Last Monday, I had planned on going to Chez Panisse in Berkeley as a late birthday celebration. Renata, Leone and I were going to drive down and meet up with Erin, Melissa and Dan. It’s been stormy here, and it happened to be particularly stormy as we left Davis for the Bay. About 10 minutes into the ride, I pulled off the freeway and consulted my fellow passengers. We decided that risking our lives and Leone’s flight back to San Diego for lunch was not an intelligent choice.
When I called Chez Panisse to see about canceling our reservation, they informed me that my credit card would be charged $25 per person (that would be $150) if we didn’t show up. However, they told me that if anyone on the reservation showed up, we would not be charged. Luckily, my wonderful friends were willing to venture into the rain to eat my birthday lunch without me.
So, while Erin and Melissa ate at the actual Chez Panisse, Leone, Renata and I decided to make our own Chez Panisse meal from my new cookbook. We made an arugula salad, potato leek soup, and lemon curd for dessert. The lemon curd was meant to be a tart, but there wasn’t time for the dough to cool before Leone had to leave. The dough lives in my freezer now, until I gather the energy to make it into said tart.
Leek and Potato Soup (from Alice Waters’ The Art of Simple Food)
- Trim off the root and the tough upper greens from 2 pounds leeks.
- Cut the trimmed leeks in half lengthwise and slice thin. Rinse in a bowl of cold water. Lift the leeks out of the water to drain.
- Melt over medium heat in a heavy-bottomed pot:
- 3 tablespoons butter
- Add the leeks along with:
- 2 thyme sprigs
- 1 bay leaf
- Cook until soft, about 10 minutes. Add:
- 1 pound yellow potatoes, peeled, halved or quartered, and sliced
- Cook the potatoes for 4 minutes, then add 6 cups water (or broth).
- Bring to a boil and turn down to a simmer. Cook until the vegetables are tender, but not falling apart, about 30 minutes. When done, stir in:
- 1/3 cup creme fraiche or heavy cream (we used creme fraiche and it was perfect).
- Do not boil once the cream is added. Check the seasoning and adjust to taste. Remove the bay leaf and thyme before serving.
It was a perfect rainy-day meal. Some day, I will make it to Chez Panisse. For now, I have this photo which Erin texted to me from their meal: