Photos by Zachary Cross
Potato leek soup is a classic, made by everyone from Julia Child to Alton Brown. Although people often think of it as a rich soup with cream, a dairy-free, potentially vegan version is equally satisfying.
I’m not sure when or where I first tasted potato-leek soup, but I suspect it was during afternoon tea at The English Rose. I remember the portions being small, which is a good thing as it was definitely a cream-based, rich soup. That’s perfect for cold, wet winter evenings, when I want some comfort food - something filling.
But this winter has had more warm days than cold. Hot soup is still appropriate most evenings, but I’ve found myself wanting lighter fare more than usual in the winter. Thankfully my go-to recipe has both a vegan version as well as the dairy-laden. This is another Jack Bishop leek recipe from Vegetables Every Day. I had enjoyed the browned leeks recipe so much I assumed I would like his soup recipe. I was surprised to find that the basic recipe has no cream or milk, and is not puréed. I tried it out and enjoyed its hearty taste and texture. I’ve since tried the variation I originally had in mind and enjoyed that, too.
There are so many versions of potato-leek soup, that include bacon, celery, cayenne, garlic, and/or thyme, as well as other additions. As when researching hashbrowns, I found people highly opinionated on whether russet, yukon gold, or other potatoes are best. And there are various ways to blend your soup! I prefer using an immersion blender with a light hand, but some purists say only mashing by hand works, with some chiming in that ricing is the best. Just be sure not to overblend as that can make the soup come out gummy.
I follow Bishop’s recipe pretty closely with a few exceptions (that’s closely for me!). First, I use whatever potato I have handy. I don’t think I’ve used red or blue fleshed, but russets, red-skinned, or Yukon Gold all work. They do have different qualities, but I like them all. Yukons are my favorite, and give a warm, golden color to the soup. Next, I just use water instead of vegetable or chicken stock. Bone broth is very nourishing but I’m cooking for vegetarians. If I’ve made some homemade veggie stock I’ll use it, but I don’t care for prepackaged bouillon or stock. Also, I don’t care for the taste of bay leaves. Maybe one day I’ll have a bay tree like Martha, who swears by fresh bay leaves. Until then I’ll pass on the harsh flavor of the dried. Last, although this soup, as most do, benefits from a green garnish, I’ll use what I have on hand and in the mood for, not just parsley. Chives are a logical alternative, but thyme is also a good one. Emeril fries up shoestring potatoes and leeks as a topping for his version.
I’m including both variations of this soup. Choose which one based on your dietary preferences, available ingredients, or mood.
From Vegetables Every Day by Jack Bishop
4 medium leeks
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound red potatoes, peeled and cut into ½-inch dice
4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley leaves
Variation: Creamy Leek and Potato Soup
Prepare the soup through step 3. Remove and discard the bay leaf. Purée the soup in a blender. (Do not purée any longer than necessary or the potatoes will become gluey.) Return the soup to the pot and stir in ½ cup heavy cream and the parsley. Bring almost to a boil, adjust the seasonings, and serve immediately..
Printable recipe here
Photos by Zachary Cross
Although my original intention was simply to make supper one evening using kale I had purchased that week, my search for a recipe led to research about the popularity of this now ubiquitous vegetable. Since it’s both the darling and devil of the food world the results on Google seemed limitless in variety as well as quantity.
Kale is a hardy member of the cabbage family, tasting better and sweeter in the cooler months of the year. Once upon a time many Americans only knew it as a lighter green, frilly garnish, an alternative to the dark green, frilly parsley garnish. Or perhaps they grew it in their winter flower beds with their pansies and mums. There are many types of kale, though, in shades of reds, purples, and all sorts of greens, with tightly curled or flat leaves, or somewhere in between.
There are various timelines attempting to explain kale’s rise in popularity. Certainly it began sometime in the 2000s. I know when we first started cooking a good bit of it in 2007 it was already getting popular, yet our cookbook collection (including Martha), did not have many, if any, kale recipes. We just improvised and used spinach recipes, using a longer cooking time.
We added more cookbooks to our collection and heard about kale smoothies. Martha put kale recipes on her website. Gwyneth Paltrow and Ellen made kale chips on TV. In 2013 the owner of a PR firm decided to give kale a boost, claiming she was backed by the non-existent American Kale Association. By 2013 kale was pretty well established in farmer’s markets but apparently this publicity made it familiar with the general public, to both praise and scorn.
Have you heard about the new kale? An internet search reveals that it’s collards, chard, quinoa, kelp, and/or mustard greens. In the end, it turns out, the new kale is kale.
This past week Healthy Kitchen had a new kale, that is, a kale I had not noticed before: Scarlet. It’s definitely frilly, but not the least bit green. It’s a deep purple tinged with red and I was excited to try something so pretty. I was afraid cooking it would leach some of the color so I decided to try something else new to me: a massaged kale salad (yes, I’m late to the game!). There are basic instructions in an earlier blog post but I found a slightly more complex recipe, specifically for Redbor, a very similar-looking variety.
Massaging raw kale with a vinaigrette takes a potentially tough leaf and breaks it down a bit, as well adding flavor. Additions such as fruits, other vegetables, meats, and/or cheeses, turn it into a salad and potentially a meal.
This salad is a study in contrasting jewel tones, as well as contrasting flavors and textures. According to the recipe author, redbor is an earthy tasting kale rather than “...clean, grassy.” The scarlet tasted like a nice, sweet, winter kale to me (a good thing, though I like earthy, too!). But the recipe sounded good anyway, even if it was designed for an earthy kale.
As it happened, I only had blood oranges on hand. They are less sweet than navels, and such a lovely combination of red and orange in color. Red navels would look lovely, too, though all oranges would provide a good color and taste. I was happy to use a butternut, too, as I have accumulated a lot of squash this year.
This recipe only calls for whisking the vinaigrette and combining with the vegetables and fruit, but massaging the kale only takes a few minutes more. I could feel the kale breaking down under my fingers and the color deepened.
As I tossed the squash and oranges with the kale, I realized I really should have stuck to the time listed in the recipe for cooking the squash. It was not browning and I cooked it a bit longer, but that only made it mushy. Maybe next time I’ll use butter, instead of olive oil, or just not worry about browning it.
I have a citrus zester and used that, and I’d say zest at least half of an orange. The zest really adds flavor and color to the salad. I’m not sure why the recipe calls both for a supremed orange and 1 ½ oranges worth of segments. I was down to my last 2 oranges, and they peeled so easily I just used ½ for juice and the rest peeled.
A great thing about a kale salad is how well the kale holds up for leftovers. The next day this salad was as pretty as when it was made, great for a light lunch.
From Brooklyn Supper
2 cups butternut squash, peeled, and cut into 1″ cubes
1 bunch Redbor kale, washed, dried, and chopped
1 orange, supremed
Juice of half a large orange
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
3″ segment of orange zest
1 1/2 fresh oranges, divided into segments
1/3 cup shaved Asiago
3 twists fresh ground pepper
Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Prepare the squash, spread out on a rimmed baking sheet with a drizzle of olive oil and a pinch of salt, and bake for 25 minutes, or until the squash is cooked through and the edges are golden brown.
Prepare the kale and orange zest and segments. Slice the zest into thin strips.
Juice the orange half. Whisk the orange juice into the olive oil, and add the salt.
When the squash is ready, toss the orange segments and squash with the kale, add a generous drizzle of the vinaigrette, and garnish with slices of zest, Asiago, and pepper.
Printable recipe here
Photos by Zachary Cross
In 2007 Crabtree Farms first offered CSA shares. We wanted to support local food, and we loved the convenient location (about 10 minutes away), so we signed up. It was so much fun to go pick up our box of food each week, check out the farm, and get to know folks at Crabtree. We had been cooking from scratch for a long time, and I grew up with plenty of fresh food, but it was still quite the learning curve for us! We had four kids at home and our youngest was still a baby. Some weeks we weren’t so sure what to do with our food or we just ran out of time to use one week’s produce before the next came in. Amazingly, we did not have anything go bad on us that year but some weeks we had a lot to work with!
One week I listened to a review of Jack Bishop’s Vegetables Every Day and decided to check it out of the library. This cookbook is arranged in alphabetical order, one chapter per vegetable, 66 vegetables (or groups of vegetables), and at least 365 recipes total. Whenever we had a vegetable that puzzled us we were usually able to find a recipe or even several for it. I decided pretty quickly that it was a cookbook worth purchasing for our family.
One vegetable we had not worked with much in the past and found in our share was the leek. A member of the allium family, along with garlic and onions, leeks are sweeter and can stand alone as well as accompany other ingredients. Preparing and serving them on their own is generally my preferred way of making them. The sweet, oniony flavor shines through and rewards my prep work and cleaning.
Preparing leeks is not quite as simple as peeling an onion or clove of garlic. Dirt tends to get in leek’s layers and needs to be flushed out. Thankfully Bishop includes a method for getting leeks clean. Here’s how Bishop says to do it:
“Trim and discard the dark green tops and tough outer leaves from the leeks. Remove the roots along with a very thin slice of the nearby white part. (If you are slicing the leeks for soup, you can remove a thicker slice. However, if you are cooking halved leeks, don’t remove too much from the bottom or the layers will fall apart.)
"Halve the leeks lengthwise and wash them under cold, running water. Gently spread apart but do not separate the inner layers to remove all traces of soil. If the leeks are particularly sandy, soak them in several changes of clean water. At this point the leeks are ready to be cooked or sliced further for use in soups or as a seasoning.”
The only things I would add are to remove any tough outer layers (these do not soften well during cooking) and don’t discard your leek trimmings. Use them to make yummy vegetable or meat stock.
Once prepped the leeks can be simply cooked in butter in a covered skillet. That’s enough to enjoy leek’s flavor but that flavor can be taken up a notch. Bishop has a recipe for red wine braised leeks but that flavor combination doesn’t make sense to me (try it if it does to you - to each his or her own!). I’ve added some white wine to my sauteed leeks at the end of cooking, simmering just long enough to reduce the wine a bit and allow the leeks to soak up some flavor. Yum! Bishop has another variation on the sauteed and that is to add parmesan cheese to the leeks and broil briefly until browned. I used asiago instead but otherwise followed his instructions. Yum again! The whites were creamy and the greens crisp and browned. Here’s the original recipe, plus the variations.
From Vegetables Every Day by Jack Bishop
The leeks are cooked in a covered pan with a little butter until almost tender, then the lid is removed and the leeks are cooked until lightly browned. Don’t try this recipe with leeks thicker than ¾ inch; they won’t soften properly. Serve with chicken or fish. (note from Heather: I think thicker leeks would be fine; you’ll be removing a good bit of the outer layers. Perhaps cook longer under cover)
4 medium leeks
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
Freshly ground pepper
Variation: Crispy Leeks with Parmesan (pictured below)
An excellent accompaniment to egg dishes
Preheat the broiler. Prepare the leeks as directed, through step 3, cooking them in an ovenproof skillet. Dust the browned leeks with ⅓ cup grated Parmesan (note from Heather: I used Asiago and a little bit more) and broil until the cheese is golden brown and bubbly, no more than a few minutes. Serve immediately.
Printable recipe here
Photos by Zachary Cross
I remember the first time I made hash browns at home. Actually, a friend that was staying with us offered to make them just like his mom did. He confidently shredded them and prepared to fry them, then was horrified to find that they had turned pink! Who knew that one of our common foods, that seems so simple, could be so complicated?
Potatoes are often considered comfort food. Starchy and mild, they can be baked, fried, or boiled; whole, sliced, or shredded. They are yummy fairly plain, with some salt and butter, or as a complement to more complex flavors.
Potatoes are native to South America in the Andes but have been a staple crop around the world for over 400 years. They’re members of the nightshade family, and potato vines resemble tomato vines, at least from a distance. We tend to associate the potato with the russet, a mealy potato with a brown skin and white flesh. But planting a single variety of potato is boring, and, the Irish found out in the 1800s, downright dangerous. The Lumper potato was as unappetizing (to modern tastes) as it sounds, but, more importantly, put most of the Irish’s caloric eggs in one basket. When it was hit with a blight, more than a million people died, and many who were left emigrated to America. It, too, was a white potato, and is the reason white potatoes are referred to as Irish. But potatoes in South America are are not merely white, or even smooth, or one shape or size. We’re seeing a variety of shapes and sizes coming to market: red, yellow, and blue, large and small, fingerlings and round. But there are even more variations: multicolored, knobby, and even black. Maybe one day we’ll see them here in Chattanooga!
Although there are flavor and texture distinctions among various potato varieties, many are interchangeable in recipes. In addition, recipe authors online are divided on the best potato for hash browns. Some say to use dry potatoes like russets, others that newer, wetter and waxier potatoes have better structure. So that’s going to be a personal preference. If you find your new potato hash browns to come out too wet, you can try russets. Or you can spread the hash browns thinner. Or, maybe you don’t mind a wetter texture to the finished product and they’re great!
Color is definitely going to be a matter of personal taste. I have not made hash browns with all red or blue potatoes. I love their colors, though, so hopefully I’ll get a chance to try it! It can be disconcerting, however, to find your white potatoes turning pink as you work with them. As it turns out, they oxidize, just as other fruits and vegetables do, only they turn pink instead of brown. If you’re making a single serving of hash browns, or having very fresh potatoes, you’re probably fine. Otherwise, dump your grated potatoes in water as you go and then drain well when you are ready to mix them up and cook them. Then squeeze out all the water as best you can, either using a potato ricer or (as I do) squeezing them in a dish towel.
This recipe was originally written for frozen, grated potatoes. That’s what I used at first, but I realized it’s quicker to grate them in my food processor than wait for the frozen ones to thaw. Now I can use market potatoes as well. Win-win! The frozen potatoes are nice and dry, though, so it took a couple of tries for me to get the recipe right with fresh potatoes. Squeeze them well!
I really like the seasonings that are in this recipe. I tend to eat my potatoes fairly plain, albeit salty, but this seasoning combo works out well. As usual, we don’t have garlic powder around so I’ve used garlic oil (reduce the butter), pressed garlic, or garlic chives (at the end) instead. I also use fresh thyme instead of the dried, adding a little more on top after baking. Definitely top this with something green: parsley, chives, thyme, a combination, or whatever fresh herbs you have on hand and like. Cilantro would work well with the cumin and garlic, maybe leave off the thyme.
Adapted from Zesty Baked Hash Brown Recipe on A Spicy Perspective
2 pounds potatoes
1 stick butter, melted (1/2 cup)
2 large eggs
1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and line a large baking pan with parchment paper.
Peel potatoes (optional). Shred on a box grater or food processor, adding shredded potatoes to a large bowl of cold water as you go. When all of your potatoes are shredded, drain, then squeeze dry in a potato ricer or kitchen towel. (see Simply Recipes for visuals and tips)
Whisk the eggs in a small bowl then pour over the potatoes. Add the shredded cheese, salt, cumin, thyme and garlic powder. Toss to coat. Then pour the melted butter over the top and toss to coat again.
Spread the potato mixture evenly over the baking sheet. Place in the oven and bake for approximately 40 minutes. Cut and serve warm.
Printable recipe here
Photos by Zachary Cross
I love Indian food and saag paneer is one of my favorite dishes. I was always disappointed with the amount of paneer I would receive at restaurants. I was so excited to find out that I could easily make this dish at home.
One Christmas we received Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian as a gift. We had not heard of Jaffrey before this but she is a distinguished actress, from Merchant Ivory films (she and her former husband are credited with bringing together Merchant and Ivory), to, more recently, an episode of New Girl. While living in London in the 1950s she was disgusted by the food, both British and Indian, available at the time. She asked her mother for recipes from home and learned to cook them, improvising with available ingredients.
Thanks to publicity that went along with her first feature film, Shakespeare-Wallah, she was known as the “actress who can (also) cook”. She began writing cookbooks to help support her family and now is the author of at least thirty of them. Many of them are primarily Indian food, but World Vegetarian, as the name implies, has recipes from around the world. It’s organized first by chapters highlighting vegetarian ingredients, followed by chapters on types of dishes.
Cheese can be a challenging food to make, with many steps. There are many types of cheeses, though, and some are fairly simple to make. Cottage cheese, farmer’s cheese, queso blanco, and paneer are some of those. All you need are milk and an acid for paneer. Some people use lemon or lime juice, others, vinegar. This recipe calls for distilled white (I assume because of the lack of taste) but I always use unseasoned rice or white wine vinegar. I’ve always used cow’s milk, originally pasteurized and homogenized from the store, but now from my milk share. I understand that water buffalo and goat milk have been used as well, so if your milk of choice is goat you should be able to use that. You may want to Google for more information as I do not have any experience with it, though. If you are dairy-free you can substitute tofu for the paneer. I have made it that way and it is good, but I prefer paneer.
Saag paneer is a dish we typically associate with spinach, but saag is a word used for all greens and palak is the Hindi word for spinach. This is a dish made with whatever greens are available and/or preferred, making it a perfect market dish in the cooler months. Mustard is a traditional green used and often what we use, in combination with spinach, when we have it. Mustard is spicy when raw or lightly cooked but when long cooked it loses its heat and instead adds a depth of flavor that plain spinach lacks.
Although we have not used fenugreek leaves, we have otherwise made this recipe exactly as written. But it does lend itself well to variations, and not just in the greens - and that is how we usually make it. We make it very mild for our family but you can increase the heat to taste, either during cooking or at the table. I do not add the cornmeal any longer and have not noticed a difference myself. We use canned tomatoes in winter, and fresh in the warmer months. We rarely use the cinnamon but we might add additional spices such as curry leaves, basil, fenugreek powder (from the seeds), and toasted mustard seeds.
When it is time to mash or blend the saag, think about how you prefer it and choose a method that matches that. Many restaurants blend theirs to nearly a fine puree, probably accomplished with a blender. I prefer the texture well mashed with a potato masher, or an immersion blender used sparingly.
Serve this dish with rice or flatbread. Jeffrey made a split pea dahl to go with our supper and one of the kids topped their saag paneer with it. Not a traditional way to eat it but it makes a lovely photograph!
From Madhur Jaffrey’s World Vegetarian via Food.com
2 quarts rich whole milk
3-4 tablespoons distilled white vinegar
Put the milk in a large, heavy pan and set over medium-high heat.
Meanwhile, place a colander in the sink and line it with a clean dish towel or 3-4 layers of cheesecloth at least 24 inches square.
When the milk begins to boil, turn the heat down to low. Quickly add 3 tablespoons of the vinegar and stir. The mixture will curdle at this point, the thin, greenish whey completely separating from the white fluffy curds. If this does NOT happen, add the remaining tablespoon of vinegar and repeat the process.
Empty the mixture into the lined colander. Most of the whey will drain out.
To make small patty: allow most of the whey to drain out of the colander. As soon as the curds have drained, gather up the ends of the cheesecloth and twist to squeeze out as much water as possible. You will now have a round bundle and a well-twisted section of cloth just above it, which you can tie firmly with string or just leave tightly twisted.
Lay the cloth and its contents on a flat board set in the sink. Flatten the bundle into a pastry shape, making sure that the twisted section or knot holds the cheese in place. This section can be folded over to one side. Put another board on top of the patty. Now put a 5-pound weight on the patty and press for 3-4 minutes. The cheese is now ready. It may be unwrapped, covered with a clean, damp cloth, and kept in the refrigerator for 24 hour but is best if used immediately.
Cut Paneer into 1 x 3/4-inch cubes. Set aside until last step in recipe.
1 ¾ lbs fresh spinach, trimmed, washed, and coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons dried fenugreek leaves or 2 -3 handfuls of fresh fenugreek leaves (optional)
1 fresh hot green chili pepper, coarsely chopped
1 teaspoon cornmeal
3 tablespoons peanut oil or 3 tablespoons canola oil
¼ cup onion, finely chopped
1 ½ by 1-inch fresh ginger, peeled and finely grated to a pulp
1 cup tomatoes, finely chopped
1 ¼ teaspoons salt
1 ½-2 teaspoons ground roasted cumin seeds (Put a few tablespoons of cumin seeds in a small cast-iron frying pan over medium-high heat, stirred )
¼ teaspoon cayenne
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Bring 1 cup of water to boil in a large pan. Put in the washed spinach, dried or fresh fenugreek leaves, if using, and green chile. Cover the pan and cook gently for 25 minutes.
Blend or mash the spinach until you have a coarse puree. Blend in the cornmeal and cook gently for another 5 minutes, stirring now and then.
In a separate frying pan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. When hot, add the onion and stir and fry until it begins to brown.
Add the ginger and stir once or twice, then add the tomatoes and cook over medium-low heat for 10 minutes, or until the texture thickens and the color of the tomatoes intensifies.
Stir the tomato mixture into the spinach mixture, then add the salt, roasted cumin, cayenne, and cinnamon and stir to mix.
Cook gently for 5 minutes.
Finally, add the cubed paneer, stir gently, and cook, covered, on low heat for 5 minutes. Serve hot.