I don’t speak french. Well, only a few words to get around…but I love France. I love French food and the French language and the French people and French butter and I love a little French Bakery in Charlotte, NC called Amelie’s. And this particular blog is much less about France and much more about Amelie’s. If you ever find yourself in Charlotte, you must drive down North Davidson and find this magical place. This 24 hour French Bakery (yes! open 24 hours a day!!) is chock full of unique upcycled chandeliers, studious college-agers, comfy chairs, tasty coffee, French macaroons, pastries, sandwiches, and some delicious soups including one they call ‘Spinach Asparagus Leek Soup’ (take a guess what’s in it…).
I worked for a few months in Charlotte around Christmas and one of my favorite things to do was to curl up in the old maroon chair in the corner with a cup of this soup and a piece of baguette, wishing for snow. It’s rich and creamy and is packed with sweet carrots, leafy spinach, and tender asparagus tempered by the mild oniony leeks. Super tasty. When I returned home, I missed my cup of soup and wondered if I could create a similar recipe to make for myself at home…I didn’t need to work very hard because when I checked out Amelie’s website, I found an ‘at home’ version of the soup! I had to change it a bit based on what I had on hand, but it turned out perfect and was exactly the rich, veggie filled take on vichyssoise of which I had been dreaming.
Mr. Teacup and I ate the soup a few times this winter, but as the weather has warmed up, I’ve realized that it is also the perfect soup for a cold, rainy spring day as most of the vegetables in the soup are in season RIGHT NOW and most of the ingredients are ones that I have on hand in my freezer and pantry! I love cream as much as the next person (actually, probably much much more than the next person, depending on the company, but I digress…) but with the freshness of spring, the heavy cream can be a bit much. So last time I made the soup, I tried replacing the heavy cream at the end with skim milk. I let the soup simmer a bit after I added it, turning the skim milk from bluish and watery into a creamy (and much healthier) substitute for the heavy cream. The butter that is used in the beginning of the recipe however, is absolutely key (I use a bit more than called for….) so don’t replace it!
A few other things about the soup:
-I like to toast the rice a little in the butter and leeks for a few minutes (like you might do when making risotto) to add some nice flavor…
-The recipe divides perfectly. I’ve not made 15 servings, but I’ve made it for four and for six with no problems.
-Frozen spinach works nearly as well as fresh, and is something you should always have in your freezer!
-I replaced the long grain rice with arborio (a short grain rice used for risotto) because that’s what I had on hand, and it was just lovely. I had to add a little more stock, but I think it added to the creaminess of the soup even more. It cooks down until you hardly notice the rice itself, only the thickness it adds. I’ve used Arborio every time I’ve made the soup now.
-A combo of sweet potatoes and white potatoes is tasty and ups the health factor a little (especially if you’re using the heavy cream!)
-I replaced the leeks (I know, I know, how could I replace the main ingredient?!) the last time I made it with some shallot and a clove of garlic then threw in some fresh corn I had and it was great!
-What I’m saying here is don’t be afraid to play with the recipe. You’ll have a delicious soup with whatever you put into it. Head to the Farmer’s Market for some fresh asparagus, spinach and bring a little French twist to your Spring!
So! The recipe on the website is for 15 servings. It’s easy and yummy and can be found below! The text is taken directly from Amelie’s website (which is pretty groovy, actually) at: http://www.ameliesfrenchbakery.com/#!recipes/cv22
Spinach Asparagus Leek Soup, Home Version
Yields Aproximately 15 Servings
3 large leeks, sliced into 1/4 inch pieces
1 large onion, chopped
3 tablespoons butter
4 medium potatoes, washed and diced
3 medium carrots, sliced into 1/4 inch pieces
1 teaspoon salt
2 1/2 quarts chicken broth
1/2 cup long grain rice
1 pound asparagus, sliced into 1 inch pieces
1/2 pound fresh spinach, rinsed
Pepper to taste (and then some!)
1 cup heavy cream
In a large pot, sautee leeks and onion in butter until tender. Add salt, broth and rice. Cover and boil for 10 minutes. Add the carrots and boil covered for an additional 10 minutes. Add the potatoes, cover and boil an additional 10 minutes. Add the asparagus, cover and boil for 5 minutes or until tender. Remove from heat. Add cream, spinach and pepper. Cover and allow spinach to wilt slightly.
OH!!! By the way! Our one-wall kitchen renovation is finished!! Here’s a picture…