Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Cream of Leek Soup

Today's recipe, for cream of leek soup, is not only a hearty soup for a chilly day; it is also an exercise in sustainable cooking.  For sustainable cooking, it is less important to collect a ton of recipes, and more important to learn basic formulae that will allow you to use up what you have.

This recipe is the same one we used for Cheesy Potato Soup.  If you analyze it, you will see that the basic formula for this soup is:

3 cups stock
1 cup cream, half and half, or whole milk
2 cups cheese

In this case, I simmered an onion and two cloves garlic in butter until translucent, then added 3 cups of ham stock I made this Easter and the last of the leeks from the garden (about 6 small ones, but you would do fine with 2 large ones).  I added a cup of half and half that we needed to use up, along with 2 cups of shredded Swiss and Gruyere I bought from Trader Joe's (the only thing I didn't already have that was waiting to be used up from pantry, fridge, garden, or cellar).  Since the flavor of the onions, garlic, and leeks was strong, the only spice I added was cracked black pepper.

You can spin this recipe several ways.  I can see a pepper cheese soup coming about with green peppers, spicy chiles, and cheddar cheese.  You could try a cream of tomato with mozzarella, Parmesan, and tomatoes (you may want to blend that one, or not if you like a chunky tomato soup).  I have made a cream of potato and carrot as well.  If you have a "failure" or a combo you don't like, it isn't a tragedy.  However, you will probably like what you cook as long as you like the ingredients you put in.

Sustainable cooking is about using what you have on hand, and the quickest way to do that is memorizing not recipes but formulae.  What variations on this theme sound good to you?

The Analysis

Fast:  This recipe regularly comes in under 45 minutes. 

Cheap:  Knowing that I had items in cellar, fridge, and garden to use up, I only bought cheese on my last TJ's visit to tie this all together.  So, I spent less than $4 for two lunches and two dinners.

Good:  I am a big fan of soup as budget saver and a body-warmer.

The Fall Thermostat Challenge -- CLOSED!
OK, I officially gave up on November 1.  With day temps in the 50s and nights around freezing, there is no longer any way I can heat the house with passive solar.  I could probably squeeze a few more hours by building a fire and spending my days in front of it, but work prohibits that approach.

Since Labor Day, I racked up 858 hours without whole-house AC or heat, a total of 35.75 days, or just over five weeks.  With the 49 days I saved this spring, I have avoided whole-house climate control for 12 weeks this year!  How cool (or warm) is that?!?

Why do this at all?  In addition to the fact that heat and AC cost money (and therefore are annoying to pay for, in my book), I think it is a good exercise to make us remember that these utilities are resources we use to make ourselves comfortable.  We don't need to live in bubbles that never deviate from 72 degrees; the heat and AC are luxuries that help keep us from freezing in the winter and sweltering in the summer, but they are not essential during relatively large chunks of the year, even to keep comfortable.

Stay tuned for my next challenge, and feel free to post ideas if you have them!
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