I still have some of those notecards, but I rarely cook from them. Many of the cookbooks I acquired then have fallen by the wayside. But I still treasure The Vegetarian Bistro. Many of its recipes are wonderfully simple, and almost all of them are delicious, with a definite feeling of French elegance. Also with a definite French love for dairy – the vegan bistro this is not.
Of all the lovely dishes in the book, this simple cabbage soup is the one I cook most often. Its ingredients are inexpensive, and they’re not just readily available – in January, they are inescapable.
Spieler’s recipe includes little toasts to top the soup with. I’ve left them out of the recipe for simplicity and because I figure you know how to make toast, but certainly bread (toasted or not) is a perfect accompaniment. She also suggests adding some white beans, which always strikes me as a great idea, but for some reason I’ve never tried it. Half a can of cannelini or Great Northern beans would add more heft to the soup, which could be welcome on a cold night in the doldrums of winter.
Warmed bowls are a really nice touch here, or for any soup or pasta. My trick is to run a few tablespoons of water in each bowl, stack them, and put them in the microwave on HIGH for 45 seconds or so. Empty the water, and ladle your soup into bowls that will help keep it piping hot.
Use whichever blue cheese you like best. I love the intensity and slight sweetness of American-made Maytag blue; Spieler, of course, suggests French Roquefort. Danish and Amish blues tend to be creamy and a little on the milder side, if that’s your preference. Any of them will be scrumptious.
French Cabbage Soup with Blue Cheese and Cream
Serves: 3 to 4 (doubles easily) Time: 35 to 40 minutes Hands-on: 20 minutes
1 medium carrot, peeled
2 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 medium head cabbage, sliced into shreds
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
1 tablespoon flour
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
3 ounces blue cheese, crumbled
2 to 4 tablespoons heavy cream, to taste
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Blue cheese crumbles for garnish
Halve the carrot lengthwise, then slice thinly into half-moons.
Melt the butter in a soup pot or Dutch oven on medium heat. Add the carrot and onion; saute until softened, 5 minutes or so. Stir in the cabbage, salt, and garlic. Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and let the cabbage sweat, stirring occasionally, for 8 to 10 minutes. The cabbage should be very soft, and some pieces may be starting to brown. This is a good thing – I almost always welcome the flavor added by a little browning, and this soup is no exception.
Sprinkle the vegetables with the flour and stir well to distribute. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 15 to 20 minutes. Stir in blue cheese and cream. Taste for salt; season with salt and pepper as necessary. Serve in warm bowls, sprinkled with more pepper and garnished with crumbles of blue cheese.
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