Monday, March 14, 2011

The Soup Project: Roasted Potato and Leek Soup with Cashew Cream and Broccoli Raab

This time of year is challenging for soup variety, especially if you aren't serving meat, fish or poultry in soup. Local produce right now is limited, but I had this idea of yet another potato soup using red potatoes from Olsen Farms. These potatoes are red inside and out and I thought the color would be fun. But I'd wanted to find something different from the usual Potato-Leek Soup and I soon discovered that all the general cookbooks on my shelves contained potato-leek soup recipes. Does anyone have any real creativity when it comes to potato soup in the spring?Doesn't anyone think beyond leek when you say potato soup?

I can't remember at what point I gave in to leeks, but I figured it was my best bet since there were so many recipes that contained those two ingredients. Unfortunately most of the recipes were way too similar, except for the potato-leek soup recipe in The Bold Vegetarian Chef by Ken Charney. I think it was the cashew cream that caught my eye. I'm a sucker for anything with cashew cream and I hadn't remembered this soup until I opened the book but I first tasted it in a cooking class years ago. That's when I bought this book.

It was PCC Natural Markets in Kirkland, maybe a decade ago. Charney used to teach amazing vegetarian cooking classes at the same time that I taught classes at PCC Natural Markets. He also wrote magazine articles for Vegetarian Times, and he had just published his first cookbook--everything I was aspiring to at the time. But after his book came out, Charney shrugged off writing (it didn't pay enough) and he took a full- position at the West Seattle PCC deli. He also gave up teaching cooking classes. I'd stop by the West Seattle PCC deli once in awhile and say "hi" and then one day an employee told me Ken and his wife moved to Texas. Whatever happened to Ken Charney, maybe he'd be happy to know his book is still inspiring recipes.

In addition to the cashew cream (which takes the soup to another level) I wanted spring greens in the soup, but I didn't find any recipes from my cookbooks that included anything like broccoli raab or mustard greens. Why? I contemplated the greens idea a bit, and then I decided the best way to add them to this soup would be to saute them, then spoon them over the top. I'd never done this before, but I could picture it perfectly--the pink soup, the greens, the drizzle of cashew cream over the greens and soup. Also if I did this, if soup was leftover, the greens wouldn't lose their color, I could simply sautee more greens to freshen up any leftover soup. I hate it when you reheat soup and the greens look like a wrung out jockeys at the racetrack.

Here is the recipe I made (tweak it any way that pleases you):

Roasted Potato and Leek Soup with Cashew Cream and Broccoli Raab
(Makes 4 servings)
This soup is better if you can soak the cashews for at least an hour before you make it. You can use red or white waxy potatoes for this and roast the potatoes first; it caramelizes the outside a bit and gives the soup a little different flavor. The color wasn't quite the pink I'd pictured, especially after I added my favorite dark balsamic vinegar. I can hear my mom calling the color "puce" but the taste is so decadent, you'll soon forget all about the unfortunate dark redish brown color. I have to say that my addition of the lightly sauteed greens added after the soup was cooked was brilliant.

1 cup unsalted cashews
1 cup apple juice
1 1/2 to 2 pounds red or white waxy potatoes, cut in bite-size chunks
3 to 4 cups water
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
3 leeks, sliced and rinsed well, the white and light green parts
1 small fennel bulb, diced (optional)
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
2 to 4 cups chopped broccoli raab or rapini
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (optional)

1. Place cashews in apple juice and soak for 1 hour or soak overnight in the refrigerator. Place this mixture in a blender and puree until smooth and creamy. Refrigerate until about 15 minutes before the soup is ready.

2. Preheat oven to 350 F. Spread potatoes in one layer in a 9 by 13-inch baking dish. Drizzle with 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil. Stir and roast for 45 minutes or until potatoes are fork-tender.
Puree half of these potatoes with 1 1/2 to 2 cups water. Pour into a medium-large saucepan.

3. Saute leeks in heavy skillet in remaining olive oil, cooking until soft but not browned. Add fennel, if desired and cook until it softens. Add leeks and fennel to the saucepan with the pureed potatoes and cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, adding 2 to 2 1/2 cups of water. Reduce heat, add remaining roasted potatoes with the balsamic vinegar. Add salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the lemon juice if any tweaking is necessary before serving. In another saucepan, saute chopped greens with a small amount of olive oil. Stir until just wilted.

4. Stir half of the cashew cream into the soup. Ladle into serving bowls. Top with sauteed greens and drizzle with cashew cream, if desired.

This is what it looks like without the cashew cream.

My Cooking Assistant is all about the croutons and crusty artisan bread. At first I wondered why he wouldn't look closer but now I see his disappointment as he gazes into the camera. "Yes but where are the croutons?" his look suggests. Even the dogs are spoiled foodies around here.

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