I have rarely had a cold soup that I enjoyed. But the other night I was served a bowl of vichyssoise, a cold potato and leek soup, that made me an instant convert to chilled soups. Vichyssoise was the creation of Louis Diat, the famous French chef at the Ritz Carlton in New York.
Serve the vichyssoise with warm, toasted rye bread and, for dessert, walnut dessert bars and cold seedless green grapes.
The walnut bars are among my top 10 or 12 favorite cookie recipes. Though most cookies are good, these are great and make a fine gift. They also freeze well if wrapped tightly, in either two layers of plastic wrap or a freezer storage bag.
Cunningham's latest book is "Cooking With Children" (Alfred A. Knopf, 1995).
WALNUT DESSERT BARS
1/3 cup (5 1/3 tablespoons) butter, softened
3 tablespoons light brown sugar, packed
3/4 cup flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 cups chopped walnuts
2 tablespoons flour
3/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
3 to 4 tablespoons cold water
Beat butter and sugar until smooth and blended. Stir in egg and mix well. Add flour, salt and vanilla and mix thoroughly. Press dough evenly in bottom of greased and lightly floured 13x9-inch baking pan. (Do not make crust too thick; it should be thickness of pie crust; if dough is left over, freeze it for another use.) Bake at 350 degrees 10 minutes.
Lightly beat eggs until blended. Stir in sugar and mix well. Add walnuts, flour, baking powder, salt and vanilla and stir until well mixed. Spread filling evenly over cooked crust.
Bake at 350 degrees until filling shrinks away from sides of pan, about 15 minutes.
Sift powdered sugar if lumpy. Stir in water 1 tablespoon at a time until icing is thin and easy to spread. Spread icing very thinly over top of filling. Let cool slightly before cutting into bars.
24 bars. Each bar:
151 calories; 74 mg sodium; 33 mg cholesterol; 8 grams fat; 19 grams carbohydrates; 2 grams protein; 0.36 gram fiber.
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
3 tablespoons water
4 leeks, white part only, thinly sliced
2 onions, thinly sliced
1 tablespoons salt
1 1/2 pounds baking potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
4 cups chicken broth
4 cups milk
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
1/3 cup finely chopped fresh chives
Melt butter in large pot over medium heat. Stir in water. Add leeks and onions and cook, stirring often, over medium heat, until leeks and onions are soft but not browned, 10 to 12 minutes. Add potatoes and sprinkle salt all over. Stir to mix well. Add broth and milk and stir to combine. Taste and add more salt if needed.
Reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, until leeks and potatoes are soft, about 35 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool slightly.
Beat with electric mixer until smooth. (Do not use food processor; potatoes will be gummy.) Refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, about 2 hours.
Serve very cold. Spoon into serving bowls and garnish with cream and sprinkling of chives.
Makes 12 cups. Each 1 cup serving:
202 calories; 945 mg sodium; 30 mg cholesterol; 10 grams fat; 23 grams carbohydrates; 8 grams protein; 1.08 grams fiber.