I’m really into soup this year. I fell off the soup bandwagon a couple of years ago during a manic soup episode because my husband decided that he no longer cared for soup. Heartbreaker. Ah, but this year, soup is his favorite thing, and my own soup nuttiness is also back. We’ve reached a synergy of soup.
For winter soups, I rely on homemade chicken stock most of all, substituting it for water in most preparations, and beef stock in others. It’s what I have on hand, and it never fails me. But really, all you need is a big bag of dried mushrooms from an Asian market, or a bag of russet potatoes.
Since I had an abundance of the latter, and a friend coming over for a quick dinner, I thought I’d make my Dark Days challenge for the week a local caldo verde soup, chock full of potatoes, leeks, and lacinato kale. The leeks and kale I had purchased as seconds the week before at River Bend Farm, and the potatoes were a mix of waxy and floury russet that I had bought from Groundwork Organics and another farm (Cinco Estrellas?) via Eugene Local Foods. I used up my German butterballs and red potatoes, and threw in some red garlic from Ayers Creek Farm for good measure.
Potato soup relies on its own stock for a clean, potato-y flavor. I don’t even like to add onion when I’m making potato-leek soup, but since caldo verde soup, a Portuguese concoction involving potatoes and kale, needs punchier flavors, I tried to pump it up. Often, the soup contains smoky linguica sausage, but I wanted to keep it clean. I thought I’d sauté a half an onion with two fat leeks, a head of kale, and some garlic before adding the potatoes, a few fresh bay leaves, some winter savory (untouched by the freeze, btw), and heavily salted water. When the potatoes had cooked through, I adjusted the salt, added some white pepper and a splash of Datu Puti Spiced Vinegar (not even remotely local), and used my trusty immersion blender to purée it to a thick, delicious, pea-green soup. I added some Noris Dairy milk at the very end, just to thin it out a bit.
Meanwhile, my friend had brought over popover batter made with local eggs, butter, and milk, and flour she had personally brought back from a trip to Butte Creek Mill in Oregon’s Rogue Valley. She gave the batter a final stir, and popped them in the oven to bake while the soup simmered and we snacked on my homemade vinegar pickles and pickled prunes thoughtfully left by a friend from Thanksgiving.
Could it have been a nicer meal? I think not. I count this as one of my happiest local cooking successes.