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FEATURE: COOKING LOCAL LEEK AND LENTIL SOUP

June 13, 2009

 

            Welcome back to the kitchen. There are more fresh ingredients at the farmers markets each week. We have lots of awesome recipe directions we could go in, so let your creativity run wild and your curiosity guide you. I’ve found myself inspired by beautiful local leeks and tender fresh tarragon, which has come in at my house in abundance.
            Leeks have a great natural sweetness that really seems to come out in a soup. So I’ve been playing around with a leek and lentil soup with some tangy tarragon crème fraise and fried garlic scapes. These thin green tops of the garlic with really bring the soup together.
I’ve gone with a leek and lentil soup here, but a classic cream of leek soup would certainly taste good as well. Sound good? Let’s get to cooking.
 
Leek and Lentil Soup with Tarragon Crème Fraise
 
-1 pound leeks
Discard about ½ the greens, or save them for the herbs to season the stock. Slice the rest of each leek into thin strips. Make sure you split your leeks up the center and carefully wash out all the dirt before you chop them up. While delicious, this onion cousin loves to soak up grit.
 
-4-6 small, early sweet carrots
            Chopped into soup spoon sized chunks
 
-2 stalks of celery
            Also roughly chopped.
 
-2 cups of dried lentils
            Pick out any stones and give them a rinse. The nice thing about lentils is we don’t have to soak them, so this is a much quicker recipe.
 
-1 small bunch of garlic scapes, about 1/3 pound
            We’ll crisp up these long, tasty garlic greens in some olive oil and add them to the top of the soup at the very end. You could also just chop up 3 or 4 cloves of garlic and add them directly to the soup instead.
 
-1 bouquet garni
            A fancy French word for a mixture of fresh herbs tied together with butcher’s twine or wrapped in a cheesecloth teabag. We’ll use whatever’s fresh, look for thyme, rosemary, savory, parsley, and bay leaves (not local but important to the flavor of any soup or stew). The nice thing about having all the herbs together is we will get them to impart their flavor, then pull out all the woody stems at once before serving.
 
-4 tablespoons olive oil
 
-1 teaspoon lemon or lime zest
            As I’m sure you know by now, this is the grated outer peel of the citrus fruit, which contains the aromatic essential oils that impart an awesome zing!
 
-2 quarts chicken or veggie stock
            Organic is better, homemade is by far the best. Oryou can also use plain old water, just add a bit more salt to the soup. Speaking of which…
 
-A dash of sea salt and a big grind of black pepper
 
-(optional) 2 tablespoons miso paste
            Use this rich fermented bean paste instead of most of the salt for a great depth of flavor, but again use less if you are using pre-made stock.
 
For the tarragon crème fraise:
 
-1 cup crème fraise or sour cream
 
-1/2 cup chopped fresh tarragon
 
-1 pinch lime zest
 
            OK, lets get started with this soup. Take out a stock pot and start heating up 2 tablespoons olive oil over a medium high heat. When the oil starts to shimmer, toss in the sliced leeks and let them sauté til they star to brown a bit. Now we can add in the rest of the veggies and turn down the heat to medium. Saute for another 5 minutes or so.
            Now add the stock and or water until the veddies are well covered over. Pouwr in the lentils and add the salt, pepper, lemon zest, and bouquet garni or fresh herb bunch. Bring everything to a boil together then back it way down to a simmer. Cover and cook over a low heat for about 45 minutes. You can cook it in less, but I like everything to be nice and tender.
            The longer we cook the leek and lentil soup, the more the beans will break down and thicken this all up, so we don’t even have to run any of it through the blender.
 
            Ok, while the soup is simmering, lets fry up some garlic scapes. There are a couple ways to cook these garlic greens. Deep frying will likely give a much crispier result than pan fried, but who really has a fryolator sitting around the kitchen? Rubbed in olive oil and baked might yield crispy scapes. But I don’t really like to run the oven much once it turns to summer, so I’m just going to heat up some olive oil til it is quite hot, then pan fry the garlic scapes on a medium heat without stirring them too much. Get the scapes as crispy as possible without actually burning them. We can set these aside on a towel while we serve out the soup.
            Mmm, this smells great. Let’s portion this hearty leek and lentil soup into individual bowls. Fincely chop up the tarragon and mix it into the crème fraise with the lime zest. Swirl a dollop of this mixture over each bowl.
To make the crème fraise swirl look professional, just grab a clean squeeze bottle from the recycling and fill it up with the tarragon mixture. Then squeeze out a swirl or a floawer or whatever other food art you are moved to create. Now gently lay the crispy garlic scapes over the top of each bowl, and serve. Viola! I think this would go great with some fresh hot bread a big side salad of fresh garden greens, which are growing locally in abundance. Toss up your greens with some pea shoots, edible nasturtium flowers, and a bit of balsamic vinegar and olive oil. A perfect, healthy summer meal.
Nice work everyone. I’d love to hear what magic you are creating from fresh, local ingredients. Cooking local in the KOHO Kitchen, I’m saac Kaplan-Woolner.
 
 
 

 

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