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Potato Soup

4 medium Idaho potatoes
1 Tbs whole wheat flour
5 cups skim milk
1 cup water
1 medium onion
4 cloves garlic, chopped
3 shallots
2 roma tomatoes
pinch rosemary
pinch saffron
1 cup red vermouth
1/4 c. white vermouth
2 Tbs olive oil

Peel potatoes and dice into cubes the size you want in your soup.
Peel and dice onion and shallots; peel and chop garlic.

In a large stockpot, pour the olive oil and heat over medium to
low heat (around 4 on an electric range, unless you have copper
pots and pans, in which case make it more like 3 or even between
2 and 3). When you smell the aroma that indicates the olive oil
has heated, toss in the garlic, onions, shallots, and rosemary.
Stir a little bit, enough to cook reasonably evenly, but no need
to go nuts. Keep an eye on things untill the onion turns translucent,
but don't wait for things to turn brown.

Pour in the skim milk, the water, and the diced potatoes. Cover;
increase heat on range in order to bring to a boil. Once it's
boiling, reduce heat to low, so that the soup can simmer.

Heat the cup of red vermouth for 10 seconds in the microwave--enough
to warm it a little, but not really beyond that. Throw the pinch
of saffron into the cup of heated red vermouth. This will soften
the strands of saffron. Let stand for 10 minutes or so while the
soup simmers. Pour the saffron/vermouth mixture into the soup,
making sure you get every last precious saffron strand in. (Be
compulsive about this--the stuff is pricey.) Let the soup simmer
for another 40 minutes to an hour.

While the soup is simmering, wash the roma tomatoes, cut them in
half, and scrape out the seeds with your fingers. Take a cheese
grater and place it over a bowl. Run the tomato halves over the
largest holes in the grater, with the sliced side facing the holes.
This will take the pulp off the tomato skin, but the skin won't go
through the holes, so your fingers will be safe, and you'll be left
with a skin (which you may eat) and a bowl of just tomato pulp
(which is what you'll use in the rest of this recipe).

Once the tomato pulp has been extracted, heat a teflon skillet over
low heat, dry, or a small skillet with just enough olive oil or
cooking spray on it to keep the dry heat from damaging your pan.
Pour in the tomato pulp and the quarter cup white vermouth. Let
the pulp cook down a little bit, so that it's no longer a runny
liquid, but don't let the pulp burn. What you'll have is a nice
tomato puree, with a little vermouth taste giving it a slight kick.
Remove from heat.

When the soup is ready, pour it into a bowl, of course. Then take
a teaspoon, scoop up some of the tomato puree, and put a dallop in
the center of the soup. It will float, and the red puree against
the backdrop of the off-white soup (with some reddish hues from
the red vermouth, but mostly still white) makes a wonderful
presentation. Serve immediately. If you want to really impress
people, put a salad plate under the bowl in which you intend to
serve the soup. Chop some fresh chives, and sprinkle the pieces
around the plate before you set the bowl on it (aiming for the
edges, since the bowl will of course cover the center).


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