Day is done, gone the sun, and let’s have soup. The sun is lingering a little longer these days, but winter still abides in the garden, it remains damp and chilly inside, and if nothing else, we can warm our hands in the steam that rises from our bowls of soup.
Like all repertoires, the soup repertoire is in need of constant tending. You prune the ones that don’t quite work or show signs of reduced drawing power while being alert to new prospects. Much as I love butternut squash soup, for instance (and its near relation, kabocha squash soup), I’ve stricken it from the list, in part because of domestic unrest and in part because a great many restaurant kitchens turn out some version of it between November and March, and this creates an overkill issue.
Meanwhile, there is the matter of additions. The good soupist craves ideas, and when, for instance, a neighbor told of an excellent broccoli-leek soup she brought home one day from the Bi-Rite deli, the soupist’s ears pricked right up. Broccoli-leek? Could this be just a version of potato-leek with broccoli added? The soupist can’t speak for the Bi-Rite kitchen, but potato-leek with broccoli added does make a lovely, cream-of-broccoli-like soup, except with no cream.
Procedure: Clean a large leek by trimming the root end, removing the green leaves, thinly slicing the white bulb, and separating and cleaning the rings in a large bowl of water. Heat some sweet butter or vegetable oil in a soup pan, add the leek rings (with a pinch of salt), and soften, stirring occasionally. Don’t let the leek turn brown. Add a head of broccoli, rinsed and coarsely chopped, along with a large russet potato, peeled and cubed. Add about four or five cups water or stock chicken stock is excellent but not vegan bring to a boil, and simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes. Puree with an immersion wand or in a blender, add some ground or cracked black pepper, and salt to taste.
A nice springtime variation is to substitute green, or fresh, garlic (now showing up at farmers markets) for the leek. You will need three or four green garlic stalks, since they’re much slenderer than leeks. These soups cool very appealingly, even down to room temperature, but if your hands are blue, serve them hot.