Sunday, January 24, 2010

Simple Things: Potato Leek Soup

I'm sort of glad to be back from Washington. My talk is over (until I give the next version in March, anyway) and I can resume worrying about other things, including the steady stream of applications for various programs at work that will be headed my way, starting Friday. But I already miss going out adventuring at mealtimes with my co-presenter, who, it turns out, is as much a foodie as I am. I love eating with people who take a bite and actually exlaim, "mmmm!" We had a particularly memorable dinner at the Lebanese Taverna at the Woodley Park-Zoo Metro stop; I'm still pining away over the lamb, which was (praise be!) humanely raised, and the vegetarian plate of spinach pie and baba ghanoug and beans and falafel and hummus and lentils was one of the most amazing things I think I've ever eaten.

On the other hand, I need to get back to simple things again, things that don't make me feel like I've completely engorged myself when I eat them (like, say, vanilla cupcakes from Starbucks, or vanilla ultimate cake from Wegmans, both of which I ate with great gusto on the train, the former on the way down, and the latter on the way back). I decided to make a batch of potato leek soup this weekend, since I had a leek left over from last week, and it would mean wasting fewer brain cells over grocery shopping and meal planning.

It's not exactly comfort food, but it's close. I remember eating this soup when I was growing up, with leeks from my father's garden; we would always grow too many (of everything, not just leeks), and this was my mother's go-to solution. And I need comfort this week, sustenance to face the office again.

I've been brooding today over the sermon our minister gave, entitled "It's Not About You," on the prevalence of navel gazing in the U.S.. We're definitely looking outward this week, in the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake, and worrying about our own self-actualization seems pretty shallow. I was feeling a bit guilty, listening to him and thinking about just how much navel gazing of my own I've been doing of late, thinking about quitting my job and going to yoga teacher training at my favorite yoga studio in Frenchtown, where I can achieve enlightenment and eat at my favorite cafe, which is moving to Elizabeth Gilbert's storefront.

The thing is, as I confessed to him later, I feel like I need some navel-gazing time. I spend most of my waking hours taking care of other people: at work, at home, even in my extracurricular responsibilities with the youth group, Caring Committee, and various committees at my son's school.

A while ago, my friend Jennifer posted a quote from a Mary Oliver poem: "Tell me, what is is you plan to do/With your one wild and precious life?" If that doesn't invite us to a long detour through self-absorption, I don't know what does. If only the answer were as simple as "make soup."

Potato Leek Soup

3-4 slices bacon (of your choice, but if you use veggie bacon, add 1 T. olive oil)
3 leeks, white and light green part, thinly sliced
3-4 medium potatoes, peeled, diced
4 1/2 c. low sodium chicken or vegetable broth/stock
Chives for garnish (optional)

Render the bacon in a large pot. Remove and set aside for crumbling into soup later.

Add leeks; cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 10 minutes.

Add potatoes; cover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until soft but not brown, about 10 minutes.

Add broth/stock; cover and simmer for about 20 minutes. Remove soup from heat; puree with a stick blender (or blender of choice). Garnish individual servings with crumbled bacon and chopped chives.
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