Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Potage Santé aka Green Soup

When you are used to cooking for two and are suddenly left to your own devices, funny things start to happen. Namely, your meals suffer. I inherited from my mother the proclivity to--when left to eat alone--combine leftovers of different and discordant flavors in the same bowl, at odd times of the day or night, and to eat them while doing a crossword puzzle. It's not a lack of interest in the preparation, or in the flavor of the food, but rather a tendency to fall into a time warp of concentration and work from which we suddenly awaken, and, ravenous, go for ease of access and the simple need to fuel. The crossword puzzle is a way to somewhat absentmindedly reboot the brain. It's that or solitaire. So while my sweetheart is scaling cliffs in Yosemite I have found myself, at 5pm or late at night, eating a "dinner" comprised of things in my fridge that can only be summed up by calling them "orts." Yup. It's been that good.

Yesterday we had the first rainy day in Sonoma in months. The sky was a smudge against the bleached hills, and while it never poured, a steady drizzle made it just cold enough to let it settle in the bones. In that damp afternoon, I went to the garden, picked a bunch of kale and uncovered startlingly red potatoes, gleaming like garnets in the black loam.
I was going to cook. I would not eat popcorn and pieces of turkey rolled around mustard and slices of avocado then dipped in hummus. I was going to prepare a delicious, nourishing meal and eat it at dinner time. I was going to make green soup.

Green soup is something my dad makes, and it is something his mother made. She called it Potage Santé, which means Health Soup. Hers always included sorrel, which is a delicious, lemony weed that grows wild and is a great detoxifier and general tonic. It's hard to find in groceries stores or markets so dad and I have both adapted the recipe, using whatever greens we can get. This is a soup for all seasons though I associate it with inclement weather: a rainy summer night, blizzards, sunless spring days and the first frosts of autumn. Each green soup is slightly different from the last--depending on the season, the mood, the vegetables at hand--but it is always green, always with the backbone of some kind of allium and a potato to thicken, and best accompanied by crusty bread warmed in the oven, and a couple of good cheeses.

Our sorrel hasn't emerged yet so I used kale from the garden, some cauliflower that needed a home, and, just to make it extra green, the last of a bag of frozen peas. I had no onion but young garlic worked just as well.
While this soup is a great home for the ends of vegetables it is also one which is vastly improved by the quality of the ingredients you put into it. It's a great neutral pallet for any array of herbs and spices but if your vegetables have come straight out of healthy ground or fresh from a farmer's market, you won't need more than salt and pepper.

The soup took me about an hour and a half to prep, cook, puree and reheat. At 7pm I closed my computer, poured a glass of wine, turned on some music, and sat down to a real meal by myself. It truly was health soup. Never underestimate the joy of cooking for one.

Green Soup
serves 4-6
4-5 cups chicken or vegetable stock or water
1 medium sized leek, sliced & washed
about 2 cups chopped celery and/or carrots
12-16 oz potatoes, peeled and cubed
4 cups dark leafy greens of choice, roughly chopped
2 T olive oil
1 T unsalted butter
salt and pepper to taste

optional add-ins
fresh or frozen peas
dandelion greens
spinach
collard greens or swiss chard
broccoli or cauliflower
sour cream, heavy cream or plain yogurt to top
chopped fresh herbs to top
red pepper flakes to top
edible flowers to top

In a large, heavy-bottomed pot, heat the olive oil and melt the butter over medium-high heat. Add the leek and sauté, stirring, for about one minute. Reduce heat to medium and add the celery and carrots. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are soft and the leek is translucent. 

Add the potatoes (and broccoli if you are using it), stir, and then pour in the stock. The liquid should cover the vegetables. If it doesn't, add more stock or water to cover. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer, cooking until a fork goes easily through the potatoes. About 10-15 minutes. When the potatoes are cooked but not too soft, stir in the greens. You may need to add a bit more liquid at this point. Once the greens are wilted, remove the pot from heat and let cool about 10 minutes.

Working in batches, ladle the soup into a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. Pour the pureed soup into a bowl. If you are serving right away, pour the pureed soup back into the pot and heat at medium-low heat. Taste and adjust salt and pepper as needed. You may want to thin the soup with more stock or water at this point as well. If you plan to eat the soup later, let it cool after pureeing and then store in the refrigerator until ready to eat.

When the soup is hot, ladle into bowls and top however you choose. This time I used wild mustard flowers from the bed in front of our house. Crusty bread for dredging the empty bowl is highly recommended.

5 comments:

EtotheHENRY. said...

loved this post...and loving the gorgeous goods being pulled from your garden! May I be so bold the next time I fly solo...

lauren p said...

another post that read my mind...thank you thank you! i made our potage sante this afternoon with kale, mushrooms, and broccoli; alliums too of course, and a secret addition of some leftover mashed potatoes :) this was so healing for our family - two kids who don't always love vegetables loved it, my husband ate cup after cup as he's nursing a painful toothache soon to be root canal, and i came home so very happily to it this evening after a late night working, having eaten only the chocolate from a bag of trail mix (my m.o.). i love our immersion blender for soups like these. you are the best - feeling healed. xo lauren

Alexis Finley said...

Looks amazing! I can't wait to get home and start cooking!

Annie Hewlett said...

I made this! Thank you! Immersion-Blender Bliss and True Lovage, Annie

Annie Hewlett said...

Well YUM. I made this. Thank you for reminding me of all the things I could make that aren't the things I always make! Blenderwand bliss and true loveage,
Annie