This morning a steady mist of rain spread out over the farm as I crouched in the mud snapping collard greens off their stalks. In jeans, a sweatshirt and a rain coat I felt cozy as the temperatures barely hit 60. As much as I love summer, I don’t mind the occasional cool, rainy day; they remind of summer camp- hunkering down in the lodge, a chance to don a sweater, a change of pace. Moving on to pull weeds from the winter squash, my mind wandered to soup. Making a deliciously simple potato soup for lunch is something that my mother pulls off on a regular basis, regardless the season. I think it is something that she inherited from her parents. When I picture my grandpa, it is often at the stove. Either the small gas one that sits in front of the brick-lined kitchen wall of the northwest Iowa cottage or the one sixty miles away at his home where I could hand-crank the bell on the door that led inside to the kitchen, announcing my arrival. At the cottage he popped his homegrown corn to perfection; at home he stirred his award-winning fudge. But I think he loved potatoes the most. To make a simple potato soup, cut up some potatoes and put them in a pot with just enough water to cover. Gently boil until the potatoes are cooked and most of the liquid is absorbed. Mash up the potatoes to the desired consistency and add milk, butter, salt and pepper. Mine never tastes as good as my mom’s.
After returning home from the farm today I wanted to make an Iowa-inspired potato soup for lunch, but I have turnips haunting me from my crisper drawer and garlic scapes curled-up, hovering on the bottom shelf waiting for something extraordinary to happen to them. I also took home two beets today from the farm, deemed “farmer food” due to the fact that some worms also wanted a few bites, so into the pot they go. And don’t forget the neglected leek, long forgotten under kale and lettuces.
So I chopped up turnips, a couple of potatoes and beets and added them to leeks and garlic scapes sauteed in olive oil and butter. I added dill and red pepper flakes. Right before serving I blended it all up, added salt, pepper, a drizzle of olive oil and a squeeze of lemon.
As the vegetables simmered on the stove, I sauteed more garlic scapes, dill and chives in olive oil and made herbed croutons from the 1/2 eaten loaf of sourdough bread leftover from my lunch a few days ago. Danger Boy watched the whole thing, perched under my muddy jeans and garlic scapes.
Please use the following recipe as a guide- I don’t have a tendency to measure things- and adjust it to whatever vegetables are haunting you.
Early Summer Soup with Herbed Croutons
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
1 leek, cleaned and chopped
4 garlic scapes, finely chopped (use only the part below the bud)
2 potatoes, cut into chunks
5 white turnips, cut into chunks
2 beets, cut into chunks
herbs (I used dried thyme, pepper flakes and fresh dill)
4 cups water (or veggie broth, if you like)
salt + pepper to taste
1/2 loaf of good, old bread
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 tablespoons fresh herbs (I used dill, chives and a chopped garlic scape)
salt + pepper
In a large soup pot heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat. Add the leek and scapes and saute for a few minutes. Add the root vegetables and herbs and cook for a couple of minutes. Add the liquid to the pot and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for 25-30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Rip the bread into bite-sized pieces. In a skillet, saute the fresh herbs in the olive oil. Remove from the heat and add the bread, tossing to coat. Pour the bread onto a baking sheet, making sure to spread the pieces out. Bake for 15 minutes, stirring occasionaly.
When the vegetables in the soup are tender, blend it with an immersion blender until smooth. Add fresh herbs and as much lemon juice as you like (I like a lot, Dan likes a little, so I add more to my own bowl). Add salt and pepper to taste. Ladle into bowls and garnish with a pour of olive oil, more dill and herbed croutons.
Cultivating and cooking are in our bones. This soup will warm yours.