11 April 2007
The Color Purple
I cannot think of a better tribute to spring, and to the kind-faced man who sells potatoes at the market, than this beautiful soup. The man with the potatoes presides over several bins, each with tiny specimens in different hues: buttery yellow fingerlings, creamers, Russian bananas, ruby-colored rose ones, and purple Peruvians. His hands are thick and rough and I imagine he has dug these potatoes himself, leaving those little bits of dirt under his fingernails. He kindly gives out suggestions: since peeling the tiny buggers is a pain, just give them a good scrub with a vegetable brush, then simply saute or roast them. I buy a bag of multi-colored and a bag of purples, because I will fully admit to judging a book by its cover, or color, as the case may be.
Multicoloreds, simply roasted with olive oil, rosemary.
About a month ago, I was similarly infatuated with a big head of purple cauliflower. I wanted to come up with a recipe that featured the cauliflower’s color and I even boiled down the cooking liquid to incorporate into a bright purple sauce for a gratin. The results were tasty, but who really wants their gratin to be purple colored?
This time I took a simpler route, going back to my mom's old staple, Vichyssoise. I love the sweet, smooth taste of this chilled potato leek soup, and serving it I felt a bit like an Impressionist, Picasso in his blue period. You don't have to go quite so sculptural with your chives, but do use them, as they add a nice accent.
I should note that the best thing I did make with the purple cauliflower was a salad with romaine and chopped egg. Make sure to add some lemon juice or vinegar to the water you cook the cauliflower in, otherwise all it's color will seep out. No such issue with the potatoes, which will keep their color, though this soup is good no matter what color you use.
Purple Potato Vichyssoise
In my opinion, this classic recipe is best in its simplest form, allowing the clean sweet flavors of the leeks to come through. I suppose you could use stock instead of water, and by all means add more cream or some milk to your taste.
1-2 tbl butter
4 cups sliced leeks, white and light green parts only
4 cups diced peeled purple potatoes
6-7 cups water
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup heavy cream
chives, for serving
Melt the butter in a saucepan and saute the leeks over very low heat until just golden. Add the potatoes, salt and water in a pan and bring to a boil. Simmer 30 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Let cool slightly, add the cream, and puree until smooth. Chill thoroughly. Taste for seasoning. Serve chilled, with chives sprinkled on top.