Tuesday, December 30, 2008

City Kitchen Chronicles: Potato Leek Soup with Kale

City Kitchen Chronicles is a bi-weekly column about living frugally in Manhattan. It's penned by the lovely Jaime.

Since cleaning up my apartment a few weeks ago for my birthdahousewarming party, I’ve been eager to get people in here. My dad’s actually never seen my apartment, and that’s in the works, but this past weekend I had the pleasure of a sleepover with my on-break-from-college sister, M.

I had a pair of tickets to a play Sunday night, so when I was home for Chinese food and a movie over Christmas (I’m not kidding – we actually do this, and we’re not the only ones – it’s a fun cliché!), I offered my spare ticket to M, and invited her to stay over. (Maybe the best perk about working in theatre is that most offices, including mine, close down between Christmas and New Year’s.) “Is there anything else you want to do in the city?” We grew up, and my mom still lives, just a short drive into the suburbs, but I could still pretend to be tour guide to my bumpkin sister. She said, “I’ve never been to MoMA.” And thus the plan was set.

Tickets to the lovely Museum of Modern Art run a cool $20, and not as a suggested donation like at the Met or the Museum of Natural History, but a for-real twenty bucks, but here’s where luck keeps this expedition frugal – I have two friends who work at the museum, and MoMA staff can add anyone they like to a guest list for free admission.


But to backtrack, before M and I, and every tourist in the city (including half the population of France) made our way through the art, there was Sunday night. In our back-and-forth phone calls of prep (“Do you have a blanket?” “Yes.” “Do you need allergy pills for the cats?” “Yes.”) I asked M what she wanted to do for dinner. We could eat down by the theatre, or she could eat before driving to me, and then we could just head down for the play…

“I want you to cook something.”

You cook one Thanksgiving from some simple-but-family-impressing recipes, and suddenly you have a reputation.

Unfortunately, the thing M didn’t realize is that when I’m not cooking from mom-shopped recipes, with their vanilla beans and such, I cook food that *I* find tasty, but that is rarely pretty and certainly unimpressive. I couldn’t afford anything fancy, and I couldn’t really bear to serve rice and beans, no matter how delicious and veggie-laden, to a guest.

Luckily I had a new-to-me, super-tasty, and dirt-cheap recipe up my sleeve. I hit the farmers market for $3 of ingredients, borrowed my friend K’s immersion blender (having suffered half a blender’s worth of soup all over my kitchen and clothing on my first attempt), and set to work.

Although this soup is simple, it’s delicious. It tastes to me like mashed potato soup, the best, smoothest mashed potatoes ever. M was a big fan of the accidental potato chunks left after the blending, and I was, too. I added kale for some extra nutritional oomph, and, just like it works in mashed potatoes, it was delicious here. M thought the kale would work better in smaller pieces, and I agreed.

After M. left, I talked to my mom. I told her that I’d cooked potato leek soup with kale for our dinner, and she was surprised. “That sounds very adventurous for M!” I don’t actually think it was – I’d run the kale idea by M and she’d been very enthusiastic – but either way, I cooked for my sister, she thought it was delicious, and my heart felt a little bit more full.

Potato Leek Soup with Kale
serves 4-6

2 T olive oil
1 bunch leeks, white and light green parts only, cut lengthwise and then into ¼” slices
pinch salt
1-2 cloves garlic (optional)
2 c yellow potatoes, cubed
4 c vegetable broth (I use water and Better than Bouillon
1 c water (or to taste)
pepper, to taste
6 c kale, torn into small pieces
1 T olive oil

1) Heat the olive oil in a big soup pan over medium heat. Add leeks, salt, and garlic. Sautee until leeks are tender, about ten minutes.

2) Add potatoes and broth, plus some water if your broth is very salty or strong. Simmer for 20 minutes.

3) While soup is cooking, saute kale in olive oil in another pan, over medium heat, with salt to taste, until it’s your preferred doneness. More salt with help with bitterness, as will more cooking. Fresh kale can be tastier with less cooking than supermarket kale (as I was sad to learn).

4) (optional) Puree all or some of the soup with an immersion blender. Or, very carefully, puree cooled soup, in batches, in a regular blender. MAKE SURE THE BASE IS SECURELY ATTACHED. Trust me.

5) Mix kale into soup, or serve in a separate bowl, allowing guests or potentially picky sisters to add as much or as little as they like. Add salt and pepper to taste. (This soup does well with a lot of pepper.)

Approximate Calories, Fat, and Price Per Serving
Serving four: 246.5 calories, 11 g fat, $1.20
Serving six: 164 calories, 7.5 g fat, $0.80

3 T olive oil: 417 calories, 40.5 g fat, $0.36
1 bunch leeks: 109 calories, 0.5 g fat, $2.50
2 cloves garlic: 8 calories, 0 g fat, $0.08
2 c yellow potatoes: 231 calories, 0.5 g fat, $0.60
4 t Better than Bouillon: 20 calories, 0 g fat, $0.74
5 c water: 0 calories, 0 fat, free!
salt and pepper: negligible calories and fat, $0.04
6 c kale: 201 calories, 3 g fat, $0.50
TOTAL: 986 calories, 44.5 g fat, $4.82
PER SERVING (TOTAL/4): 246.5 calories, 11 g fat, $1.20
PER SERVING (TOTAL/6): 164 calories, 7.5 g fat, $0.80


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