Buttermilk-Cinnamon Coffeecake
Zak Pelaccio's Chicken Breasts with Garlic-Chili-Ginger Sauce

Peter Berley's Leek Soup with Peas and Sauerkraut

I knew I could count on you, lovelies, for cheering me up and on, for sharing your wisdom on baking in faraway lands and for making me feel just a little less alone in my kitchen. Thank you! I've said it before and I'll say it again, and again, and again: I'm so happy you're here.

I'd like to repay you, if I may, with the kind of recipe that seems as if it'd be possibly the lamest, plainest thing you'd ever look at or eat, but that turns out, slyly, to be the kind of thing you find yourself thinking about at the strangest moments, like before lunchtime or perhaps even dinner, and far more often than you'd ever care to admit. It might even, possibly, for some of you, become the kind of thing you crave, even though it's nothing more than a soupy mixture of cheap vegetables and flavored water.

Oh, go on. Let me tell you more.


It comes from Peter Berley's Flexitarian Table, which has turned out to be one of my dark horse cookbooks, an unassuming little tome that I end up turning to again and again, staining pages and cracking spine. (Do you know what is deeply fantastic, today? My boxes arrived from the United States! Right now, as I type, all my earthly possessions are sitting meekly in their boxes in the room next door. This is more thrilling than I can fairly handle. I want to rip open the boxes, throw myself at my pots, my favorite dress, my books, oh, my books, my sharp knives, and my Kusmi tea, and murmur adoringly to them all. But first, patience! I am still apartment hunting. Eeep.)

I first made the soup last winter. It is the epitome of soothing warmth and nourishment. It's green and bright at a time when the winter gloom threatens to swallow Berlin up whole (though we had 20 minutes of sunshine today, in some kind of miraculous stunt, for the first time in 16 days, apparently a record even for this gray city). It requires nothing all that fresh, except for two leeks and maybe some mint, though I've made it with parsley to delicious results and could imagine this even without any herbs at all.

Basically, you sauté a bunch of sliced leeks in olive oil before cooking them in stock (Peter stipulates vegetable, I like chicken) for a few minutes. Then in go frozen peas, which cook in about 5 minutes, and a mess of fresh sauerkraut. Don't forget its juice, its deliciously sour juice. Three minutes later you have a pot full of hot, sweet, vegetal soup that is chewy and tangy and rather hard to stop eating.


This soup will not win any awards for comeliness. And I believe it works out to be worth pennies per serving. It's simple, peasant food at its very plainest.  But it warms the belly and the heart, wakes up the mind with its sour zip, and is so easy to make you could find yourself doing it with one hand tied behind your back. I kind of love it.

And I hope you do, too. Who needs coffeecakes when you've got sauerkraut soup? Not me.

Leek Soup with Peas and Sauerkraut
Serves 4 to 6

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large leeks, about 2 cups, cleaned and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon chopped mint or chopped parsley
4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 teaspoon salt, more to taste
1 pound frozen green peas
1 cup fresh sauerkraut (if there's something in your sauerkraut other than cabbage and salt, rinse it before adding it to the pot)

1. Add the oil to a large saucepan and heat it over medium heat. Add the leeks, mint, if using, and salt. Cook the leeks until tender, 5 to 8 minutes.

2. Add the stock. Simmer for a few minutes, then add the peas and cook until the peas are tender—just a couple of minutes. Add the sauerkraut and parsley and stir to combine. Taste for salt and adjust if necessary. Let the sauerkraut heat through, then turn off the heat and serve, drizzled with olive oil, if desired.