I don’t know about you, but I am tired of my own cooking. For more than a year, I’ve prepared pastas, varying the shapes and sizes, as main courses, assembled myriad versions of hamburgers, and roasted everything imaginable. When I mentioned this to my good friend and longtime assistant, Emily Bell, she suggested that I make a favorite soup of hers from my book, Sunday Soup. The recipe she had in mind was for a cream of parsley soup. “Pair it with a sandwich, and you’ll have an easy and delicious spring supper,“ she declared.
The next day I pulled out the recipe and marveled at the simplicity of this dish I had created over a decade ago. It called for fresh parsley and leeks plus some diced potato, all simmered in stock and light cream. When pureed this French potage is extra smooth, and has a lovely celadon green hue. Although parsley is the main ingredient, most will not recognize it in this starring role. I offered sips to two friends, and both were surprised to learn that the verdant color of the soup came from this humble herb.
Grilled cheese sandwiches made with Fontina, toasted walnut pieces, and purchased mango chutney rounded out my menu. The recipe is for one sandwich, but can easily be increased to serve more.
So, for a light, yet satisfying meal for the new season, keep this cream of parsley soup and special grilled cheese sandwich in mind. You won’t be disappointed!
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Cream of Parsley Soup and Grilled Cheese Sandwich with Fontina, Walnuts, and Chutney
Cream of Parsley Soup
2 to 3 large bunches flat leaf parsley (enough to make 3 cups of packed leaves) plus extra sprigs for garnish
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 cups chopped leeks, white parts only (about 3 medium leeks)
2 1/2 cups reduced-sodium chicken stock plus more if needed
1 1/2 cups light cream or Half-and-Half
1/2 pound all-purpose potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice
Scant 1/4 teaspoon ground white pepper
2 tablespoons whipping or heavy cream, optional (Cream will add extra richness.)
2-3 teaspoons fresh lemon juice, optional
1.Rinse the bunches of parsley well and pat dry with paper towels or clean kitchen towels. Then remove enough parsley leaves to make 3 cups very well-packed parsley. (It’s okay to include some of the tender stems.)
2. Heat butter in a medium, heavy pot with a lid over medium heat. When melted and hot, add leeks and cook, stirring, until softened, 3 to 4 minutes.
3. Add parsley, stock, light cream or half and half, and potatoes to the pot. Bring the mixture to a simmer, then cover, lower heat, and cook at a simmer until potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes. Do not let the soup come to a boil.
4. Puree the soup in a food processor, blender or food mill, and return the soup to the pot. Or, use an immersion blender to puree the soup in the pot. Season generously to taste with salt (I added over 1 teaspoon kosher salt) and with white pepper. If using, stir in 2 tablespoons heavy cream. Taste and if you want a refreshing accent, add some lemon juice, starting with a teaspoon. (Soup can be prepared 1 day ahead; cool, cover, and refrigerate. Reheat, stirring, over medium heat.)
Serves 4 as a light lunch or supper main course.
Cooking Tip: This soup is also good chilled. When serving cold, you may need to thin it slightly with extra stock or light cream. You will probably need to season it with extra salt as well.
Adapted from Sunday Soup by Betty Rosbottom (Chronicle Books 2008)
Grilled Cheese Sandwiches with Fontina, Walnuts, and Chutney
For one sandwich:
6- to 8- ounce piece of Italian Fontina (or sharp white cheddar, Havarti, or Gouda)
2 tablespoons walnut pieces toasted (See cooking tip)
4 teaspoons purchased mango chutney (or another purchased fruit chutney)
2 bread slices from good quality peasant or hearth bread (Whole Foods whole wheat hearth bread works well.)
1/2 tablespoon unsalted butter plus more if needed
1/2 tablespoon canola oil plus more if needed
1. Using a cheese slicer or sharp knife shave about 2 ounces of cheese from the piece of Fontina. Save the rest for another use.
2. Heat butter and oil in a medium, heavy skillet set over medium heat. When hot, but not browning, add 2 bread slices to skillet and cook for 2 minutes until lightly toasted on underside, Turn over and top each slice with half of the cheese. Add more butter and canola oil in equal amounts if needed. Spoon walnuts on one half and spread chutney on other. Cook bread slices until golden and toasted on undersides, and cheese has melted about 2 minutes or more. Watch carefully. With a metal spatula, lift slice with chutney and place, cheese side down, on top of the other slice to form sandwich. Remove to a cutting board and halve. Serve warm. Makes 1 sandwich.
Cooking tip: To toast walnut pieces spread on a rimmed baking sheet and place on center shelf in a preheated 350 degree oven. Roast about 5 minutes, stirring once or twice. Watch carefully and cook until golden and aromatic.
Copyright Betty Rosbottom 2021