One of my favorite cookbooks - out of which I have never cooked until tonight - is Chez Panisse Vegetables by Alice Waters. I love it because it has gorgeous illustrations and is organized by vegetable, A to Z; and it gives you great insight into each vegetable and tells you everything you need to know about growing and preparing each one.
So tonight I wanted to make Sweet Potato Leek Soup. I had a leek from last week's CSA share; I had a sweet potato I bought from Steve Mann at last Friday's Badseed Farmers Market, but I couldn't find my old recipe, so I went hunting for a new one in Chez Panisse Vegetables. When I couldn't find anything in the Leeks section (except a notation that the French call leeks the "poor man's asparagus") I somehow managed to stumble on this recipe for Turnip and Sweet Potato Soup in the Turnips section. And it just so happens that I had young, tiny, radish-looking turnips on hand also from the Badseed Farmers Market.
The soup works just fine with only sweet potato, even though the recipe calls for a white potato, too. I didn't think it needed one. And I used green onions instead of onion since that's what I had. I love that trick with the sautéed or wilted turnip greens pureed; that pungent concentration was a really nice touch. I suspect it would work well with a number of different kinds of greens.
Young Turnip and Sweet Potato Soup
from Chez Panisse Vegetables
by Alice Waters
1 medium onion
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, plus 1 teaspoon
salt and pepper
6 bunches small young turnips with greens (2 to 3 pounds)
2 russet potatoes
1 small sweet potato
2 quarts chicken stock
ingredients for my vegetarian version for just 2 people using just what I had on hand:
3 green onions
1 sweet potato
1 bunch of small turnips + greens
4 cups of vegetable broth
salt and pepper
2 drops of liquid smoke
Remove the coarse outer leaves and dark green tops from the leeks, rinse thoroughly, and dice. Peel and dice the onion. Sauté the leeks and onion over medium heat in the butter and cook until soft. Season with salt and pepper.
Trim the greens from the turnips. Reserve the greens of 2 bunches to garnish the soup, and save the rest for another meal. Peel and dice the turnips and potatoes. If the turnips are tender, it is not necessary to peel them. Add the turnips and potatoes to the onions and leeks and stew gently for 5 minutes, stirring to prevent sticking. Add the chicken stock and simmer until the potatoes and turnips are fully cooked, about 15 minutes.
Purée in a blender until smooth or pass through a food mill. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Wash the reserved turnip greens and chop roughly. Sauté over high heat in the teaspoon of butter until just wilted. Purée the greems in a blender or pass through a food mill. Serve the soup warm and add a spoonful of the puréed greens to each bowl. Stir the greens into the soup to turn it pale green.
Serves 6 to 8.