS

Sea salt
Freshly squeezed juice of 1 lemon
1-2 head of cauliflower (3 pounds in total), separated into florets
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
6 medium or 3 large leeks — tough green parts discarded, the remainder thinly sliced and thoroughly rinsed
1-2 quarts vegetable stock, preferably homemade
1/2 cup peeled hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
Freshly grated nutmeg
Finely chopped fresh parsley


Directions

1. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add 2 tablespoons of salt and the lemon juice. Add the cauliflower and cook, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Drain the cauliflower and set aside.

2. Meanwhile, in a heavy soup pot over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the leeks and stir to coat, season with salt and cook until very tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Adjust the heat as needed to prevent browning. Add the cauliflower and stock and bring to a simmer. With a slotted spoon transfer the leeks and cauliflower to a blender or food processor and puree with some of the stock until smooth. Return the puree to the pot.

3. In a toaster oven, bake at 350F the hazelnuts for about 8 minutes or until fragrant.

4. Bring the soup to a simmer, season with salt, white pepper and nutmeg. Serve the soup garnished with the hazelnuts and parsley.