Thursday, March 10, 2011

The Emerald Season

Shamrock leaf

Soon we will be upon what Barbara Kingsolver calls The Emerald Season. Early spring is when we start to see green again: in the early spring crops such as tender spinach, baby lettuces and bright green peas. I guess it is no accident that St. Patrick’s Day comes at this time. And, isn't the pert Kelly green so welcome and refreshing after a long, sleepy winter of browns and grays?

Traditionally, the Irish have not been particularly well known for their cuisine:  potatoes and cabbage and cabbage and potatoes and did I mention cabbage? But, things are different on the Emerald Isle now. The focus is on locally grown meats and vegetables, artisanal  products such as cheese and bread, and high-quality ingredients.

Still, in the U.S. on St. Patrick's Day, we love the romantic notion of Ireland, where so many of our forefathers and foremothers left in the 1800s. We enjoy having some of the traditional Irish foods during this time.

Following is a potato soup, which sports the tri-colors of the Irish Flag: orange carrots, green parsley, white milky broth. Try serving a pot of this with a homemade Irish soda bread (recipe in the next post) on St. Patrick's Day or any cool, spring evening. Éirinn go Brách.

Pot o' Gold Soup
Serves 5 - 6

2 tablespoons butter
1 leek, white and pale green part, thinly sliced
1 carrot, shredded
5-6 cups potatoes (about 2 1/2 pounds), peeled and cubed
2 cups low sodium chicken broth
1/2 teaspoon celery seed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
3 tablespoons flour
3 cups milk
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
8 ounces shredded white cheddar
4 strips bacon, diced, and fried for garnish (optional)
Parsley, finely chopped, for garnish (optional)

Melt butter in large saucepan. Add leek and carrot and saute for a few minutes. Add potatoes and broth, celery seed, salt and pepper. Cover and simmer until potatoes are tender, 10 - 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, whisk flour and milk together in a pitcher or bowl until smooth; add to soup when potatoes are done and simmer until slightly thickened, just 1 or 2 minutes.

Remove half the soup to a blender or food processor (or use an immersion blender) and process until smooth. Return to saucepan, stir in parsley and simmer for 2 minutes.  Remove from heat and add cheese. Stir until cheese is melted. Garnish with the optional bacon and/or parsley.

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