Winter leeks

I love two vegetables: tomato and leek. For me tomato means – summer and hot months. Leek means – dark, cold, long winter nights and hot soup.

Leeks have a mild onion-like taste, although less bitter than Scallion. The taste might be described as a mixture of mild onion and cucumber. It has a fresh smell similar to scallion. In its raw state, the vegetable is crunchy and firm.

Leeks have a long and rich history, one that can trace its heritage back through antiquity. Thought to be native to Central Asia, they have been cultivated in this region and in Europe for thousands of years.
Leeks were prized by the ancient Greeks and Romans and were especially revered for their beneficial effect upon the throat. The Greek philosopher Aristotle credited the clear voice of the partridge to a diet of leeks, while the Roman emperor Nero supposedly ate leeks everyday to make his voice stronger.
The Romans are thought to have introduced leeks to the United Kingdom, where they were able to flourish because they could withstand cold weather. Leeks have attained an esteemed status in Wales, where they serve as that country's national emblem. The Welsh regard for leeks can be traced back to a battle that they successfully won against Saxons in 1620, during which the Welsh soldiers placed leeks in their caps to differentiate themselves from their opponents.

Today, leeks are an important vegetable in many northern European cuisines and are grown in many European countries especially in France as the key ingredient in vichyssoise. The Vichyssoise soup is a cold potato leek soup with a French name and it was invented not in Paris or Lyons or even in Vichy, France, but in New York City at the beginning of the 20th Century.
It was 1917 and the fashionable Ritz-Carlton Hotel on Madison Avenue at 46th Street was about to open the new roof garden restaurant. The head chef was a Frenchman named Louis Diat. He often made a potato and leek soup from a recipe given to him by his mother, and he was preparing to serve it at a party celebrating the opening of the roof garden. Whether, according to legend, the soup prepared in advance wasn't re-heated in time to be served as a first course, or whether the day was warm and Chef-de-Cuisine Diat was creative, he added cream to his mother's soup recipe and served it cold, sprinkled with chopped chives. He called it Crème Vichyssoise Glacee, or Chilled Cream Vichyssoise, in honor of the town where he was born.

In France a leek soup is popular among women because it is a basic ingredient of the eat-clean diet. You can find a recipe for that diet in the book “French Women Don't Get Fat” of Mireille Guiliano . She wrote that soup makes miracles and that diet is a fast way to a slender figure. Maybe, but whole French cuisine and wine are a good way to be skinny and healthy.
So, the Vichyssoise soup, Mireille Guiliano soup or my French leek soup is the same but my dish is very hot.
In winter I often prepare leek soup because it is my favorite dish. This soup is very easy and quick to make. Keep it in the fridge and heat up it when you get back home on a cold winter’s night...

What you need:

Ingredients for 4 people
- 2 large potatoes
- 2 large leeks
- 1 onions
- ½ cup milk
- 3 tbs olive oil
- 2 tbs freshly chopped parsley
- 1/2 liter [1 pint] warm water
- salt, pepper and nutmeg

1) Peel and cube the potatoes. Peel and mince the onions. Prepare the leeks (wash them and take a 1/3 of the top leaves off) and slice them.

2) Put the onions and leeks in a saucepan, heat the oil and gently mix onions and leeks. Cover with a lid and braise on a gentle flame for about 10 minutes.

3) Add the cubed potatoes, salt and pepper, and 1 or 2 pinches of nutmeg ;
add the water and milk. Simmer for another 15 to 20 minutes.

4) Adjust salt and pepper, and serve soup on each plate sprinkled with chopped parsley.

If you prefer another herb to change or wish to vary the flavors: coriander, basil or tarragon would be fine.

Enjoy! Bon appetit!

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