We're home from Monhegan, invigorated by a week spent largely outdoors—hiking through woods and over rocky ledges, birdwatching, and enjoying every minute of what island residents refer to as their "simple, friendly way of life." Sally had a blast. She hiked and birded with us, fed the ducks at the Ice Pond, played hide-and-seek in the spruce woods, explored the old tugboat wreck at Lobster Cove, played in an old skiff, made friends with the island dogs, and tried in vain to pat a hen.
At day's end, while Sally played in front of the warm fireplace, we grown-ups set our minds to cooking. As you might imagine, when you get Elspeth and Alex together in the kitchen, good things happen. We ate like royalty all week. We also tried out several new recipes. Jan and I had gotten our last CSA pick-up of the season just before our trip, so we brought a cooler full of root vegetables with us. The recipe below did a fine job of using them up. It made a lovely first course for dinner one night—along with oysters and Alex's variation on a Manhattan that he called a "Manhegan"—and a delicious lunch the next day.
The original recipe called for puréeing the soup in a blender or with a Foley food mill or immersion blender. We didn't have any such tool on the island, so we skipped this step—and decided that was probably a good idea. Our bowlfuls of diced vegetables shimmering in broth were as beautiful as they were tasty.
Elspeth created this recipe from a similar one that appeared in an old issue of Cooking Light magazine. There's ample room for experimentation here. For example, you could use celeriac instead of celery; use parsnips instead of—or in addition to—turnips; or for a thicker soup, add a bit of cream. The amount below serves about six, and if you have leftovers, it freezes well.
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 large leeks, cleaned and thinly sliced
2 1/2 cups sliced carrots
2 cups cubed potatoes (red potatoes are especially nice)
2 cups peeled and cubed turnips
3/4 cups chopped celery
6 cups chicken stock
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage or 1 teaspoon dried sage
Melt butter and olive oil in a large soup pot and sauté the leeks over low heat for about 15 minutes, until they're nice and soft. Add all the chopped vegetables, stir well, and continue to sauté everything over low heat for another 15 minutes. Add the chicken stock. (I often use Better Than Bouillon's Organic Chicken Base.) Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer until all the vegetables are tender, about 20–30 minutes. If you want your soup puréed, let it cool a bit and then purée it. Stir in the sage, and enjoy.