Chilled potato-leek soup, or Vichyssoise, is an excellent budget dish to have up one's sleeve. At its most basic, the soup's humble ingredients combine to form a silky, luxurious meal far greater than the sum of its parts. The velvety green soup in River Cottage Veg contains not only the potatoes and leeks, but also a couple of cucumbers and heads of butter lettuce as well. The greenery adds a refreshing touch and brilliant color to the soup, and the dollop of creme fraiche at the end is the perfect tangy-rich note to finish.
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The point of vichyssoise is the simplicity: a puree of potato, cream, stock provide the soup's body to showcase whichever vegetable is at hand. The addition of carrot gives it a beautiful color and sweetness; the result is basically essence of carrot in soup form.
While I was in college, I had a roommate who I thought was the epitome of class. She was a few years older than me and a pretty great cook. Looking back, her meals were pretty basic—dijon and herb-roasted chicken,...