Friday, April 15, 2011

It's not THAT hard

A few posts back I explained that eating locally was hard work; that you really had to try.  That goes for Chattanooga, Tennessee.  But here in the San Fransisco Bay area, I have to admit, it's not that hard.  The hardest thing is gauging just how big your eyes are in relation to your stomach.  There are farmers markets around every corner.  There is everything for sale from salt to olive oil to tangerines and kiwis.   For me, celery is a real treat- I don't remember the last time I bought a celery stalk.  But fresh horseradish root?  Avocados and Meyer lemons?  Sacks of assorted heirloom dried beans and baskets of dirty organic heirloom potatoes- enough varieties to eat a different one every day of the could this possibly be hard?  Going to a huge market can be a little intimidating for a country girl, and learning which farmers are the best to support takes a little practice.  There isn't as much signage here as there is at home, and the farmers might not be expected to be as outgoing as the friendly Main Street farmers are.  I just choose the booths with the most down-to-earth price signs and look for words like sustainable, small, and organic.  Out here, where they grow almost all the organic produce the rest of the entire country eats, the word "organic" doesn't mean a whole lot.  I try to look for the small-time people who have a little dirt on their sleeves and real passion in their produce baskets. And let me tell you, it is a whole lot of fun.

Asparagus, Leek, and Heirloom Potato Soup
with fresh horseradish sour cream

I usually try not to be so fancy.  I also usually never use asparagus in a soup.  Asparagus is prized Spring Candy.  I only steam it and drizzle the smallest amount of lemon juice and salt on top and eat it hot, spear by spear.  It is really only good for a short amount of time- best eaten very fresh (as Barbara Kingsolver explains in her chapter "Waiting for Asparagus" in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle).  After I brought my two bunches home, I realized that I might have jumped the gun out of pure enthusiasm.   The asparagus was clearly not picked that morning; it was a little floppy.  So I decided putting it in a soup would not be a crime.  

for four people, with leftovers:

  • 2 bunches asparagus, sliced
  • 2 large leeks or 3 smaller ones, sliced (all of the white and halfway up the green.  Watch out for dirt once you start getting to the greens)
  • 4-5 medium sized potatoes, washed and unpeeled, chopped into roughly 1 inch cubes (I used a waxy red kind but I think a more floury one would be better.  Ask your cute and friendly local heirloom potato farmer what she advises.  Unfortunately for me I didn't know what I was making when I bought the potatoes or she could have aided in creating the perfect soup)
  • 2-4 T grassfed cow butter
  • salt to taste
  • Water, veggie stock, or chicken stock (I used water and it was just fine and delicious) to cover- about 5 cups
  • 3/4 cup grassfed cow sour cream (milk share people- this is easy too- just like buttermilk (see buttermilk biscuits one post down) but you use cream instead of milk.  You can use buttermilk as a culture or sour cream- about 4 T to 2 cups) 
  • 2 T fresh horseradish root, finely grated
  • 1 small squeeze of lemon
  • very light sprinkle of salt
For the soup, melt the butter and saute the leeks in it until they get a little soft and start falling apart.  Add the potatoes and a touch of salt, cover with liquid and simmer til the potatoes are just soft.  Add the asparagus, a touch more salt, and enough liquid to cover again.  Simmer for a few minutes, until the asparagus has changed colors and is soft.  Do not overcook!  Any green soup that has been overcooked will look positively disgusting, I promise.  Blend the soup in batches until smooth.  Be careful not to over-blend, especially if you are using waxy potatoes.  Hot potatoes have a bad habit of getting gummy when over-mixed (I read all about the "chemistry" of potatoes once and learned a lot.  I don't remember any of it word for word now but I retained a lot.  There are quite a few food science books out there worth reading at least once.)  Return to pot and heat til warm. Taste for salt and possibly something sour (like lemon juice), or something spicy if you like, but remember that adding the horseradish sour cream will help with both of those. Serve hot with the sour cream you should have made while waiting for the potatoes to cook.

For the sour cream mix everything together in a bowl and keep cool while finishing the soup.

Serve with a green salad  and maybe some fresh locally made bread, although you might not need it.

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