For softer allium flavor, combine leeks, shallots

Short, simple recipes for leeks that ran with this month’s Season to Taste column hopefully inspired cooks — both acquainted and unfamiliar with this allium.

Cooking techniques featured in the Joy magazine piece ranged from braising to roasting to frying, showing this ingredient’s versatility. Leeks also have been mentioned in this blog about 35 times over nearly six years, starting with some of my first posts about pad thai and quiche in April 2007.

While I have a love-hate relationship with onions (love them cooked until soft, usually hate them raw), leeks are easily embraced. They never emit foul, sulfurous fumes when sliced or diced. Their flavor and texture are more mellow than most allium relatives, both attaining their full potential when cooked. And leeks’ very stature and multilayered structure brings elegance and intrigue into the kitchen.

So it’s no wonder that many recipes for leeks allow them to stand on their own, without onions competing for the attention. In fact, it’s not unusual for leeks to co-star with shallots, another delicate ingredient underutilized in mainstream American meals. When you want a soft undertone of allium flavor, turn to the leek-shallot combination instead of the typical onion-garlic, which takes more cooking to coax into the backdrop of a dish.

This recipe for broccoli soup does just that, quickly cooking the vegetables for a lighter, fresher-tasting soup that portends spring. Puree it in a blender until silky-smooth, go halfway with an immersion blender stuck right in the soup pot or leave more texture by running it through a food mill.

If you want even more savoriness, the McClatchy News Service writer who originated the recipe, suggests a dash of fish sauce or — strangely enough — monosodium glutamate. I would recommend some nutritional yeast, particularly if substituting vegetable stock to make this soup vegetarian.

MCT photo

Cream of Broccoli Soup

2 tablespoons butter

1 large leek, white and light-green part only, chopped and rinsed

1 large shallot, peeled and chopped

1 teaspoon dried thyme

6 cups chicken broth

2 broccoli crowns, chopped

1 large white or russet potato, peeled and chopped

2 bay leaves

1⁄3 cup cream, sour cream or Mexican or Honduran crema to finish (optional)

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Melt the butter over medium-low heat in a 5-quart pot. Add the leek, shallot and thyme and cook, stirring often, until vegetables are wilted, very fragrant and just starting to color, for about 5 minutes. Add the chicken broth, broccoli and potato, turn up heat and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer, add the bay leaves and cook, covered, for about 30 minutes, until vegetables are mush.

Remove bay leaves and blend soup in pot with an immersion blender until smooth. (Alternatively, transfer ingredients to standing blender, blend, then return to pot.) Add the optional cream or sour cream and season to taste with the salt and pepper. Bring just to a boil, check seasoning and serve.

Makes 8 servings.

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    Sarah Lemon

    Sarah Lemon covers the Rogue Valley’s food scene with an enthusiasm that rivals her love of cooking. Her blog mixes culinary musings and milestones with tips and recipes you won’t find in the Mail Tribune’s weekly A la Carte section. When ... Read Full
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