Charles Phan's Rice Noodles with Chicken
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Leslie Brenner's Arugula and Potato Soup


For some reason, lately, I've been toying with the idea of a fast. Toying is the operative word here, because I'm hypoglycemic and I know intuitively that depriving myself of solid food for 24 or 36 or even 48 hours is a disaster in the making, especially if I'm at all interested in keeping my boyfriend and my girlfriends as slight social acquaintances.

And how does one even go about surviving a day (or two) of fasting? I imagine myself lying prone on my bed, raising my head limply every 15 minutes to drink a slug of some bitter-tasting brewed tea that's steeped with roots and herbs to provide "Vitality!" and "Energy!" and "Rejuvenation!". The room spins and I mostly just want to rip the heads off of the human beings closest to me and eat them for lunch.

That's usually when my fantasy shrivels up and dies, and I go placidly back to chewing on my afternoon cookie, because I (and others) have learned the hard way that not giving myself an afternoon snack is Bad News For Everyone.

What does all this have to do with what I had for dinner last night? Well, I set out to make a simple pureed soup of potatoes boiled in chicken stock with 10 ounces of baby arugula wilted therein, and ended up with something that looked and tasted akin to what I imagine a day of fasting would taste like.

I was expecting something lusher and more deeply flavored, but I got a very thin, watery broth that, except for the droplets of peppery oil on top and the nice, vaguely bitter flavor of the arugula beneath it, didn't taste of much at all. I do have to note that in the midst of immersion blending, my magic wand gave up entirely and spit the blade into the pot, so I was forced to use the food processor, which I'm convinced isn't the right tool for smooth soups. It leaves those disagreeble specks of unprocessed cellulose in whatever you're attempting to blitz into nothingness.

I suppose if you constructed the soup differently, perhaps starting with a leek sauteed in oil, adding the potatoes in chunks - more than 9 ounces, though - to take on some crusty, well-browned flavor, adding the arugula to cook for a while in the chicken broth, and then whizzing the whole thing in a proper blender, you might get a different result.

I paired my bowl of soup with two Wasa crispbreads and a small pile of pickled herring, which I suppose is as close to a fasting regime as I'm going to get these days. Fine with me.

Arugula and Potato Soup
Serves 4

1 carton (1 quart) chicken broth
2 medium Yukon Gold potatoes (about 9 ounces), peeled and sliced
2 (5-ounce) cartons or bags baby arugula
1/8 teaspoon ground white pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil (or creme fraiche)

1. Pour the chicken broth into a large saucepan and bring it to a simmer. Add the potatoes and cook, covered, until they are very tender, 20 to 25 minutes.

2. Wash and drain the arugula. Add it to the saucepan. Stir to combine and simmer until the arugula is completely wilted, 1 to 2 minutes.

3. Puree with an immersion blender or in a food processor in one or two batches, transferring each batch to a clean saucepan or warm tureen. Stir in the pepper and swirl in the olive oil or creme fraiche.