Potato, Leek, Bread and Rocket Soup
I've talked about this recipe a few times. As I mentioned in the Breadblog, the lettuce soup at a recent Wine Squared dinner was lovely and inspired me to want to make something similar. I found a recipe that looked promising in a San Francisco area foodie blog. The recipe used stale bread, which was a plus for me. As mentioned in my food philosophy page, I see recipes as starting points, that a recipe isn't really yours until you play with it, and that it's really OK to play with your food. I hope you'll go and read the bread blog and food philosophy pages. I also hope you'll try and enjoy this soup.
A quick note on ingredients - in most of the world, the variety of lettuce used in this soup is called "Rocket". In the USA, its called "Arugula". It has a spicy taste that really works well for this recipe. You want as flavorful a lettuce as you can find. If you can't find Arugula or Rocket, use your judgement or ask your grocer for help. Also, don't cheap out in the olive oil. The olive oil really carries the soup, so you want a rich extra-virgin olive oil. You'll find lots of uses for it! You can use any pepper, I like a blend of different peppers. The BIG thing is that the pepper should be freshly ground. If you've never had freshly ground pepper, well, it's about time you did. You can get a pepper grinder for under ten bucks, and it will probably be pre-loaded with your first round of pepper. When it wears out, I'll bet you'll want a better pepper grinder.
This should serve two as a main course, or 4 as a side dish.
1 cup diced potatoes (please leave them unpeeled - the peel is where the flavor is!)
1 cup diced leek (make sure you clean the leek well, leeks tend to be dirty)
3 cups water
1 tbsp. salt
1 bunch (about 1/2 lb.) rocket (arugula), preferably the sharper "wild" variety, washed and coarsely chopped.
2 cups stale bread - use a nice sourdough, or one of your other rich and flavorful breads, cut in cubes. PLEASE leave the crusts on the bread!
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil - a nice rich flavorful, dark green extra-virgin olive oil
freshly ground black pepper to taste.
Dice the potatoes. The size you dice them to depends on what you want to do. You can have very small pieces - around 1/4" on a side that will cook quickly, or larger pieces that will produce a chunkier soup. Put about 1 TBSP of the olive oil in the bottom of a large skillet. Warm it on medium high heat. Add the diced potato and leek. Allow them to lightly brown, stirring frequently to keep them from sticking to the pot, 5 to 10 minutes. Add the three cups of water and the salt. Bring this to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer, cover and allow to cook for 15 minutes.
At this point, we face a choice. You can leave the potatoes and leeks as they are, or use an immersion blender to puree them. Pureeing the leeks and potatoes will thicken the soup. Some people will prefer the thicker soup, others the chunkier. You could also pull out some of the potatoes and leeks with a slotted spoon and puree what is left if you believe in the best of both worlds. If you are shooting for a chunky soup, you might check how done the potato pieces are and cook them another 15 minutes if they aren't soft yet. The idea is to please you, so do what will make you happy!
Next add the chopped lettuce, stir it in, cover and allow to cook another 15 minutes.
Now turn off the heat, stir in the bread cubes, cover and let sit for 10 minutes. Then ladle the soup into individual serving dishes. Divide the olive oil between the serving dishes, floating it on top of the soup. Grind black pepper on top to taste and serve. You might bring the olive oil container and the pepper grinder to the table for those who want more. The soup is rich and deeply satisfying. Its become a regular around here!