A dinner for when you’re at death’s door

About the same week that I was married, I became allergic (or severely intolerant, not entirely sure which) to dairy. The running joke is that it’s my husband’s fault, but ultimately it was stress and probably a pre-existing sensitivity that I carefully ignored in favor of hunks of cheddar cheese and feta covered salads. Prior to getting married, I had been an on-and-off again vegan, but had never truly committed to it because of many different reasons, some of which being the love of those hunks of cheddar, being terribly poor and living in rural virginia (which, of course didn’t lend itself to vegetarians of any kind). But the dairy allergy pushed me back into my veganism, and though there’s been some slips since then, I’ve been pretty happy with the decision.

One of the things about suddenly becoming allergic to one of the most commonly used ingredients though, is you realize just how much you were ingesting on a regular basis and how much effort it becomes to avoid it. One such moments came when I was trying to show-off to my new husband, who despite having lived with me for two years before marriage, had never had homemade potato leek soup. As this was a staple in my house growing up, it was inconceivable that I had never made it and I set out to right that wrong.

But then I realized a core ingredient is heavy cream. Back in 2009, even with a beloved Whole Foods down the street, one just could not find vegan cream. After looking through a few recipes (I’m pretty sure this was pre-cashew-cream-by-way-of-Oprah), I just decided to be radical and omit the cream all together. Ultimately by upping the amount of vegetables in the soup, and as a result the nutritional value, cream was absolutely unnecessary and if possible, the soup seemed to have a richer flavor.

The following recipe has become a staple of our household. Though since moving to a house without air conditioning, it’s been regulated to a strictly winter meal. It’s great because it’s packed full of nutrients from the leeks, onion and potatoes (fun fact: the skin of a potato is the most nutrient-rich part) and it’s easy and quick to make. The name of the post is “A dinner for when you’re at death’s door” because we usually eat it when we’re sick (though we’ll eat it pretty much whenever, to be fair). As I’m currently experiencing a nasty cold, I felt it was appropriate for my first recipe.

Potato Leek Soup (serves 4)

Ingredients:

  • 4 unpeeled potatoes
  • 2 leeks
  • 1 onion
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 4.5 cups of water
  • 2 vegan bouillon cubes (we prefer the kind with herbs + sea salt added in)

Tools Needed:

  • Large skillet
  • Pot to boil water
  • Blender/Food processor
  • Optional second pot to transfer soup from the blender

Cut up the potatoes, leeks and onion into small chunks. Put all three into a pan with the olive oil and saute until the potatoes are tendered and brown. I like to put the heat at high for pretty much whatever I’m cooking, because standing over the range isn’t my favorite part, but if you’re a med-high person, go for it. The leeks and the onion may stick to the pan (especially if you cook at a higher heat), so make sure you’re consistently stirring.

At the same time the potatoes, onions and leeks are cooking, bring to boil the 4.5 cups of water. I like to throw them in at the get-go so I don’t have to think about it later on, but that drives my husband nuts despite years of success with this technique in everything from rice to potatoes. So if you’re weird like him, wait till the water has come to a boil and throw the bouillon cubes in.

By this point, the veggies should be done. Pour them into the boiling water. The introduction of the veggies will halt the boiling process. Let it come back to a boil. However, you can let the veggies soak in the water for as long as you want at this point. We tend to make this on the fly, and do not let it steep in the water for more than 10 minutes, but if you have something to do before you eat, set the heat to low or medium-low and go about your business. Whenever you do decide to finish, pull out your blender (or if you’re like us, your food processor).

Ladle your soup into whichever emulsion device you decide to use. If you’re using a glass blender, be careful you’re not loading too much in because you don’t want the glass to crack. We’ve had success with about a cup or so at a time, after which we transfer the emulsified soup into a big pot until it’s all done.

Once you’re done emulsifying, it’s time to eat! Pair it with a (vegan) grilled cheese sandwich or just bread in general, to make it extra hearty.

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