Let’s Eat — A Writer’s Guide to Cooking
The great thing about making soup is that once you have a recipe mastered, it’s easy to come up with variations. By adjusting the amount of certain ingredients, introducing a new one, or leaving one out altogether, you can fool people into thinking they’re eating something different. Sometimes you can even fool yourself. The hard part is remembering what you did when the soup turns out well. With that in mind, I want to add this recipe for leek soup before I forget how I made it. Here goes:
First, cover the bottom of a large pan with a generous amount of extra-virgin olive oil (one-third to one-half cup), then add water until the pan is a little less than half full. Set the heat somewhere between medium and low. Finely chop four or five cloves of garlic and throw that in. Slice up about a third of a medium yellow onion and add that. Cut either two large leeks or three smaller ones crosswise in sections about three-eighths of an inch wide. Try to find leeks that are firm, and that have a large portion of useable white root. You can use some of the upper greenish part as it ascends toward the tough dark-green leaves, but the leaf portion itself should be discarded. Put in the leek and cover the pan.
Next, while the first ingredients are warming, peel and dice a tomato and put it in a bowl. Then peel and slice six or seven medium-sized carrots. Slice the carrots crosswise, about a quarter of an inch thick. After the carrots, add three or four stalks of celery, preferably with some of the leaves. Cut the celery in the same manner as the carrots. Finally, wash, peel, and rinse about a dozen medium-size potatoes.
(I use russets.) Slice the potatoes crosswise, and make them also about a quarter of an inch thick.
By this time, the soup should be hot, near simmering. Give it a stir. There should already be a good strong aroma rising from the garlic, onion, and leeks. Now add the potatoes, then on top of that the carrots, celery, and tomato. The ingredients should bring the level of liquid close to the top of the pan. For more soupy soup, use fewer potatoes; for less soupy soup, use more. I prefer the soup soupy myself. A soupier soup also reheats better the next day (and the day after that), and won’t turn to sludge — although, if it does turn to sludge, it still tastes just as good.
Now for the seasonings. If the olive oil isn’t easily noticeable, add a little more. Next, add a generous sprinkling of salt. Be brave — remember, there’s a lot of stuff in there. Now sprinkle on some black pepper — several shakes ought to do it. Finally, if you have some dry purple basil, grind up about a tablespoon of that (this is a guess, because I never measure the stuff) and throw it in. Don’t stir the soup just yet. After it has reached a low boil, lower the heat until it’s just enough to keep the soup simmering. Fifteen or twenty minutes later, go ahead and move the ingredients around with a wooden spoon. Do this once every fifteen or twenty minutes until the soup is done. Take it easy in the stirring department. The more vigorously you stir, the more the potatoes will break up and disintegrate, and the less pretty the soup will be.
Once the potatoes have been added and the soup is simmering properly, it usually takes an hour to an hour and a half for everything to be done. This amount should serve about twelve people. One other thing: for an evening meal, I usually make soups early in the afternoon, so the flavors have time to develop and come together. Maybe it’s just me, but soups always seem to taste better if they’ve had a little time to sit.
Also by William Michaelian
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