When does the summer end? For those of us living in a cold climate it is definitely not August 31st or September 1st, not even the Labor Day (first Monday of September). The fall in Eastern Canada begins around autumnal equinox time (22nd of September) with sudden gusty winds and rains bending and rocking the trees, blow-drying leaves into their new colors and flocking the birds to swarm into the their long journey down South. Although it’s still possible to make some BBQ, the goose-bumping temperatures usually lock us in to experiment with pies and breads. This tart was a pure impromptu caused by our unexpected garden find – squash flowers.
Easy, fast and to the point, this soup is a take on the classic cream of leeks and potatoes. Sorrel adds a touch of tartness; nettle brings a touch of delicate tanginess and both make an extra nutritious boost to the meal. Creamy and hearty (without a cream), this light starter is an excellent spring tonic. And if you have no foraged greens, no biggie: use spinach or parsley or both instead for equally delicious and nutritious result. The cream of leeks, potatoes and foraged greens goes very well with more flavor-complex crunchy quesadillas, like the ones with a smoked salmon, or goat cheese, olive oil dried tomatoes, both of which add remarkable rich-salty-savory and texture contrast to the soup. This soup also pairs fantastically with crisp salted cod croquettes such as these wonderful accras de morue bites. OR, bacon, for that matter…
IMPORTANT: Always wear gloves (to not be stung) and use cutter (not to spoil the tender leaves) when foraging stinging nettle and select the youngest species that have no flowers yet.
Although sorrel has been used in European cuisine for centuries and has been admired by many, from Monet to Julia Child, it is somewhat of an acquired taste because of its lemon sourness, so if you are the beginner, you might wish to start with a smaller sorrel batch in the soup not to overpower the nice and creamy leek-potato background taste. The same with the nettle: although it incorporates very well into an array of soups, its hardening taste is quite particular, so, again, begin with a moderate amount and let the leeks shine through.
Garnish the soup with a little quail egg (eggs work very well with sorrel sourness) and/or chopped chives, parsley or other greens of your choice. Optionally, you can add a dollop of sour cream or cream, or lace your soup with some olive oil. Serve with above suggested quesadillas (see the smoked fish post), home-made crackers, toasted baguette, and/or maybe some crispy bacon on a side or freshly crumbled (my favorite). Enjoy!
What is next on my foraging agenda? How about dandelion wine? I recently tasted it at the party and got very curious about it. There are so many recipes on the Internet, but my principal question is: is it regular active dry yeast like in Chef Ricardo’s recipe or special wine yeast like in many othersthat we should use? If any of you, dear readers have some successful experience with dandelion wine making, please let me know.
The weather has been nasty in Montreal for the last few days which predisposed us to mostly stay home and do tons of baking (hoping that the ice rain will not bring electricity cut so often challenging us in this area). Our family’s patriarch was successfully experimenting with kamut and millet bread to the Christmas jazz tunes. While I came up with an idea to make this bread pudding as a prequel to my Christmas post menu (which goes next).
Another soup with shrimp bursting with flavours and textures: a mix of elements from Southern bouillabaisse and Northern chowder … How’s that for eclectic?
It might look like an elaborate dish but the process of preparation is simple and straightforward and you can have a great dinner ready in a flash. I love the background Provencal taste and versatility of this soup: you can replace the ingredients almost as you please. Make it vegetarian by swapping fish & shrimp for green beans, pasta and pistou; stock for vegetarian and, voilà, a take on Ina Garten’s Provencal Vegetable Soup. Or, if you have a variety of small fresh fish and some mussels – skip the potatoes and carrots and bring the assorted fish and seafood in, add some zesty roux and you gotcha – home-made bouillabaisse…
If you like leeks and carrots like I do, you will be amazed how delicious, yet simple this gluten free vegetarian dish/side course is.
Try to make it for a change and it will hook you fast (unless you are the leeks hater). Now that farmer’s markets and groceries are abundant in both, fresh leeks and carrots, it’s time to enjoy what we call eat seasonal, eat local and give yourself some boost of energy.