Thursday, June 7, 2012

Potato Soup with Garlic Scapes

I remember the day being a bit gloomy, but I couldn’t tell you the season. Mom decided she would make potato soup. She then decided it would be creamy potato soup, although I don’t recall that she added any dairy. A good handful of fresh parsley was added at some point, and the resulting soup was a sort if iridescent green. And it was fabulously delicious.

Of course, that was likely at least 20 years before I even considered writing a recipe blog (we didn’t even have a computer in the house), so exactly what went into that soup never was properly recorded. All we have is the beautiful memory of the fleeting wonder that is improvised perfection, gone but never forgotten. I think I’ve been afraid to try to duplicate it all these years, sure that I’ll never achieve anything equal to that memory.

Well, I thought of that soup as I was making this one. I realized I was probably doing pretty much what Mom had done, keeping things simple and using what was on hand. What was on hand happened to be a big bundle of garlic scapes, the tube-shaped immature flower clusters that form on hardneck garlic plants. You’ll probably have a hard time finding these in supermarkets, but check your local farmer’s market or natural food stores that stock local ingredients. They are mildly garlicky in flavor, and I like to substitute a handful of them for a few garlic cloves in recipes this time of year.

As I said, I kept this soup very simple, simmering the potatoes and garlic scapes in water, then pureeing the soup to a rich velvety texture that I didn’t even need to enhance with anything creamy. For some subtle flavor additions I stirred in a few splashes of tamari (you could use regular soy sauce), some sesame oil and chopped fresh chives from my own backyard.

I don’t know what made me think the Asian flavors should be included in this soup, although I have a sneaking suspicion that this salad had some influence. The soy sauce and sesame oil were nice companions to the gentle garlic flavor of the scapes, and anyone who has ever put chives on a baked potato knows that they belonged here, too. The flavors are mild, so you could adjust them if you want something snappier. I liked the simplicity of this recipe, but good tasting potatoes are essential. It may not the same as Mom’s improvised parsley-potato soup, but it’s good…and I wrote down what I did so I can do it again.

Potato and Garlic Scape Soup with Chives
The salt will probably need the most adjustment to taste here. This recipe is fairly mild and its saltiness will depend on that of your soy sauce or tamari.

1 tablespoon neutral oil, such as canola or peanut
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
¾ teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
2 pounds boiling potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 cup chopped garlic scapes
4 cups water
2 tablespoons soy sauce or tamari
1 teaspoon roasted sesame oil (or infused sesame oil)
about ¼ to 1/3 cup finely chopped fresh chives

1. Heat the oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and salt and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes or until soft but not yet browned.

2. Add the potato and garlic scapes. Cook about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep the potatoes from sticking to the pan.

3. Add the water. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and boil gently for 20-30 minutes or until the potatoes are very tender. (Time is likely to depend on the type of potatoes you use and how small you cut them.)

4. Remove from the heat. Add the soy sauce and sesame oil. Puree the soup with an immersion blender or in batches in a regular blender until very smooth. Stir in the chives. Taste and add salt or other seasonings as desired. Garnish with additional chives or chive flowers if you have them.

Makes about 6-8 servings.

One year ago: Rhubarb Custard Bars

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