If you find yourself in the woods this spring, look for the red colored ramps which can be used in this recipe. When we backpack in the Big Horn Mountains in Wyoming, we always look for ramps and put them in whatever soup, stew, or main dish is on the menu. They can be sauteed or cut up and added raw, which is much easier over a campfire. The entire “Ramp” plant can be used in this recipe, or substituted for leeks in just about any recipe. If using ramps, use just a small amount at first as the flavor is much stronger and more pungent. Try fresh Thyme and either leeks or a touch of ramps to your next soup to add a wonderful smooth flavor. Soup over a campfire is great just about any time of year because even the summer evenings are cool in the mountains. If I am not cooking over a campfire, my second favorite way to cook a soup is in the microwave.
Making soups in the microwave is almost hands-off cooking once all the ingredients are in the pot. It is a matter of starting the microwave and letting the soup simmer until all the vegetables are tender. Most potato soups remove the peel from the potatoes but I think the peelings in this soup adds a really nice texture and color when red potatoes are used. Yukon gold or other potatoes can be used and while the red color will be missing, the potatoes themselves lend a velvety golden goodness to the soup. At the last minute add just a little milk so the soup has the consistency you want. I like mine with just enough body to hold its shape on my spoon. An extra cup of skim milk was just the right amount. If the soup cools too much, just place it back in the microwave for a minute or two. Infusing the soup with thyme gives it a subtle flavor. The stem of the fresh thyme can be removed, but scrape down the stem to keep the tiny bits of leaves in the soup for added color and flavor.
Thyme Infused Potato Leek Soup
2 leeks, cleaned and sliced (about a pound)
2 cloves garlic, minced
¼ cup butter
4 cups water
¼ cup dry white wine
3 sprigs of thyme
1 tablespoon chicken or vegetable base
6 potatoes, cubed
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
1 cup skim milk (optional)
Combine leeks, garlic, and butter in a 2-quart microwave safe dish. Cover with lid or plastic wrap. Microwave on high 10 to 12 minutes, or until leeks are tender and start to turn color. Add remaining ingredients except milk. Microwave on high 15 to 16 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Remove thyme stems, leaving the leaves in the soup. Puree ½ of soup in blender, food processor or with an emersion blender. Stir in enough milk to make desired consistency.