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Vichyssoise is a leek and potato soup typically served cold. Stock photo
ColumnsJano's Garden

It’s time to harvest your root vegetables

Vichyssoise, or potato and leek soup, was said to have been invented by a French chef who worked at the Ritz-Carlton in New York City. Louis Diat created this cold soup in 1917 as a homage to his grandmother. He said that he and his brother would cool down the soup by stirring in cold milk. They lived near Vichy, thus the name.

My mother also made this chilled soup in the summer and served it on our lakeside patio for lunch in Wisconsin.

Living in the Midwest, I suppose it sounded glamorous to have a fancy French soup for lunch!


I was inspired by the huge leeks recently harvested from our community garden in Carlsbad. They were left in the ground for almost four months since they were planted and are quite thick, but not verging on going bad. They will be perfect for the soup. At $1 per stalk at the market, four leeks will go a long way!


In all of her cookbooks, Julia Child mentions soup as one of her favorite things to eat. The original recipe from Louis Diat was later transposed into “Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol. 1,” and is part of Susan Bronson’s “Taste of Home” column.


  • 3 cups thinly sliced peeled potatoes (Yukon Gold)
  • 4 thinly sliced leeks, carefully washed, white part only
  • 1½ quarts chicken stock or vegetable broth
  • ½ to 1 cup whipping cream
  • Salt and pepper to taste, dash of nutmeg
  • 2-3 tablespoons fresh chives, minced


  1. After prepping vegetables, place them in heavy soup pot and simmer, partially covered, for 40-50 minutes.
  2. Once the vegetables are tender, allow to cool and process in blender or immersion blender. Process in batches, season with salt, pepper and nutmeg and stir in cold whipping cream. Garnish with chives.
  3. If serving cold, refrigerate for at least one hour. In cold weather, there is no reason not to serve it warmed up!
Leeks ready to be harvested at the Carlsbad Senior Center Garden. Photo by Jano Nightingale


Root vegetables are often forgotten in the garden since they usually take three to four months to come to fruition. At the Carlsbad Senior Garden, we have been surprised to find, in our large raised bed garden, rows of beautiful red beets ready for processing.

Unfortunately, this root vegetable is often left in the ground too long. If the beautiful red bulb is harvested late in the season, they might look great but end up tough and grainy if they grow over the size of a golf ball.

I created this beet salad when I had a small catering business in Upstate New York. I usually serve it as an hors d’oeuvre, but it also makes a lovely first course.



  1. 5 or 6 fresh beets, stalks removed
  2. One large chunk of high-quality blue cheese
  3. Olive oil, balsamic vinegar, Grey Poupon mustard
  4. One head endive. If you can’t find endive, use miniature romaine.
  5. Fresh herbs (tarragon, basil or thyme)


Prepare the ingredients in a pint Ball jar with lid. Shake until distributed.

  1. ½ cup best quality extra virgin olive oil
  2. 3-4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  3. 2 tablespoons beet juice
  4. 3-4 tablespoons Grey Poupon mustard (not grainy mustard!)
  5. ½ tablespoon sugar (to taste)
  6. 1 tablespoon kosher salt, ground pepper to taste
  7. Sprigs of fresh herbs

Boil beets in salted water until tender. Save the juice!

When cool, slice into bite-size rounds. Place on individual slices of endive and present placed in a circle on a decorative platter.

Just before serving, crumble blue cheese over the slices and drizzle with the dressing.

Your guests will be surprised at how this humble beet dish is transformed into an elegant salad platter!


In the upcoming weeks, we will follow the early spring planting schedule and begin our spring vegetable crops at the Carlsbad Senior Garden. Follow the San Diego “At-a-Glance Planting Guide,” available at for their expert planting advice and weekly videos.

Happy Spring gardening!

Jano Nightingale is a Master Gardener and horticulturist who teaches vegetable gardening at the Carlsbad Senior Center. Call (442) 339-2650 to register for her class. Contact Jano at [email protected].

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