Now that the weather is starting to cool off…..It’s SOUP TIME, Y’all!!!!! One of my favorite times of the year. I love the crisp chill in the air and the tantalizing smell of garlic and onions sautéing wafting throughout the house. Nothing, and I mean NOTHING smells better than that!!! I was going to make a Potato Leek Soup to share with y’all, but I could only find 2 decent leeks at the market. So, I rolled with the punches, as I do a LOT in cooking, and created a Super Delicious, Mouth Watering Rustic Feta Potato Soup. I call it “rustic” because I use lots of fresh veggies and keep the skin on the potatoes. I pretty much always leave the skins on my organic potatoes, not matter what I am making (mashed potatoes, roasted potatoes, soup, etc). I like the texture and for the added health benefit that most of the good nutrients are in the potatoes skin. Why take the time to peel them if I enjoy the taste AND its better for me??!?! That would just be silly. But, as always, if you don’t care for it…peel the potatoes….you’re the one that has to eat it! Also, I used a variety of herbs and peppers and onion that I had on hand. Feel free to Use What You Got!!!!The onions and peppers do NOT have to be the exact same ones that I use. If you don’t like heat and spice, leave out the serrano pepper and just use bell or sweet peppers. If you only have onions and no leeks or shallots, thats fine. The wonderful thing about soup is that it is amazingly flexible…….almost impossible to destroy! And, every time you make it, you can change it up and use different veggies and herbs until you find the way you like best. I don’t think ANY of my dishes EVER taste the same. That’s why I could never be a chef….Im NOT consistent at all (and I’ve never been to Culinary School or worked in a kitchen!!!!). But, that’s why I LOVE cooking. The mix-up change-up is always fun and the results are (usually) delicious!
But, Let’s start with first things first….Pancetta.
First, I sautéed up some diced Pancetta. You could sub bacon with no problem. I figure, what’s a better way to top your soup AND a wonderful grease to sauté your veggies in! I cooked the pancetta for a few minutes, then added in some diced red onion as well. Don’t add in the onion at the beginning bc it will burn before the pancetta is crispy!
When it’s ready, with a slotted spoon, place onto a paper towel to drain the excess grease. Be sure to leave as much fat as you can in the pot for the veggies. Then, if you live in my house……you must HIDE THE CRISPY HEAVENLY little bites from the kids and hubby, or by the time the soup is ready it will be gone. Seriously. That’s how good this stuff it. TIP: If you are a vegetarian or simply do not have bacon or pancetta, skip this step and just use a good quality EVOO to sauté the veggies in! No worries. While this heavenly concoction is cooking, prep and dice your veggies of choice. And, be sure to clean your leeks. I’ll show you how.
Leeks contain a ton of dirt and sand and you want to make sure to get all of that grit OUT! There is a pretty simple method to do this. Fill a large bowl with cold water. Thinly slice the leeks using only the bottom white and light green parts. Throw the top stems into the compost! Put the slices into the water and toss with your fingers for a second to separate the pieces. Let them sit for a few minutes. The grit will sink to the bottom of the bowl and the leeks will float on top. Scoop out the leeks and voila, clean leeks! You are ready to go!
Get your Pancetta fat filled pan and sauté the rainbow of veggies in that deliciousness. Again, use what you got! This is not a normal boring potato soup. I like to include as many veggies as I can for that rustic look and superb flavor. I used carrots, celery, red onion, leeks, and a variety of peppers (serrano, red, poblano, banana). Slice ’em and dice ’em however you like! Sauté over Med-High Heat. Meanwhile, while your veggies are softening, cube your potatoes.
I like to slice my potatoes in 1 inch thick slices lengthwise. Then I stack them together and slice into 1 inch strips (like you are making french fries), then slice them down into cubes. The above pic shows you 1 lengthwise slice that has been cut into fry lengths, and now being cut into cubes. Does this even make sense!?!? Kinda hard to exlain….so I hope the picture helps you could see how to do it! Make the cubes bigger or smaller if you like, but remember they need to be bits-sized without being too small that they might overcook and fall apart.
While you are prepping your potatoes, be sure to stir the veggie pot every once and awhile. By the time your taters are ready, your veggies should be softening and translucent. Add the garlic and herb bouquet garni, and season with Salt and Pepper. For my Bouquet Garni I used Parsley, Thyme and Rosemary. I tied the Parsley and Thyme together with the Rosemary and didn’t have to use kitchen twine. Whatever works for you! Or, you can chop the herbs up and add them like that as well. I wanted some of the flavor to steep into the veggies, but I didn’t want it to overpower the soup. Thats why I used the bouquet garni so I could remove it later on. TIP: Under the garlic you see some leaves. These are celery leaves. I ADORE them. Whenever I’m cooking I ALWAYS include the celery leaves….they have so much flavor!!!! I’m not a superhuge fan of big chunks of celery, so I always dice mine pretty small. The leaves help infuse some of the flavor without the crunch of the celery. Do it, you’ll thank me later. I always try and buy the leafiest celery bunch I can find!
Next, add your cubed potatoes and season. I used Dry Mustard, Salt, Pepper and Worcestershire. Mix them in with the veggies and cook for about 10 mins. You don’t want to overcook them or get the mushy. You can also add your liquids here and not sauté the potatoes at all, but for some reason I think it brings out a better more rounded flavor.
I decided to GO FOR IT. Maybe not so healthy, but it does have a ton of veggies, right?!?!! You can use fat-free Half and Half or some Veg or Chicken Stock instead and just add a little bit of heavy whipping cream. But, I say, if your gonna do it, do it RIGHT!!! I had company coming over and decided to go ALL IN, Baby!!!! TIP: Be sure to take your creams and cheese out of the fridge when you start the soup so that they come to room temperature. You want to take the chill off so when you are adding them to the hot pot, they don’t curdle. You want to drizzle them in slowly and mix constantly as you pour!!!!!
Mix in the Half and Half SLOWLY until you are happy with the portion of veggies vs liquids. Let that cook for about 5-10 mins then add in the heavy whipping cream. I did not use all of either of these cartons. Probably 4 cups of half and half and maybe 1/2 to 3/4 of the heavy whipping cream. Then, right before serving, crumble the ENTIRE block of Feta (that’s right….I said it…..use it all cuz company’s coming!!!)
Stir and Taste. Adjust seasonings as needed. I added some fresh homegrown Thyme and Garlic Chives for a nice pop of color. And some Fresh Black Pepper. Depending on the quality of Feta you used, you might or might not need to add more salt. Some Fetas are SUPER salty, while others are not. Always adjust at the end before serving. TIP: I used a Boars Head Feta for the Soup, but used a HIGHER QUALITY Feta for the Topping/Condiment Station.
Sour Cream, Pancetta & Red Onions, Crispy Kale, Scallions & Local Feta. These were my toppings of choice. You can use whatever your little heart desires. I will say the Pancetta was out of this world and took the soup to a whole other level. And the Crispy Kale was so damn delicious I’m gonna share how to do that with you!
Put a few handfuls of baby Kale into a large bowl (if you don’t have baby kale, you can sub torn bits of kale or chard as well). Drizzle a T of EVOO and dash of Salt and Pepper. Lightly massage with your hands to make sure all the greens are coated. Spread out on a Baking Sheet (lined with foil so it won’t stick). Bake 275 or 300 for about 10 mins. You need to watch it. Don’t let it overcook and get to where it just crumbles and dissolves. You want nice, crispy edges. Then take it out of the oven. This was perfect around Halloween because it kinda looked like spooky spider webs!!!!
I also served with it a French Bread, sliced in half that I topped one side with a garlic & herb butter and the other side I sprinkled some Monterey Jack Cheese, Scallion & Parsley. Wrapped it up in foil and threw it in the oven along with the kale. Ooey Gooey Garlicy Deliciousness.
Now I will list the basic recipe. I am going to keep it simple so you can use what you have in the kitchen. For example, I will list *2 onions* in the recipe when I use 1 red onion and 1 yellow onion. That way you can make substitutions to your personal taste!!! I hope that will help simplify it for you! Also, Never Forget: Your food is only as good as your ingredients…. so use GOOD ONES!!!! For all of my cooking I use organic whenever possible. Homegrown and Local is choice for me as well. The better your ingredients, the tastier your food. Trust me. So, while I don’t list ORGANIC in front of each ingredients, its a sure bet thats what I’m using!
- 3-4 Russet Potatoes
- 2 Onions
- 2 Leeks
- 1 Shallot
- 2 Handfuls Baby Carrots (or 2-3 Large Carrots)
- 2-3 Peppers of Choice
- 1-2 Spicy Peppers of Choice
- 5 Cloves Garlic (or to taste)
- 4 Celery Stalks & Leaves
- Herbs of Choice
- Feta Cheese
- 4-6 Cups Half and Half
- 1/2 – 3/4 Cup Heavy Whipping Cream
- 2 T Dry Mustard
- 2 T Worcestershire Sauce
- Sour Cream
- Evoo, Salt & Fresh Groud Pepper
Chop and sauté Veggies over Med-High Heat for 10-15 mins or until softened. Add in Garlic & Herbs (bouquet garni) and cook a few mins more. Add in cubed Potatoes, Dry Mustard, Worcestershire & Salt and Pepper. Cook about 10 mins more until potatoes are NOT QUITE FORK TENDER. Slowly add in (stock or a beer if you want to be healthier) Half & Half. Let simmer a bit while it warms. Stir in Heavy Whipping Cream, which should thicken it up a bit. Add Crumbled Feta. Taste. Adjust Seasonings and add Herbs, Salt, Pepper, etc as needed. Serve Immediately. Garnish. DEVOUR.
If you are LUCKY enough to have any soup leftover, I have a suggestion for a quick healthy presto-chango.
Green with Envy Potato Soup
Simply reheat your soup on the stove. Once the soup is warm, add in a handful of baby greens. I used a mix of kale, spinach & chard. You can use one or a mixture.
Stir to combine and let the greens wilt a bit in the warm soup. I also did the baby kale in the oven, as shown previously, and used a TON of that for topping.
I hope you make this and enjoy it as much as we did!