Makes 4 cups - 4 to 6 servings

Swirls of balsamic reduction garnish this rich velvety soup for a stunning presentation. Reducing balsamic with dark molasses gives it a thick, sweet richness of pricey aged imported balsamics.

For the soup


3 cups vegetable stock (prepare using powder, cubes, or concentrate available in supermarkets and health food stores)
2 cups peeled and diced russet potatoes (about 10 ounces)
1 ½ cups thinly sliced carrots
1 leek (white part only), thinly sliced
1 cup half-and-half
Salt and ground white pepper to taste

For the balsamic reduction


½ cup balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon dark molasses

Combine the vegetable stock, potatoes, carrots, and leek in a Dutch oven. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat; cover and simmer until the vegetables are very tender, about 25 minutes.

Transfer the mixture to a blender and purée. Then transfer to a refrigerator container and stir in the half-and-half. Season generously to taste.

Refrigerate for at least 4 hours before serving to chill and to allow the flavors to blend.

Meanwhile, prepare the balsamic reduction. Combine the vinegar and molasses in a small saucepan. Bring to a simmer over medium heat; cook, stirring occasionally, until the amount is reduced by about half and the mixture is a maple-syrup consistency, about 8 minutes. Transfer to a covered container and refrigerate; the mixture will continue to thicken as it cools.

To serve, drizzle each cup of soup with a swirl of the balsamic reduction.

Advance preparation

This soup will keep for up to 3 days in a covered container in the refrigerator.