Best Home Cooks: Liz Harris
Her family’s fourth-generation farm in New England beckoned this Best Home Cook to return home to grow, cook and create with the seasons.
In Salem, New Hampshire, food blogger Liz Harris is ready for what she labels “orange food season.” Right now, Liz’s favorite harvest hue graces her soup pot in the form of fresh-picked butternut squash, sweet potato, carrot and pumpkin from her family’s century-old farm. Liz is also all-in for apple picking, pie making, hiking to see foliage and even raking leaves. She loves the crisp shift of the seasons and the nostalgia surrounding it—“growing up in New England, I think you kind of have to!” she laughs. “These were things I missed dearly when I lived on the West Coast.”
Liz’s Floating Kitchen
Back then, Liz was a scientist specializing in cancer biology. But in 2012 she made the tough decision to leave the research bench and pursue a career in food. From her teeny floating home—she literally lived on a boat!— in Seattle, she started to share her recipes and photography on her website, Floating Kitchen.
“My kitchen, and everything else, literally did float,” she says, still wistful for the calm that came with waking up on the water. “I loved taking the time each morning to have my coffee out on the dock—that is, of course, when it wasn’t raining!”
Returning Home to Her Family Farm
She has left the houseboat life behind but is still cooking up a storm—now with produce from Donabedian Bros., her family’s small farm and hydroponic greenhouse that has delivered fruits and vegetables to the Salem community since the early 1900s. “It’s been in our family for more than 100 years. And I now work there one or two days a week as well.”
“Seeing firsthand just how hard farmers work, and how deeply they care for their land and their crops or animals, has given me a lot of respect for the farming community,” she says. “The demands of farming are great. We depend on these people every single day.”
She grew up watching the older generation of women in her family cook and learning their specialties—like her Great-Aunt Dorothy’s cookies or Great-Aunt Carrie’s dinner rolls. Liz says, “Food was always a major part of the conversation. And not just as we approached holidays or during family gatherings, but every day.”
Creamy Sweet Potato, Apple & Leek Soup with Parmesan Croutons
Jenn Bakos for Taste of Home
“You can whip up this soup in about 45 minutes, so it’s very doable for a weeknight dinner,” Liz says. “I’m also of the opinion that the leftovers are even better (the flavors from the spices and other aromatics become more pronounced over time), so I often save some for lunch the next day.” And don’t forget those crunchy, peppery Parmesan croutons! “I firmly believe all soups should have a topping,” Liz says. “It really elevates even the most simple soup recipes.”
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 4 cups cubed peeled sweet potatoes
- 1 cup thinly sliced leek (white portion only)
- 1 medium apple, peeled and chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh gingerroot
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 3/4 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon paprika
- 1/4 teaspoon pepper
- 4 cups vegetable stock
- 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
- 2 cups cubed bread (rustic Italian or French)
- 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
- 4-1/2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1/8 teaspoon pepper
- 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
- 2 tablespoons heavy whipping cream
Step 1: Cook the leeks and apples
In a Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add potatoes, leeks and apple; cook, stirring occasionally, until leeks are just tender, 7-8 minutes.
Step 2: Make the soup
Stir in garlic, ginger, tomato paste, salt, paprika and pepper; cook until very fragrant, 2-3 minutes. Stir in stock, scraping any browned bits from bottom of pan. Bring mixture to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, covered with lid slightly ajar, until potatoes are very soft, 25-30 minutes. Remove from heat; cool slightly. Process in a blender or food processor until smooth; return to pan. Stir in cream; heat through.
Step 3: Make the croutons
Meanwhile, for croutons, preheat oven to 350°. In a large bowl, toss bread cubes with the Parmesan cheese, oil and pepper. Spread in a single layer on a 15x10x1-in. baking pan. Bake until golden brown and crispy, 10-15 minutes, stirring once. Serve hot soup with croutons, parsley and cream.
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