I haven't felt like cooking for awhile.
Until recently, much of my life was stuffed into neatly numbered apple cartons, piled high in a storage space a few hundred miles away. We spent the summer painfully searching, finding, buying, and (finally) moving into a new home. And then there was the whole unpacking-getting settled thing. Which seriously may continue until my pre-schooler grandchildren graduate from college.
Living full-time in a community we previously only lived in part-time was a big change in my life. Until we lived here in the mountains full-time, I viewed this more of a vacation get-away place than a home that would be the center of my friendships and day-to-day activities. I like to feel connected to a community, and much of my attention suddenly turned outside the home in that effort.
All of this made me feel scattered to the winds. None of this inspired me into the kitchen.
Six o'clock rolled around without any thought of dinner. As if I was surprised that we were supposed to eat dinner every night. So we ate out. A lot.
But that got old too. I missed my connection to the kitchen, to food, to being alone as I created something new.
Cooking is a trusty barometer for my sense of well-being. I was having fun, meeting new people, and exploring neighboring mountain towns, but I was also feeling unsettled.
And suddenly it happened. I woke up one morning bursting with ideas, and recipes I wanted to try out. I was re-energized, and felt back in my own skin again, if that makes any sense. Like coming home to myself. And just in time for fall comfort food -- one of my favorite times of the year.
So here's a potato soup I've been playing with. I highly recommend using Idaho® potatoes, as I genuinely believe they have the best texture and flavor of any others. Here are some additional notes:
Make your life easy and use Gourmet Garden's garlic pastes. They're as fresh as if you'd done all the chopping and mincing yourself, without all the work.
Feel free to use vegetable stock in place of water, but it will mute the flavors of the soup a bit. Using water allows the flavors to shine through.
Hatch green chilis grow in the Hatch Valley of New Mexico, but may not be readily available where you live. I've included a link in the recipe for where you can purchase them online, or you can substitute ½ of a poblano chile. Hatch green chilis may look like Anaheim peppers, but are much hotter. So don't be fooled by their appearance.
If you don't have Asiago cheese, use Parmesan if you must, but know that it's not the same. Asiago is a wetter cheese than Parmesan, and has better melting characteristics. So go to the extra effort to find some Asiago.
BACON BACON BACON.
More Soups to Love
If you like hearty soups that are quick to make, check out this vegetarian barley soup. It includes a potato for heft, and brightened with a squeeze of lime and a little mint.
Potato Leek Soup with Chiles
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 3 leeks white and light green parts only, roughly chopped - (about 4 cups)
- 1 ½ tablespoons garlic paste
- 2 tablespoons white wine
- 6 cups water
- 2 pounds Idaho® russet potatoes peeled and thinly sliced - (about 6 cups)
- 1 roasted Hatch green chile stemmed, seeded, and finely chopped (or substitute ½ roasted poblano chile)
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- 4 scallions sliced into 1-inch segments including the dark green stems
- ½ cup heavy cream
- ¼ cup grated Asiago cheese
- Garnish: Chives finely chopped (optional)
- Melt the butter over medium heat in a heavy-bottomed soup pot. I use a Le Creuset pot. Add the chopped leeks and sauté, stirring regularly, until soft and wilted, about 10 minutes. Stir in the garlic, and cook another minute. Some light browning on the bottom of the pot is completely normal.
- Stir in the wine and scrape up any browning of the bottom of the pot. There's a lot of flavor packed in there. Cook only until the wine is absorbed, 2 - 3 minutes.
- Add the water, potatoes, chile, bay leaf, thyme, rosemary, salt, and black pepper to the pot and bring to a boil. Cover and turn the heat down to low, and simmer for 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender without falling apart.
- Remove the bay leaf, and stir in the scallions and heavy cream. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
- Garnish with chopped chives if desired, and add a little grated Asiago to serve.