Pressure Cooker Vegan Lentil Soup

On the myriad cooking shows I watch they often use pressure cookers. I've often wondered to myself if I need one and if I did have one, what exactly I would make with it. 

I never did buy one for myself. I always figured I had the time to wait for the same thing to happen via the stovetop. 

But for some strange reason, my mother bought one. She doesn't even like to cook. Perhaps that factored into her decision. 

When she fell ill, I found myself with the desire to make good use of this appliance on her behalf. It felt therapeutic to create sustenance from this device that she'd bought so soon before she'd become sick. 
Since it's summer and hot, I thought to myself, I can make a complex broth based soup without making the house hot simmering it on the stovetop for a long time. 

My absolute favorite soup meal is lentil soup. It's just the ultimate vegan chicken noodle soup analog. It's the food of memories, childhood and comfort. It will give you a big hug. 


Potato Leek Soup

I've wanted to make potato leek soup for some time, but have never actually done it. Finally, inspired by my local farmer's market and the availability of some beautiful and inexpensive leeks, I decided the time had come at last.

Potato leek soup is a classic french recipe that's been done countless times. My spin on it is the addition of a little bit of jalapeno, some lemon and some wine. I tend to want to chuck a lot of things into one pot, but I really exercised a lot of restraint here. I think the simple approach really paid off.

2 lbs russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch chunks
1/2 lb leeks, halved, then sliced thinly
3 cloves garlic, sliced
1 jalapeno, minced

32 ounces vegetable broth
1/2 cup white wine
2 cups whole milk, half and half or cream
2 tbls olive oil
2 tsp lemon zest
1 tsp lemon juice

2 big handfuls parsley, chopped well
1 tsp salt
2 tsps black pepper
2 bay leaves

The thing about leeks is you have to clean them well. They get a lot of soil and grit trapped in them as they grow. Cut them in half. Discard the out leaves and rinse thoroughly.

In a very large stock pot sweat the leeks in the olive oil. Slowly cook them down over a low flame until they're tender and fragrant, about 15 minutes.

Add jalapeno, garlic, salt and pepper. Sweat 3 more minutes.

Add broth, potatoes, lemon juice, lemon zest, wine, bay leaves. Bring to a boil and continue on a low boil until potatoes are very tender. About 15-20 minutes.

Turn off heat. Use a potato masher to break up the spuds until you have a lumpy soup.

Add the milk and parsley. Simmer on medium low 5 minutes to heat the milk and further soften the mixture.

Now you have a choice. You can whisk and serve as a lumpy, but delicious soup. You can, if you have one, use a fine mesh strainer (chinois) to create a very smooth soup. Or you can use an immersion blender to puree it a little bit.

Using a blender with potatoes is a no-no. It turns them gluey and gloopy. But just a 10-15 second buzz is a pretty safe and easy way to and create a much nicer texture without any fancy french doodads.