Caesar Soup

1 Tablespoon Olive Oil

2 Small, Trimmed and Cleaned Leeks (White and Light Green Parts only) (6 Ounces)

2 Small Cloves Garlic, Finely Minced

1 Yukon Gold Potato (6 - 8 Ounces), Peeled and Diced

2 Teaspoons Lemon Juice

3 1/2 - 4 Cups Vegetable Stock

1 Pounds Romaine Lettuce (About 2 Hearts), Plus 4 - 5 Firm Inner Leaves for Garnish

1 Cup Baby Spinach

1/3 Cup Vegan Caesar Dressing, Plus 1 - 2 Tablespoons for Garnish

1/4 Teaspoon Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Salt, to Taste

Garlic and Herb Croutons

2 Tablespoons Olive Oil

2 Garlic Cloves, Finely Minced

1 Teaspoon Fresh Thyme (or 1/2 Teaspoon Dried)

1/4 Teaspoon Smoked Paprika

1/4 Teaspoon Coarse Salt

2 1/2 Cups 1/2-Inch Cubed Sourdough Bread (About 3 1.5-Ounce Slices)

To begin the soup, coat the bottom of a medium saucepan with olive oil and set it over medium heat. Add in the leeks and garlic, gently sauteing until softened and aromatic; about 3 - 4 minutes. Be careful not to brown the vegetables, but rather allow them to sweat. Add in the potato, lemon juice, and 3 1/2 cups vegetable stock, and bring the mixture up to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer, and let bubble quietly for 10 - 15 minutes, until the potato is fork-tender.

Transfer the contents of the pot to your blender and thoroughly puree. Introduce a few handfuls of spinach and romaine at a time, blending until the bulk has been chopped down, and then adding the next bunch. Puree until completely smooth- The soup will not be nearly as enjoyable if it's not perfectly silky in texture. Finally, add the dressing, pepper, and salt to taste, blending briefly to combine. Either chill for at least 3 hours for a cold version, or serve right away to enjoy it hot.

For the croutons, preheat your oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with a silpat or aluminum foil. (Note: I wanted to save some energy so I made mine in a little toaster oven. The pieces all fit, but barely, so be mindful of your space if you go that route.)

Place all of the ingredients in a large bowl, and toss to coat all of the bread cubes. Pour everything onto your prepared sheet, and spread out the cubes so that they're all in one even layer. Bake for 15 - 20 minutes, stirring halfway through the cook time, until golden brown and crisp. Let cool completely before serving.

To serve, ladle out the soup into bowls and top with some of the reserved, chopped lettuce, a drizzle of extra dressing, and a handful of croutons.

Makes 4 - 5 Side Dish or Starter-Sized Servings

©Hannah Kaminsky