Sunday, March 18, 2007

Creamy Leek-Potato-Carrot-Barley Velouté, Broccoli with Shallot

In late January, I had made a leek-potato-barley soup and, though we've had weather just a few days ago above 80°F, the last few days it has been cold and it is expected to drop below freezing tonight (our average last frost date here is April 17 - and the first date is October 25), so I wanted to make something warming. I thought of a soup I could try to make, using that experience as a base, but I didn't start till the afternoon, so used the high setting on my slow cooker since I had about 4h of cook time, not 8-10 hours. The idea of including carrots sounded good, and I also wanted to try to cook with the hemp milk that we have been enjoying. I also wanted to make a thicker soup and try mixing in some dehydrated potato flakes; usually a velouté is soup thickened with a white roux, but this is my version of a velouté!

I put in the slow cooker 6 Russian Banana fingerling potatoes cut into large chunks; a large carrot cut into slices a little larger than 1/4"; a small leek cut into half lengthwise, carefully washed, and then cut into 1/4" half discs; half of a small red onion cut into 1/4" or slightly larger cubes; about a third of the roasted red pepper that was left when I made risotto last week, diced into 1/4" cubes; a third cup of hulled barley (when I made the leek-potato-barley soup, I had used a half cup); a cube of vegetable bouillon; fresh herbs from my garden (the oregano had a very short dormant period, from approximately February 1 till a day or two ago, when new leaves emerged!) - about a teaspoon of oregano and a tablespoon of chopped rosemary needles; a teaspoon or so grated ginger; a cup of water and 1 1/2 cups of Living Harvest brand Hempmilk™ (I had used 2 1/2 cups water in the January soup); and a little salt and freshly ground pink peppercorns. I also added about 1/2 teaspoon of diced red jalapeno pepper and maybe 1/4 teaspoon of dried dill weed.

4 1/2 hours later when I was ready to serve dinner, I mixed in about 5 tablespoons of dehydrated potato flakes and about 3 tablespoons of Eat in the Raw's Parma! vegan "Parmesan cheese". Boy, did the slow cooker do a great job! We loved the velouté. The potato flakes gave it a nice thick consistency, and there were nice hints of jalapeno heat and so many nice flavors, such as "cheese" and dill. I'd like to try something like this again; it's difficult to think of improvements, but I might try including a little bit of red wine and some capers, and I might reduce or eliminate the barley (we love the barley and it is great with thinner soups, but somehow I think a creamy soup like this may be better with less or no barley).

I'm so glad that the hemp milk worked out well. I have seen recipes where "milk" is added near the end; I suspect that is to keep it from curdling, which the hemp milk did - but it wasn't an issue as I could stir it all back in, and the potato flakes clouded the liquid so that any remaining particulates from the hemp milk blended in.

I also did a brief saute of broccoli with strips of shallot. I wanted to keep the crunch in the vegetable and serve it fairly simply, without any sauces. I simply sauteed the shallot and broccoli for about 2 or 3 minutes over medium heat, then mixed in the leftover red rice from Friday just for a minute or so to get it to heat up, and then added some salt and freshly squeezed lemon juice. We also enjoyed it! We also had the good luck to have some fabulous onion - potato - rosemary bread, gently toasted, from Weaver Street Market. It was nice and soft inside and so tasty!

Yesterday, we attended a celebration of the poet Rumi's 800th birthday! You can see pictures and video that I took of the event. We were out earlier in the day as well (I taught in the early afternoon, I joined my wife for grocery shopping, and then I worked out), so ate out at Panzanella (a restaurant behind and affiliated with Weaver Street Market). We were disappoionted when we ate there a year or more ago, but last night was very good! They had some vegan pesto in stock, so we had a salad, a delicious pesto pizza with artichokes, a good Pizza Margarita, and spaghetti, all shared amongst two friends, my wife, and me.


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