The man to see for soup and stew Inspired: Ron Lev's love of good food and distaste for the drive-through has taken him to a point between meat-and-potatoes cook and fancy chef.

Kitchen Encounters

October 22, 1997|By Maria Hiaasen | Maria Hiaasen,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

In the Kitchen Encounters feature in yesterday's A La Carte section, the name of systems analyst Ron Leve was misspelled.

The Sun regrets the error.

Who says single men don't cook? Ron Lev prepares soups and stews your mother would envy. In fact, he expects his epitaph will label him "Souperman," thanks to all the soups he's shared with neighbors and friends.

Lev, a systems analyst at Fort Meade, made the transformation from mere recipe-reading chemist to verified cook years ago while hovering over a soup pot.

FOR THE RECORD - CORRECTION

"With soup, I started to feel sort of proficient at cooking," says Lev. "I could recognize when a recipe was screwed-up, and I felt confident enough to do some creative things of my own."

Lev learned the basics of cooking from his mother. As a teen-ager in California, he devised a delicious bacon-and-avocado sandwich. For years, he enjoyed cooking creative one-dish meals with his wife. Now separated, he's kept in the kitchen by a love of good food and a distaste for the drive-through.

OK, so he's still prone to leap into a recipe without reading through all the ingredients first, but he is in command. Inspired by an article from Cook's Illustrated magazine, he doesn't hesitate to thicken a soup with just the right vegetables. And he has his own way with herbs and spices.

"Everything's got garlic in it," he says with a grin. "I wouldn't quite say there's ever too much garlic."

Labeling himself somewhere between meat-and-potatoes cook and fancy chef, Lev still enjoys experimenting with recipes from his Russian-Jewish background.

"Please to the Table" (1990, Workman Publishing) is a favorite cookbook. It's filled with authentic Russian recipes, including some using kasha, which is cracked buckwheat, served with meat or -- you guessed it -- soup.

Pureed cauliflower soup with coriander

Serves 4-6

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, olive oil or vegetable oil

1 medium onion

3 medium shallots or 1 medium leek (white and light green parts only), each chopped

2 tablespoons dry sherry or white wine

1 medium head cauliflower (about 2 pounds, stems discarded and florets cut into bite-sized pieces to yield about 5 1/2 cups)

2 cups chicken broth

1 teaspoon salt

ground white pepper to taste

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 to 3/4 cup milk

minced parsley or chives for garnish

Heat butter or oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and shallots or leek; saute until golden, about 5 to 6 minutes. Add wine or sherry and cauliflower, and stir until liquid evaporates, about 30 seconds.

Add stock, salt, pepper and coriander to saucepan. Bring to boil. Reduce heat to simmer. Cover, and cook until cauliflower is tender, about 12 to 15 minutes.

Ladle cauliflower mixture into blender or processor with about 1/2 cup milk (it may take two batches), then puree. Return soup to saucepan; cook over low heat until warmed through. If soup is too thick, stir in additional milk to thin the consistency.

Garnish each bowl with minced parsley or chives. Soup can be refrigerated and reheated for serving or served cold.

(Adapted from Cook's Illustrated magazine.)

Pub Date: 10/22/97

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