On the Menu: Potato Sour Cream Soup + Salmon with Wilted Watercress

Last night, I survived my first hospital night-shift.  It was a first for me: I’ve never been one to stay up all night and I’ve never worked for 12 hours straight.  I’m gearing up for another shift tonight and one the night after.  Basically, I’m worthless for anything but sitting on my couch.  Which is why I decided to make a decadent, delicious dinner before my week got started.

The lovely thing about this meal was that I was able to prepare the salmon and watercress as the soup bubbled on the stove.  Just preheat your oven to 450F, season your salmon with salt and pepper (and olive oil, if you like), and bake for 12-15 minutes.  For the watercress, heat a little olive oil over medium heat in a skillet, add watercress with a pinch of salt, and lightly sautee for under 5 minutes.  A bit of lemon juice would also be lovely.

The soup takes only about 30 minutes to prepare, so you’ll have dinner on the table in no time.

Sour Cream Potato Soup
makes 6 servings
adapted from A Southerly Course

Ingredients
– 3 Tbsp unsalted butter
– 2 large shallots, roughly chopped
– 3 cups Yukon Gold or red potatoes, diced into 1/2 inch pieces
– 6 cups chicken or vegetable broth
– 1 cup sour cream
– salt and pepper to taste
– chives for garnish (optional)

Melt butter over medium heat in a large saucepan.  Add shallots and sautee, stirring regularly until softened and fragrant, about 5 minutes.  Add potatoes and broth.  Bring to a boil.  Lower heat to a simmer and cook until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes.

Blend soup with an immersion blender or regular blender until creamy.  Add some of the warm soup to the sour cream, whisk until incorporated and then add that mixture back to the soup.  Serve hot.

Freestyle Cooking: Roasted Carrots and Fennel + Baby Potatoes with Carrot-Green Pesto

I’m one of those people who is almost incapable of making a recipe without tinkering with it in some way.  It’s not that I’m necessarily trying to improve upon the original…it mostly comes down to what I think is going to be the healthiest/easiest/most economical way to get something to the table.  If a recipe calls for a tablespoon of sour cream and I happen to have plain yogurt in the fridge, you can bet that I’m going to be making the substitution.  Or maybe I forgot to buy something that the recipe called for (or I accidentally bought parsley instead of cilantro, dang it!)  Or perhaps there were some beautiful bunches of local carrots and baby potatoes on sale at the co-op this week.

My lunch today was a tribute to the “waste not, want not” philosophy that I try to employ in my kitchen.  Why toss away those beautiful, delicate carrot greens when they can be transformed into something just as special as the roots?  I did a little bit of google-ing before putting my plan into action, though, because I vaguely remembered hearing once that carrot tops were poisonous.  It’s not true.  I think the origin of this piece of misinformation is that carrot greens resemble hemlock, which was famously used to poison Socrates.  Now that that’s cleared up, I’m never throwing my carrot greens into the compost again.

I call this “freestyle cooking” because I didn’t use exact measurements.  I think it can be empowering to walk into the kitchen with an armful of ingredients and the confidence that you will be able to turn them into something great without consulting a recipe for each step.  I was inspired by Green Kitchen Stories for the roasted veggies but the pesto was an experiment…one that turned out quite well.

Now that the bounty of spring is starting to creep into the produce section, I encourage you to challenge your creativity by freestylin’ in the kitchen now and then.  I’ll bet you come up with some fresh, delicious meals that will save you money.  Don’t forget to drop by and let me know how it goes!

Roasted Carrots with Fennel
from Green Kitchen Stories

Ingredients
– a bunch of whole carrots, peeled and sliced lengthwise if they are large
– a bulb of fennel
– olive oil
– fresh sage, torn into pieces
– anise seed
– salt and pepper
– goat cheese

Preheat the oven to 375F.  In a large pan, toss carrots, fennel, and olive oil together until vegetables are coated.  Sprinkle with sage, anise seed, and salt and pepper.

Bake for 45 minutes to an hour.  Add goat cheese about 5 minutes before you take the vegetables out of the oven.  Serve warm.

Baby Potatoes with Carrot-Green Pesto

Ingredients
– a few handfuls of baby potatoes, washed
– a bunch of carrot greens, tough inner stalks removed
– fennel fronds (optional)
– 1-2 cloves garlic
– a handful of walnuts
– juice from half a lemon
– olive oil to reach desired consistency
– salt, to taste

Bring a pot of salted water to a boil over medium-high heat.  Cook the baby potatoes for 15-20 minutes, until tender.  Drain.

While the potatoes are boiling, place remaining ingredients in a blender or food processor.  Start with 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil and add more as needed to reach the consistency you are looking for.

Spoon pesto over potatoes or use it as a dipping sauce.  It would also be great with pasta.

* I added this post to this week’s Fat Tuesday, Traditional Tuesday, Hearth and Soul Hop, Whole Foods Wednesday, Gluten-Free Wednesday, Frugal Days, Sustainable Ways, Real Food Wednesday, These Chicks Cooked, and Slightly Indulgent Tuesday.