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, popovers, a mixed greens salad with a simple lemon and olive oil vinaigrette, but to my inexperienced 18-year-old palate this stuff was pretty fancy and way out of my realm of experience. The dinners that she made (usually to woo potential male suitors) were not complicated but they were classy and a pretty effective aphrodisiac (she always got the guy).
One of her go-to recipes has moved into my own repertoire over the years. The first time I had her vichyssoise I was blown away. Up until that point my experience with cold soups was limited to a few bowls of gazpacho. This vichyssoise was like nothing I had ever tasted before—it was probably my first encounter with the delicate oniony flavor of leeks. I am pretty sure my roommate's version was made with at least a quart of heavy cream. Not the healthiest version, but incredibly rich and wonderful.
Carol Gelles lightens the recipe up a bit with her version of vichyssoise from 100 Best Vegetarian Recipes. Vegetable stock takes the place of most of the traditional cream, and the soup is finished with slightly less fattening half-and-half. If you've never made vichyssoise, give it a shot. It's a simple and very classy way to begin a summer meal.
- 2 tablespoons butter or margarine
- 1 1/2 cups sliced leeks (white and green parts)
- 3 cups vegetable broth (homemade or store-bought)
- 2 cups peeled potatoes, cut into 1-inch cubes
- 1/2 cup half-and-half
- 1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper
- Snipped fresh chives, for garnish
In a 2-quart saucepan, melt the butter or margarine over medium-high heat. Add the leeks; cook, stirring, until softened, about 1 minute.
Add the broth and bring to a boil. Add the potatoes; reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, 25 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.
Place half of the soup in a blender or food processor. Cover and puree until smooth. Repeat with remaining soup. Add half-and-half and pepper. Chill.
Serve garnished with fresh chives.
Variation: Potato-Leek Soup: Serve warm, reheating if necessary after adding the half-and-half.
Vegan Variation: Omit the half-and-half; substitute either unsweetened soy milk or additional broth.