Many, many, many years ago grasshoppers, when I was young and impressionable, I bought a set of Real Deal Cordon Bleu Dinnerware. The big sized bistro stuff. This was back in the day when it was still made in France. It was also back in the day when I thought I'd never be cooking for more than 6 people. This made the dinnerware highly impractical for dinner parties at our house where I've usually got anywhere from 8 to 12. I bought this back in the day when I only had 4 dinning room chairs, back in the day when the antique pub table we use for our work desk was our dining room table, back in the day before I thought and cooked BIG. This stuff is OLD!. It has also just been sitting there and last year I almost gave it away, but couldn't. It was Alan and my first dishes. I got all sentimental and I'm glad I did.
The other night we had a small dinner party. Only 5 people and I thought why not use the blue and white dishes? As I started planning this non-Indian dinner it started to get complicated. I'm used to dishing up Indian feasts and there I know what goes with what and how to serve it. A regular Tuscan style meal I have to sit down and think about. I wanted to do something special and different and seasonal. I knew I'd be roasting a chicken, but what to put with it?? My first thought was salad, and then I thought, no.
Don't get me wrong, I love salad. A day does not go by that I don't eat my green and leafys, but sometimes enough is enough. I'm talking about a dinner party where it seems that salad is de regueur, doncha' know. For me, it can get boring.
For my Tuscan dinner the other night, I decided that I wanted to try a first course of soup. A light chilled soup since we'd been having warm days. Just a small cup of soup served in a little espresso cup. I was thinking of set of little blue and white espresso cups that perfectly matched my old Cordon-Bleu dinnerware. Something to sip that wouldn't kill the appetite for what was to come. I have to confess here that I had been really, really, really impressed with the small amuse-bouche served to us at Sante Restaurant. Why couldn't I try this at home I thought. So I did.
I decided that a fresh tasting watercress soup would do the trick. This is a soup that I've been making for years. I was first was turned onto the recipe by the book Saved By Soup. If ever a book lived up to it's title, this would be the one. Anytime anyone asks me about good healthy soup recipes I always recommend this book. Over the last 10 years, I've made and fiddled with most of the recipes in it. It is a real winner.
Watercress soup is light and low fat, in fact the calorie count in this book comes out to about 67 calories a cup. Can't beat that. Here's my adaptation of this recipe.
In a heavy pot add:
2 bunches of watercress. Take off the stems and roots.
1 medium onion finely chopped
1 large Yukon Gold potato peeled and diced.
1 finely chopped shallot
2 cups of water
Bring everything to a boil, then partially cover the pot and turn down the heat to medium low. Let it simmer for 20 to 25 minutes.
When everything has softened, either put it into a blender or food processor or use an immersion blender (that's what I do) and puree everything to a nice smooth soup.
Season to taste with salt and pepper. Let the soup come to room temperature than pop it in the fridge to chill.
Just before you serve, stir in 2 cups of buttermilk and enjoy. This recipe easily serves 8 to 10 in tiny little cups. The great thing about this way of serving soup is that it can be made ahead of time. Just don't add in the buttermilk until the last minute.
I can't tell you how much fun this was to serve. People were expecting salad and they got...soup.
It also gave me a good excuse to use some of my cute little espresso cups for something else besides coffee.