Because they are grown in loose, sandy soil, leeks often have grit lodged between their tightly packed leaves. To clean a leek, trim off the roots and the tough, dark tops of the leaves. Peel away the outer layer from the stalk and discard. Halve or quarter the leek lengthwise. (If the leek will be served whole, leave the root end attached and cut only three-fourths of the way down from the green top.) Rinse well under cold running water, pulling the layers of leaves apart slightly to wash away all of the grit. This recipe is from the Williams-Sonoma Collection Series.
For the garlic croutons:
4 to 6 slices coarse country bread, each 3/4 inch
thick, crusts removed
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, sliced lengthwise
For the soup:
2 Tbs. olive oil
2 leeks, including tender green portions,
rinsed well and finely chopped
1 1/2 lb. broccoli, trimmed, florets and stalks
cut into 1-inch pieces
4 cups chicken broth
Salt and freshly ground white pepper, to taste
1/4 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
2 Tbs. finely chopped fresh chives
To make the croutons, cut the bread slices into 3/4-inch cubes. In a fry pan over medium-high heat, combine the olive oil and garlic. Fry until the garlic turns brown, about 4 minutes; do not allow it to burn. Using a slotted spoon, scoop out and discard the garlic. Add the bread cubes to the pan and fry, stirring often, until golden brown on all sides, about 5 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain.
To make the soup, in a large saucepan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the leeks and sauté until softened, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the broccoli and sauté, stirring frequently, until slightly softened, about 2 minutes more.
Add the broth and bring to a simmer. Cover partially and cook until the vegetables are tender when pierced with a sharp knife, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from the heat.
In a blender or food processor, puree the soup in batches until smooth and return the soup to the pan. Alternatively, process with a handheld blender in the pan until smooth. Reheat the soup gently over medium heat. Season with salt and white pepper. Ladle the soup into warmed bowls and garnish with the sour cream, croutons and chives. Serve immediately. Serves 4.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Collection Series, Soup, by Diane Rossen Worthington (Simon & Schuster, 2001).