If eating vegetarian or at least incorporating more vegetarian meals into your diet is important to you, then this is the Famous Fridays post for you, because today I'm celebrating the amazing vegetarian cooking of Deborah Madison. In addition to a focus on meatless meals, Deborah is also a big proponent of the Slow Food and Farm To Table movement and a prolific food writer with numerous magazine and newspaper contributions and over 10 vegetarian-themed books under her belt! I've made quite a few of her dishes over the years and it was hard to pick just one to showcase today, but since I'm still on my soup kick, her amazing Winter Vegetable Chowder, seemed a no-brainer. I think this might just be the best soup I've ever eaten!
Vegetable soup is not something I would generally rave about. Don't get me wrong, I love it and I know it's healthy and all, but it doesn't exactly rate high on the excitement factor and it's definitely not something I'd think about serving to company. But all previously held soup beliefs fly out the window with this one! I've never really thought about soup as pretty before, but this chowder really is! Practically fancy party food and definitely a let's-watch-the-game-together cold-weather treat!
First off, it's just chock-full of veggies. And not the ordinary ones you usually find in vegetable soups. This one has carrots, parsnips, turnips, celeriac, rutabaga, leeks etc. You name it--it's in there!
Then some of those vegetables are left in large "attractive pieces" (that's Deborah's advice, which my daughter thought was hilarious) while some of them get puréed with the broth and some milk so that the soup has a nice thick and satisfying consistency to it.
And, per Deborah's brilliant advice, you toast a piece of baguette or sourdough bread, top it with some shredded cheese and ladle the soup right over it, so that the bread gets softened and the cheese gets delightfully melted and gooey! One bowl is really filling but in an I-feel-so-good kind of way!
It's mind-bogglingly delicious! Revelatory really--from now on I'm never going to cut up soup veggies into small pieces anymore--they're just so much better and more present this way--no mushiness!
Every bite you get some silky smooth broth, a big chunk of tender vegetable and a little bit of softened bread and melted cheese. It's perfect!! Like something you'd get in a little country bistro somewhere! And best of all, it makes a large amount, so you'll have leftovers for days!!
This weekend's the perfect time to cook up a big pot of this soup and remind yourself just how terrific winter veggies can be. If healthy but still interesting food is up your alley, take a look at one of Deborah's great cookbooks, buy a slew of veggies and have yourself a healthy weekend!
Deborah Madison's Winter Vegetable Chowder-Famous Fridays
Makes a big pot of soup and lots of servings
Prep Time: 30 minutes; Cook Time: About 45 minutes
For the Milk Aromatic
- 2 cups milk (I used 2% but you can use any kind--soup might be thinner if you use skim)
- 4 large parsley branches
- 1 sprig of thyme
- 2 bay leaves
- 1/2 onion, sliced
- 1 garlic clove, halved
- 10 peppercorns, lightly crushed
For the Soup
- 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 4 leeks, sliced into 1 inch thick slices, rinsed very well
- About 10 cups of veggies, peeled and cut into large "attractive" pieces ( I used turnips, a rutabaga, parsnips, and celery root--don't worry if it's a bit more than 10 cups and use whatever you like in the root family--broccoli, cabbage, other green veggies might not work as well)
- About 1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into large pieces
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley
- 1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt
- 3 tablespoons flour
- 5 cups water
- Black pepper to taste
- 1 baguette or other crusty country bread, cut into slices and lightly toasted
- Grated or shredded cheese to sprinkle on top of bread (I used a mixture of Swiss/Gruyere from Trader Joe's)
- Thyme sprigs for garnish (optional)
1. To make the Milk Aromatic: Put the milk, parsley, thyme, bay leaves, sliced onion, garlic and peppercorns in a medium saucepan and slowly bring to a boil. Turn off the heat and cover. Let sit while you prepare all the veggies.
2. Place the butter into a large pot and melt over medium heat. Add all of the vegetables, bay leaves, parsley and salt. Cook for about 5-10 minutes, gently shifting the veggies around to heat them up. Then use a large wooden spoon to stir in the flour and add the water. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and let simmer, partially covered for about 20-25 minutes, until the veggies are tender but still a bit firm.
3. Strain the milk mixture into a blender, add about a cup of the veggies and puree until smooth. Stir the puree back into the soup. Taste for salt and add some pepper.
4. Into each serving bowl, place a piece of the toasted bread. Break it up if necessary and top with a handful of the cheese. Then ladle the hot soup on top. Decorate with the thyme sprigs if using and serve immediately.
5. Leftover soup can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for 5-6 days. It reheats really well.
Note: Recipe adapted from Vegetable Soups from Deborah Madison's Kitchen by Deborah Madison. This is not one of those exact recipes--use more or less of any veggies or spices you like.