Guest Post Friday: Almost Vegetarian and Kitchen Geology

The best French vegetarian recipe and the amazing laws of physics!

by our friend and fellow blogger Almost Vegetarian

I can’t tell the difference between stalactites and stalagmites. I know one goes up and one goes down, but I can never tell which is which.

And I need to know. Otherwise, how am I going to tell you about what happened to the vichyssoise?

Let me explain . . .

As a last good-bye to summer (late for some of you, but just in time for those of us on the west coast), I wanted to make my famous vichyssoise. Now, vichyssoise is a great recipe to have in your arsenal.

First, it is the easiest soup in the world.

Second, it is one of the top fail-safe dishes.

Third, it is vegetarian.

And, fourth, it is French so it sounds elegant. Oui? Mai oui!

There is just one catch with vichyssoise. And that’s where the stalactites
and stalagmites come in. But not before you actually make the soup. So let’s
start with the . . .


This makes about four servings as a dinner appetizer. Or, you can fill your biggest soup bowls to the brim and enjoy it with ripped chunks of fresh, fresh French bread for a dinner for two. (Note from Mark: Since this is a starchy soup, I’d serve it with duck and grilled fresh fennel instead of bread.)

3 cups water

2 cups sliced leeks, white part only
2 cups diced baking potatoes

a good sprinkle of sea salt, to taste
a healthy dash of freshly ground white pepper, to taste

1/2 cup of heavy cream or crème fraîche
1 tablespoon minced fresh chives

Put the leeks, the potatoes, and the water into a saucepan. Add the salt and
pepper and simmer until the vegetables are tender, about half an hour.

Purée the soup, then refrigerate for a few hours. Once it is throughly
chilled, taste and add more seasonings if needed. Pour in the cream (or stir
in the crème fraîche) and sprinkle the minced chives on top.


Why no, no you do not. The only reason I call for white pepper is solely to
avoid those dark specks you would get from black pepper. If you don’t mind
(or if you are eating in the dark) then go ahead and use black pepper. It’ll
taste just as good.


Well, you can always chill it for lunch tomorrow. But if you are bound and
determined to eat it tonight, while it is still hot, then I have some good
news and some bad news. The good news is it is absolutely delicious hot,
too. But the bad news is you forfeit your right to call it vichyssoise. You
now have to call it Potato and Leek Soup. Or Bob.


I’m so glad you asked! There are two ways to purée hot liquids (well, there
are other ways, too, like a food mill, but these two ways are the ones I am
familiar with).

First, you can use an immersion blender. Looking like a long stick with a
blade at one end and an electrical cord (unless you have a cordless version,
you lucky thing) at the other, you immerse half of the immersion blender —
the half with the blade, or course! — into the liquid and let it whirr. This
does a very good, but not absolutely smooth job (unless you want to go to
the trouble of pressing it through a sieve afterward, which I don’t.).
Still, it is my preferred method. A preference you will understand all too

The second way to purée a hot liquid is to dump it into your blender. This
will give you a smoother result than the immersion blender, but it can do so
at a cost. A terrible cost.

You see, the first time I made vichyssoise, I filled the blender, oh say,
two-thirds full, with boiling soup. I turned it on and the amazing laws of
physics took over. Yep, as anyone but me could have guessed, the pressure
and steam built up in that enclosed space and until the lid blew off with
enough pressure to spew soup all over the ceiling, the cabinets, and the
walls (all I can say is, thank heavens I stepped away or I would have had
one helluva burn).

And this stuff dries like concrete.

This is why, three hours later, my husband came home to find me on top of a
step ladder, brandishing a sponge and alternately wiping cave formations
from my ceiling and demanding to know if it was stalactites or stalagmites
that grew down.

Of course, I wouldn’t have had this problem if I had only put a tiny amount
of soup — say, less than a cup — into the blender to blend at one time. Or
if I had chilled the soup before I tried to purée it.

And this is also why I needed to know which goes which way. I Googled it and
I think I’ve figured out which is which: Stalactites come down from the
ceiling and stalagmites come up from the floor. I think.

Mark’s note: Thanks to our guest poster! As you know, I don’t recommend eating starchy carbs on a regular basis, but the occasional serving of yams or potatoes are generally fine if you are primarily eating vegetables, meats, fish, and healthy fats. However, to the horror of dietitians, I have no qualms about cream.

P.S. I always remind myself that stalactite has a c for “ceiling” and stalagmite has a “g” for ground. 😉

Further reading:

44 Finger Lickin’ Good Low-Carb Recipes for Vegans and Carnivores Alike

Subscribe to Mark’s Daily Apple feeds

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15 thoughts on “Guest Post Friday: Almost Vegetarian and Kitchen Geology”

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  1. Great – stuff that tastes good but is also good for me. I’m going to try it.

  2. I make a similar soup – though I don’t bother to puree.

    Cut the leeks in half length-wise, and chop up the white and light green portions cross-wise.

    Saute the leeks in a bit of butter until soft.

    Add a tablespoon or two of flour (a thickening agent).

    Chop some potatoes into bite-sized cubes. (I use red ones – they work well in a chunky soup as they are a bit waxy and hold together.) Add the potatoes to the leeks.

    Add a bay leaf.

    Add some stock (chicken or vegetable work well).

    Season with salt and pepper to taste.

    This is a quick, easy, and very tasty soup.

  3. A traditional vichyssoise is vegetarian but not vegan. I’ve never understood why someone would cut out meat but not dairy. Dairy is not healthier than meat or fish, and its consumption is not more humane. The dairy and meat industries are conjoined twins. Half of the calves born to dairy cows are destined for feedlots while their sisters will have the life milked out of them for two years before they, too, make that final journey up the ramp, where a man armed with a stun gun awaits.

  4. Courtesy of my all-knowledgable father —

    Stalagetites hang tight to the ceiling. Stalagemites are the other ones.

    This does sound fabulous, thank you.

  5. I make a more Atkinsy-version of this soup.

    3 whole sliced leeks
    1 cup heavy cream
    2 pats butter
    a few cloves of crushed garlic
    sprinkle of kosher salt
    1 cup chicken broth

    I top with a couple generous handfuls of grated sharp cheddar and some fresh crushed black pepper. My parents love it (and they are major potato people).

    1. This sounds good. I’m assuming you salt and cook the leeks, garlic, broth and butter together first then add the cream after pureeing and refrigerating. Or do you not refrigerate since you’re adding cheese? I’d like to try this.

  6. Heavy cream? And you call this healthy? Good tasting no doubt, but healthy?

  7. I’m going to make your version Sara. What’s healthier than cream?

    1. Aaah, never mind. It was just about lipid hypothesis. So please regard my comment! :S

  8. a good variation, and even more French-ish

    why not substitute celeriac for those high glycemic – unhealthy in quantities – potatoes

    You are correct Sara, cream is very healthy – not only does it contain medium chain fatty acids that kill bacteria and viruses, supporting your immune system, saturated fat also helps repair your liver if your an alcoholic – or any number of other body building and hormone supporting functions
    also, it had no effect on insulin, as do potatoes, and therefore won’t make you fat

  9. This is my way fo keeping up and down straight.
    Stalactites are on TOP (the word has three “t”s).
    Stalagmites are on the bottom (the word has two “t”s).

  10. Stalagtites hang to the cieling TITE, stalagmites would if they MITE. Aaaaand that’s about all I have to contribute! Sounds like tasty soup!