Friends are away in Ireland and we’re in charge of their cat. On our first visit we found a note in the kitchen: “There are pears and celery in the refrigerator to take home.”
It immediately reminded me of when my mother would leave for vacation and present us with the few perishables left in her ‘fridge: the remaining milk, bits of this and the last of that (a strip of red bell pepper? Really?).
Alas, we are not fans of pears. There was one particular night of dining that involved an intermezzo of pear sorbet presented to us on little cones. Sorbet courses were big back then. “Palate cleansers” they were called but this sorbet was anything but palate cleansing. It was gritty and way too sweet. Not to mention the embarrassment of sitting in a white linen environment nibbling on little cones of sorbet. It was a culinary misstep at the midpoint of a meal that had yet to reach its disastrous zenith.
I figured I would use the celery and pears in soup. And with the mercurial nature of spring-it’s hot one day, cooler then next-I wanted a soup that could be served either cold or hot. It’s a riff on the classic leek and potato soup with the pears lending a sweet touch.
Since this is soup, measurements don’t need to be precise. I list amounts as the guideline of what I used. But do make sure the pears ripe. How do I tell if a pear is ripe? A ripe pear will give when pressed at the top near the stem. Peel the pears and slice them in half lengthwise. Remove the core and the fibrous bit that runs from the stem to the core. Cut the pears into pieces.
Leeks tend to be sandy so they will need to be rinsed. Trim off the bottom of the leek. Cut away the greenest parts of the leaves at the upper end of the leek. Any trimmings can be frozen for stock. Cut the leek in half lengthwise then slice the leek crosswise, using the white and pale green parts of the leek. Rinse the slices under cold water to loosen and remove any sand.
4 cups sliced/chopped cauliflower
2 leeks, cleaned and sliced (3 cups)
2 stalks celery, sliced (1 cup)
2 pears, peeled, cored, and chopped
salt and ground black pepper
1 to 2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
6 cups cold water
½ cup light cream (optional)
1. Place a large (2 quart) sauce pot onto the stove over medium heat. When hot, swirl in the olive oil and the butter. When the butter has melted, add the leeks and celery to the pot and stir together; season with a little salt. Cover and lower the heat and let the leeks and celery begin to soften, about five minutes.
2. Add the cauliflower and pears to the pot. Pour in the water and season with a teaspoon of salt. Cover the pot and raise the heat. When the soup comes up to a boil, reduce the heat to a simmer. Cook until the cauliflower is tender, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool before pureeing the soup using either a blender (puree the soup in batches) or with an immersion blender until smooth. Add the light cream and taste for seasoning (it will need salt), adding some ground black pepper (if you are a purist, use ground white pepper). Serve the soup either chilled on a warm day or hot on a cool day. We’ll leave some of this in our friends’ freezer for when they return home.