3 Vegetable Soup

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The Heart of New England
Potage 3 Legumes
(Three Vegetable Soup)
by Charlie Burke

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Joanne and I, along with our friends, Nancy and Bob Johnson, returned this
week from a great vacation in France. Before leaving for our
rented house in
the south, we visited friends Jacques and Allix Fourcade in their beautiful
Le Quenais in Normandy, near Omaha Beach and the American
cemetery. Jacques’ mother was captured by German forces as a member of the
French Resistance, and General John Eisenhower (son of Gen. Dwight
Eisenhower) was the Fourcade’s guest for the 50th Anniversary of D Day, so
this was the ideal base from which to explore the landing beaches.

We associate French cooking with complicated recipes containing many
ingredients, but most restaurants and home cooks actually use simple
preparation, relying on the highest quality ingredients to achieve their
delicious results. The cold waters of the North Atlantic produce high quality
seafood, and we enjoyed a couple excellent meals featuring briny oysters and
perfectly cooked fish, but a simple vegetable soup stands out in my memory.

On a cool, overcast day we were exploring Bayeux - a perfect Norman town
most noted for the tapestry narrating the exploits of native son William the
Conqueror in the Battle of Hastings in 1066 - and stopped for lunch in a tiny
creperie, La Cassonade. Food here consisted of salads, omelettes, a daily soup
and, of course, crepes. I opted for the soup, described on the blackboard as
Potage 3 Legumes. The board also named the three vegetables: leeks, potatoes
and carrots.

Leek and potato soup is one of my favorites but the depth of flavor in this bowl
surprised me. In stumbling French, I told Jacqueline, the cook/proprietor, that
I write a recipe column and would like the recipe for her marvelous soup. She
seemed surprised, saying it was
tres simple, not really a recipe at all. She was
happy to write it down and laughingly agreed to a photo of her in her
restaurant. When we left, she handed us a bottle of Norman cider as a gift!
Joanne and I will share the cider the next time we make this soup.

When I saw the simple recipe, I thought she had omitted cheese in the
ingredients, but she said there was none, only a little cream. When we got to
our house a couple days later, this was the first thing we cooked, and I was
disappointed with the lack of depth. We ate it a couple days later, and it then
had the flavor I recalled from Jacqueline’s preparation. In our chowder recipe,
we noted the flavor intensifies over one or two days, so I suggest you prepare
this a couple days before serving. Add the cream before reheating.

Serves 8:

3 large leeks, trimmed, washed and chopped, including tender green leaves
6 medium waxy potatoes, such as Yukon Gold, sliced
6 carrots, peeled and sliced
Sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
¼ cup, or more to taste, heavy cream, crème fraiche or non fat cream

Place all ingredients except cream into 2 liters of water and bring to boil. Lower
heat to a simmer and cook until vegetables are soft. Mash vegetables well or
puree with an immersion blender or food processor until carrot pieces are less
than 1/8 inch in size. Taste and add more salt or pepper if needed and stir in
cream to taste before serving. The flavor improves after one or two days, and
this also is excellent cold. If serving cold, puree until smooth.

This simple recipe shows that great fresh ingredients will speak for
themselves. The leeks, carrots and potatoes we bought at the markets in France
were grown locally, were beautifully fresh, and were bought from the growers.
Do the same, getting fall leeks, potatoes and carrots from your local farmer – it
will make all the difference!

About the author: An organic farmer and avid cook, writer Charlie Burke is the
vice president of the New Hampshire Farmer’s Market Association (
nhfma.org) and helps run the Sanbornton Farmers' Market. Along with his wife,
Joanne, he grows certified organic herbs, greens and berriesat Weather Hill
Farm in Sanbornton, NH.
La Cassonade restaurant
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