Happy St. Patrick’s Day

 Three-Onion Potato & Cauliflower Soup

 Growing up, I looked forward to St. Patrick’s Day because my mom would place a potato-shaped candy from See’s next to our plates at the dinner table. It was dusted with cocoa and studded with pine nuts for the eyes, a perfect, sweet imitation of a potato – a kid’s dream.

Photo by Lorelle Del Matto

Sad fact about having a dietitian for a mom, my kids never got the candy potatoes, or Lucky Charms. Nor did they get corned beef, since I am not fond of it – a position seemingly supported by the Irish in Ireland who don’t eat corned beef on St. Patrick’s Day either.  (For an explanation see #1 below.)

Instead, I’ve celebrated the green symbolism of the holiday by not just wearing, but eating lots of green foods which are generally very healthful.  Breakfast might include kiwi, honeydew, and lime yogurt, lunch could revolve around avocado dip or a pasta salad with spinach noodles, green beans or green peas.  Seafood is prominent in Ireland, so dinner might be pesto-topped salmon with a sauté of cabbage and leeks. Since my kids have Irish-Italian blood I even made Irish-inspired pizzas.  One was with a silky potato-dough crust and a topping of sharp Irish cheddar, julienned cabbage and slivered cooked bacon; another was a prebaked dill and parmesan crust with cool topping of smoked salmon, light sour cream, red onions and capers. 

This March has brought us an unnerving amount  of snow, ice and rain – so my featured St. Patrick’s Day recipe is a belly-warming potato soup made with three types of onion – leeks, shallots or yellow onions and a sprinkle of chives (or green onion).  As for authenticity, there’s no debate about the role of  potatoes in Irish culture and cuisine.  To boost nutrition but keep the soup creamy white I add a whole head of cauliflower, which is in the same family of super-healthful cruciferous vegetables (See #2 below) as cabbage.  To complete this simple meal I top it with slivers of browned extra-lean nitrate/nitrite free ham, a stand-in for Irish bacon and reduced-fat Irish Cheddar (or Celtic) cheese. 

1. As explained on history.com  cabbage is a typical Irish food but the American tradition of serving corned beef came to be at the turn of the century when Irish people living in New York City substituted corned beef for Irish bacon to save money, a food enjoyed by their Jewish friends. 

2.  Cruciferous vegetables are so named because the flowers of the plants they come from form a cross or “crucifer.”  They contain vitamins, minerals, fiber and phytochemicals – all key to good health –  and they may be especially beneficial in the prevention of cancer.

This family of power-veggies includes broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cabbage (red, nappa and green), cauliflower (including romanesco), rapini (broccoli rabe), turnips, kale, collard greens, mustard greens, bok choi, arugula, kohlrabi, tatsoi, watercress, radishes, daikon radish and rutabaga.  I don’t think you can get too many of these powerhouse vegetables in your diet. Cook them lightly to preserve their nutrients. For more information check out WebMD  and The American Institute of Cancer Research.

Three-Onion, Potato & Cauliflower Soup

 For more richness replace some of the milk with fat-free half. I use ground white pepper in this soup which has a unique flavor and does not add distracting black flecks to the soup. 

2 tablespoons canola or other vegetable oil

5 cups thinly sliced leek (white and very pale green part only), about 4 large leeks * 

1 cup chopped shallots or yellow onion

3 to 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

3 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and chopped (about 3/4-inch pieces)

4 cups sodium-reduced chicken broth

1 bay leaf

Kosher salt

1 head cauliflower (about 2 1/4 pounds untrimmed or 8 cups/1 3/4 lb. florets)

2 cups 1% milk

Ground white pepper, to taste


Thinly sliced fresh chives or green onion

Fresh chopped thyme or dill 

Shredded reduced- fat cheddar cheese (preferable Celtic light or other Irish cheddar)

Slivers of extra-lean ham or nitrate/nitrite-free bacon, sautéed and drained

Heat oil in large Dutch oven or heavy stock pot over medium heat.  Add leeks, shallots and garlic.  Cook, stirring often and reducing heat to medium-low if needed, until leeks and shallots are very soft and beginning to turn light golden brown, about 12 to 15 minutes.  Add potatoes, broth, bay leaf and 1 teaspoon salt to pan.  Cover and simmer for 15 minutes.  Add cauliflower florets, cover and simmer gently, stirring once or twice for 15 minutes or until potatoes and cauliflower are tender.  Add milk and cool.  Remove and discard bay leaf.  Blend soup with immersion blender or in batches in food processor or blender till smooth.  To serve, return soup to pan and reheat; if a thicker soup is desired, simmer until reduced to desired consistency.  Season to taste with additional salt and ground white pepper. Serve warm, passing desired garnishes.  Makes 8 (about 1 1/2-cup) servings. 

*To prepare leeks, cut off white and very pale green part of leeks.  Discard green tops.  Slice leeks in half, lengthwise.  Rinse off any dirt imbedded in the layers.  Cut crosswise into thin slices to measure 5 cups.

Copyright © Lorelle S Del Matto 2012

lorelle About lorelle

Crazy about cooking, eating and sharing good food – my work and leisure revolve around the kitchen. As a culinary dietitian my professional life encompasses nutrition counseling and education, recipe development, product development, food and nutrition writing, marketing communications, corporate test kitchen and consumer affairs management, food styling and work as a product spokesperson.


  1. Cheryl Eiger says

    Yum Lorelle can’t wait to try this soup. Thank you for expanding the choices for St. Pat’s. I also liked your idea of eating green food all day.
    This holiday I was away from my kitchen so I settled for a Ginnis but next year I will use your suggestions. .

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