By Sarah Blackburn This time of year my vegetable bin begins to overflow with odds and ends from our CSA share, and in an effort to clear it out for next week’s haul (as well as Thanksgiving around the corner!), I turn to soup. You can throw almost anything vegetal into a pot, along with onions and garlic sautéed in olive oil or butter, and it’ll be delicious. You can leave it chunky or whiz it to a smooth puree, add bold spices or crispy pork lardons to enliven it, use cream or yogurt to enrich it. Whichever way you prepare a soup, it’ll always be a comforting and hearty meal to come home to after a chilly day.
I made this soup the other day to use up all the “white” vegetables taking residence in my refrigerator, along with the last of a bag of tender braising greens. It’s elegant enough to serve as a first course at the Thanksgiving table, but also easy enough for a weeknight. Try it with or without the sautéed greens, but don’t skimp on crusty bread or the olive oil drizzle.
½ head white cauliflower, fairly finely chopped ½ large or 1 small kohlrabi, peeled and cut into ½ inch dice 1 purple top or hakurei turnip, peeled and cut into ½ inch dice 5 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed with the back of a knife 2 cups milk (whole is preferred, but 1% or 2% will make a lighter soup) 2 cups water Small bunch lemon thyme, plus more for garnish Small bunch English thyme Sea salt Freshly ground black pepper 1 teaspoon agave nectar or cane sugar 2 tablespoons unsalted butter Extra virgin olive oil ½ onion, chopped 1 medium leek, cleaned and sliced (white and light green parts only) ½ cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano, plus more for serving ½ cup grated Pecorino Romano 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice 2 tablespoons crème fraiche 2 cups mixed braising greens, sliced (or use all kale, mustard greens, or chard) Pinch chili flakes 4-6 slices rustic bread, toasted or grilled
In a large stock pot combine the cauliflower, kohlrabi, turnip, 4 cloves garlic, milk, water, both thymes, 1 ½ teaspoons salt, ground pepper to taste, and sugar and bring to a boil (be very careful because it can overflow quite easily! Watch this pot and stir it often to prevent boil-over). Cover with the lid ajar and reduce heat to a simmer; cook 30 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.
Meanwhile, heat butter and 1 tablespoon olive oil in a sauté pan and add the onion and leeks. Season with salt and pepper to taste and cook until light golden brown, then add to the soup pot. Stir to combine and continue to simmer until the 30 minutes have gone by. Allow the soup to cool off the heat for 10-15 minutes before pureeing so as not to burn yourself.
Remove as much of the thyme as you can (it’ll be mostly stems at this point) and puree the soup with an immersion blender, or better yet, in a Vitamix, until very smooth. Return the soup to its pot and stir in the cheeses, lemon juice, and crème fraiche. Taste for seasoning and add more salt, pepper, or lemon juice if needed. Keep warm on the stove while you prepare the greens.
In the same pan you cooked the onion and leeks, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and add the sliced greens. Toss in the fat, season with salt + pepper, add the remaining clove of garlic and the pinch of chili flakes and cook, stirring, 1 minute or until it’s wilted down and turns a deep green. Drizzle each slice of toasted or gilled bread with olive oil and top with a pile of garlicky greens.
Serve each person a bowl of soup garnished with grated Parmigiano, cracked black pepper, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, some lemon thyme leaves, and a garlicky greens toast.