This handsome one-bowl meal features winter roots and tubers in a milky broth that's been imbued with aromatics. Turnips, parsnips, rutabagas, leeks, potatoes, a few celery stalks, carrots and celery root are all candidates for inclusion. You needn't use all of them, but try to include some of the golden-fleshed rutabagas and light-green celery, and be sure to cut everything in large, handsome shapes.
Bread that is toasted and covered with Gruyere or Cantal cheese sits beneath the vegetables and their broth, building up the soup's heartiness and flavor.
Yield: Makes about 3 quarts
- For the milk and aromatics
- 2 cups whole milk
- 4 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
- 4 sprigs thyme (may substitute 2 pinches of dried thyme)
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/2 medium onion, sliced
- 1 medium clove garlic, halved
- 10 black peppercorns
- 5 juniper berries
- For the soup
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 4 large leeks, white parts plus 1 inch of green, sliced diagonally about 1 inch thick and rinsed well
- 8 to 10 vegetables, peeled and cut into bold, attractive pieces (see headnote)
- 2 cups (10 ounces) carrots, peeled and left whole if only 3 inches long, otherwise cut into large pieces
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
- 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt, plus more to taste
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 5 cups water (may substitute vegetable broth)
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 6 large slices country wheat bread, toasted
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup grated or sliced Gruyère or Cantal cheese (to cover the toast)
- 3 tablespoons chopped herb mixture, such as parsley and tarragon, for garnish
For the milk and aromatics: Combine the milk, parsley, thyme, bay leaves, onion and garlic in a large saucepan. Lightly crush the peppercorns and juniper berries together; add to the saucepan. Slowly bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then turn off the heat. Cover and set aside while you prepare the vegetables.
For the soup: Melt the butter in a large, wide soup pot over medium heat. Add the vegetables, bay leaves and parsley; sprinkle with 1 1/2 teaspoons salt. Cook for about 5 minutes to heat them, giving an occasional gentle stir.
Add the flour and mix well, then add the water. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low, cover partially and cook for 15 to 20 minutes, until the vegetables are tender but still a bit firm.
Use a fine-mesh strainer to strain the milk into a blender; discard the solids. Add 1 cup of the vegetables (leave the top/center knob off and place a dish towel over the opening to keep the hot ingredients from exploding out of the blender) and puree until smooth. Add the puree to the soup pot. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Discard the remaining bay leaves in the soup pot.
To serve, lay a piece of toast in each bowl, cover it with grated cheese, ladle the soup over it and sprinkle with the chopped herbs. Serve hot.
Adapted from "Vegetable Soups From Deborah Madison's Kitchen," by Deborah Madison (Broadway, 2006).
Tested by Pam Kendrick.
Email questions to the Food Section at email@example.com.