Pain in the Leek

Mar 7, 2013

I love leeks!  They look like large green onions or scallions with thicker stalks, but their taste is much much milder.  The thing about leeks that can be daunting is that they are sandy and dirty (that is where they grow) and are a pain in the neck to clean.  But, I have discovered something – frozen leeks from Trader Joe’s.  You can buy them in the freezer section in a bag and are just perfect for adding to soups and stews, which is why I primarily use leeks.  They just seem to melt in the broth and create this beautiful flavor.Fresh Leeks

This is a recipe by one of my favorites, Ina GartenProvencal Vegetable Soup is unbelievably delicious.  A combination of leeks, onions, garlic and homemade chicken stock create an almost silky base for the soup.  I strongly recommend using my version of Ina’s homemade chicken stock.  The addition of potatoes, carrots and vermicelli provide some body and the pistou (a french version of pesto) is the perfect finish.  Serve this soup with a hot, gooey grilled gruyere cheese sandwich with dijon mustard and you have a french lunch fit for a king!  ….and you didn’t even have to wash the leeks.

Provencal Vegetable Soup with Pistou
Recipe type: Soup
Serves: 6-8
  • For Soup:
  • 2 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 2 cups chopped onions (2 onions)
  • 2 cups chopped leeks, white and light green parts (2 to 4 leeks) or one bag frozen leeks from Trader Joe's
  • 3 cups ½-inch-diced unpeeled boiling potatoes (1 pound)
  • 3 cups ½-inch-diced carrots (1 pound)
  • 1½ tablespoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 quarts homemade chicken stock or canned broth
  • 1 teaspoon saffron threads
  • ½ pound haricots verts, ends removed and cut in ½
  • 4 ounces spaghetti, broken in pieces
  • 1 cup Pistou, recipe follows
  • Freshly grated Parmesan, for serving
  • For Pistou:
  • 4 large garlic cloves
  • ¼ cup tomato paste
  • 24 large basil leaves
  • ½ cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • ½ cup good olive oil
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large stockpot, add the onions, and saute over low heat for 10 minutes, or until the onions are translucent. Add the leeks, potatoes, carrots, salt, and pepper and saute over medium heat for another 5 minutes. Add the chicken stock and saffron, bring to a boil, then simmer uncovered for 30 minutes, or until all the vegetables are tender. Add the haricots verts and spaghetti, bring to a simmer, and cook for 15 more minutes.
  2. For the pistou place the garlic, tomato paste, basil, and Parmesan in the bowl of a food processor and puree. With the motor running, slowly pour the olive oil down the feed tube to make a paste. Pack into a container, pour a film of olive oil on top, and close the lid.
  3. To serve, whisk ¼ cup of the pistou into the hot soup, then season to taste. Depending on the saltiness of your chicken stock, you may need to add up to another tablespoon of salt. Serve with grated Parmesan cheese and more pistou.