I awoke, inexplicably, at 4:45 this morning and was unable to go back to sleep. I tried, oh yes, of course I did, but to no avail. At 5:45, knowing that my alarm was going off in half an hour anyway to rouse me for my morning rehearsal, I finally just decided to get up and make coffee.
The upshot of this is that I now have extra time to write about the dinner I had last night. Madeleine was paying me a visit, and on her last trip north we had an unusually good meal: green salad with a lemon-olive oil dressing, basil-feta-pine nut muffins, spaghetti squash with red sauce, walnuts, and mozzarella, and a lemon tofu pie with raspberry coulis. Consequently, I wanted this meal to be particularly good and exciting. I had a reputation to live up to, after all ;)
After some hemming and hawing and flipping through of cookbooks, I found a recipe from Moosewood for a creamy spanish soup, Creme Andalouse. It's a blended soup--oh my, how I hate blending soup, but sometimes it's worth it--with leeks, tomatoes, potatoes, and heavy cream, tarted up with tarragon, cayenne, and a little lemon juice. Just reading this recipe made me drool a little bit, so I started looking for a companion dish. After a few false starts (savory bread pudding being the most appealing, but a little too lengthy in terms of prep time), I decided that perhaps some sort of cheese empanada would go well. A quick google search led me to a recipe for goat cheese-olive empanadas. Bingo! (Ha.)
The recipe is somewhat based around having discos, flaky pastry rounds made by the Goya company. I didn't have those, so I just made little shells out of my very favorite pie crust recipe and called it good. (I don't have much empanada experience and I'm certain these are completely inauthentic, but I can't honestly think of a more correct term right now.) And oh my, it was good! The empanadas were deliciously salty and flaky and buttery, the soup was creamy and filling and well-spiced. One thing I normally don't like about blended soups is that I can never blend them into complete smoothness, but with this soup the little leftover bits of potato and leek made for a really nice texture. Seriously, I love potatoes. I told Madeleine that this menu was another keeper, and we laughed and finished our wine. Then I sent her out into the cold full of warm goodness and went to bed happy.
Thank you, Moosewood.
2 tbs butter
3 leek bulbs (just the white part), rinsed and chopped
6 fresh tomatoes, chopped, or 4 cups undrained canned tomatoes
7 cups veggie stock or water
4 medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp dried tarragon
1/8-1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup heavy cream
Saute the leeks in butter until soft. Add the tomatoes and simmer for ten minutes. Add all of the remaining ingredients except for the lemon juice and cream and simmer until the potatoes are thoroughly cooked. Puree in a blender or food processor, adding the heavy cream and lemon juice. Gently reheat, but don't bring it to a boil or your cream will curdle. Feel free to garnish with herbed croutons and parsley.