My mother cooked like she loved; not at all, or just for show.
My father, however, brought a sense of irreverent frivolity to almost everything, which was true most of all in the kitchen.
I wonder now if he ever really loved to cook, or if the few moments of actual joy sprinkled throughout the batter of my childhood were whisked in out of a love for us.
Perhaps it was both, since I don’t recall much about my father that was done purely for the sake of it. Outside of the kitchen, he was prone to start projects and flit onto something else, some shiny butterfly of an attention span leaving behind a dining room without a ceiling, or a fish tank without a filter. My mother’s rage was the souring of gold-topped milk bottles, the over-flow of fryer oil & the slammed phone of takeout orders.
I learned then, before I could reach the sink without a chair, to observe her moods the way my father saw the precise moment to stop whipping egg whites. Both of us unconsciously looking for the point of no return.
Her narrowing eyes. The glossiness of meringue.
And yet, he always finished dinner. Sometimes that just meant he marshaled the contents of the refrigerator to stand as sentries around the doorstop-thick chopping board on which he would make sandwiches to order. A swipe of butter onto granary bread like frosting on carrot cake. A sprinkle of salt atop wedges of tomatoes like scattering breadcrumbs for the Sunday ducks. The slicing of cheese at a thickness as generous & unreserved as his laughter.
I wonder now if he still makes leek & potato soup. Not like I’ve made mine here, because I can never bring myself to sully the memory of his bowls with my own sub-par imaginings.
My father’s leek & potato soup was broth-y and cream-less. With little golden bubbles of butter floating, speckled through the broth like the raisins in his rock cakes. The leeks were chunky and unapologetic, reminding us that this was their soup to anchor while the potatoes hoisted the sails, bobbing in the broth. Sometimes I think I remember sighting nuggets of sliced sausage in his soup, mermaids just off the shore of my memory.
My leek & potato soup is nothing like my father’s, aside from the fact that it, too, is without dairy to muddy the waters. But it keeps the spirit of its inspiration: letting the simplest of ingredients speak for themselves, the way he always let us decide what went in those sandwiches, sensible or not. (Peanut butter and cheddar? Sure!)
I hope he’s somewhere, still making that soup for someone. Even if it isn’t for me.
Looking for more comforting soups? Try these.Print
Hearty Dairy Free Leek & Potato Soup
This healthy & hearty take on leek & potato soup skips the dairy & lets the flavors of the lightly roasted vegetables shine. Bonus: use up your holiday ham!
- Yield: 8 cups / Serves 4 - 6 1x
- Category: soup, one pot
- Method: stovetop
- Cuisine: gluten free, dairy free, paleo, grain free
- 1 lb / 454 g cauliflower florets, about 1/2 medium head
- 1/2 large yellow onion
- 1/2 lb / 225 g trimmed leeks, about 1 – 2 medium, or 2 – 3 cups, white & light green parts only
- 2 tbsp / 30 ml butter, ghee, avocado or mild olive oil
- 1 clove garlic, minced or crushed
- 4 cups / 960 ml chicken broth
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 tsp fine sea salt
- 1/4 tsp black pepper
- 1/4 tsp dried thyme
- 1 lb / 454 g russet potatoes, about 2 – 3 small or 1 large
- 1 cup / 240 ml water
- 1/2 lb / 225 g chopped ham, optional, but perfect for holiday leftovers!
ROAST: Preheat the oven to 425 F / 220 C. Pile the cauliflower florets in the middle of a baking sheet. Slice the onion into chunky half moons and add them to the sheet with the cauliflower. Drizzle or spray with just enough oil to lightly coat the vegetables, season with salt and pepper, then toss together and spread the now seasoned vegetables out on the sheet in a single layer. Roast for 25 – 30 minutes, flipping over about halfway through so that the vegetables roast and brown but do not burn. Remove from the oven to cool on a trivet.
RINSE: While the vegetables are roasting, chop the leeks into 1/4 inch thick rounds, adding them to a bowl. Cover with cold water and use your hands to stir up and agitate any loose dirt or grit in the leeks. Let the leeks sit submerged for a few minutes, then drain and rinse them thoroughly under cold running water. Drain once more.
SOFTEN: Add the damp leeks to the bottom of a dutch oven over low medium heat. Cook, stirring often for a few minutes, until the water from rinsing has evaporated but the leeks have not taken on any color. Add the butter, ghee, or oil of choice to the dutch oven and let it melt. Coo, stirring often, until the leeks are slightly softened and glistening, about 8 – 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in the garlic, letting it warm through in the residual heat but not brown.
BLEND: Transfer the slightly cooled roast vegetables from the sheet tray to the pitcher of your blender. Pour over the chicken broth and blend until you have a smooth & creamy soup base, making sure to leave room for any steam to escape as you work.
WARM: Add the vegetable cream to the dutch oven with the softened leeks & garlic, then add the bay leaves, sea salt, black pepper and thyme. Turn the heat to medium and bring to a gentle simmer, but do not boil.
DICE: While the leek & potato soup base is warming through, peel and chop the potatoes into pieces that are just a little larger than bite size. Add the water to the dutch oven along with the diced potatoes.
SIMMER: Bring the leek & potato soup to a gentle simmer and cook, covered with room for steam to escape, until the potatoes are tender but not too soft, about 30 minutes or so, stirring here and there. Remove and discard the bay leaf. I like to have a thinner soup with chunks of potato throughout, but if you like a thicker soup, put a couple ladles of the soup into the blender and puree until smooth, then add back to the pot to thicken.
SEASON: Add the leftover ham and warm through for 5 minutes or so. Taste and adjust the salt as needed – don’t be tempted to add additional salt until the ham has had a chance to mingle, since they can be very well seasoned! If you like, garnish with plenty of fresh cracked pepper and herbs like chives or dill.
- Potatoes are a Stage 4 AIP Reintroduction. Replace them with an equal amount of peeled & diced white sweet potato to make this Elimination Phase friendly!
- Use avocado or olive oil & omit the black pepper for AIP Elimination Phase.