Sunday, November 8, 2009

Catching My Breath

I was told once, and not by a paramedic, that it didn't seem as if I was breathing. I hadn't noticed, since I was indeed alive. I think I developed shallow breathing as a defense against the olfactory assault that can be New York City. Hot, steamy subway stations that reek of bleach and urine, fellow commuters--body odor, halitosis, stinky pits and moth-ball-y coats, someone passing gas in an elevator (for the Love of God!), hot tar, restaurant fans belching, the rancid smelling fruit of the female gingko tree, etc... You get the picture. So I learned to hold my breath and take in only as much air as I need to survive. Through further conversations, I also learned that I was holding back, quite literally. And that's not healthy.

I've been conscious of my breathing lately, and I'm breathing more deeply, through yoga, cooking classes and taking the ferry rather than the subway when possible. I'm also more aware because my great friend Ingrid's younger sister, Rebecca, is on a lung transplant list out west. Breathing is a GIFT, and one that we take for granted!

Today, Sunday November 8, was a great day for deep, cleansing breaths! It was 69 unseasonably warm degrees and sunny. I raked the yard and the sidewalk out front. The fresh scent of dirt and leaves was wonderful. After brunch, my friend Jill and I hung out at Gantry Plaza State Park and I noticed that the East River breeze was decidedly briny and refreshing. All that breathing made me aware, and hungry!

Back at home, I was inspired to make a hearty and comforting autumn soup. My veggie bowl was literally staring back at me--and I thought I better cook sumpin' because the taters were sprouting eyes. I had most of what I needed at hand, just made a quick trip to the store to pick up some leeks and heavy cream. I set about filling the house with lovely aromas.

What you'll need:
6-8 medium sized potatoes (I had 2 russets and about 10 small yukon golds--so I guessitmated)
1 medium onion
3-4 leeks
3 tablespoons of butter
4 cups chicken stock (or veggie stock)
1 cup heavy cream

Cut the root end and tough green leaves the off the leeks, til you are left with about 7"- 8"
Rinse leeks under running water to get any sand out
Dry the leeks (squeeze gently in a paper towel) and slice them very thinly
Peel and dice the onion
In a dutch oven, or other lidded pot...melt the butter and add the leeks and onion.
Cook down for about 10 minutes, til they are very soft and fragrant, but not brown.

Peel the potatoes, remove all eyes and bruises and slice them thinly. Leave some bits of skin, for texture. I already cheated by using boxed broth, so I cut the veggies by hand rather than using the food processor. This is not a race, it's a lazy Sunday afternoon, and I wanted to enjoy making the soup and to have the aromas surround me! Plenty of good veggie ends and peelings for the compost heap!

Add the sliced potatoes to the pot, and pour in 4 cups of broth...just til the potatoes are treading, not fully submerged.

Bring to a boil, then simmer with the lid off a bit to let steam escape...for about 20 minutes. Check the potatoes for doneness.

Use a potato masher (or an immersion/stick blender) and mash or blend the soup to the consistency you like. I like it a tad lumpy and rustic.

Add 1 cup of cream, stir in. C'mon it's comfort food! Season with freshly ground sea salt + pepper to taste.

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