I grew up in Maine. Winters there are long and cold. Snow steals the landscape with various shades and of white and “black ice” in contrast slicks the roadways invisibly.
There is a starkness to that world which returns to me now only in memories tinted on a grayscale, but the comforts of winter that I can recall from those years back east are not without the saturated orange glow of a fire in the living room wood-stove. I remember bright bowls of linguine with tomato and mussels, hot cocoa spiced with an orange rind, and the burgundy hue of a red bean chili. All of these memories are a bit of red, the color of heat.
I live in Los Angeles now and winter has become more of an idea than an actual season with drastic tactile or visual effects. While I embrace the luxury of a vibrant landscape year round, I do occasionally wish for an afternoon of gray and an afternoon of warming soup.
This soup is my best attempt to conflate the winters I knew as a child with those I enjoy now. It is warm but not spicy and is visually closer to a blanket of snow than my typically vibrant concoctions.
With roasted cauliflower, leek, and white beans, this soup is hearty and healthful. The comfort of rich croutons stands up to the chill of any temperature, and adding a garnish of lemony micro-greens is a fresh reminder that not all of winter exists just on a grayscale. Enjoy!
White Winter Soup with Parmesan Thyme Croutons
1 Head Cauliflower, cut into bite-size chunks
2 Leeks, trimmed and halved lengthwise
10 Cloves Garlic
1.5 C Cannellini Beans, soaked for several hours and cooked until tender (or 1 14oz. can, drained)
4 C Low Sodium Chicken Broth
2 T Fresh Thyme
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Place Cauliflower, leeks and garlic in large baking dish or roasting pan. Drizzle generously with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast until cauliflower is tender and browned at the edges (approx 40 minutes.)
Remove veggies from oven and let cool slightly. Transfer to large soup pot and add beans, broth, and thyme. Using an immersion blender, blend until mixture is smooth. Reheat until soup reaches desired serving temperature. Season with additional salt and pepper if necessary.
Alternately, the veggies, broth and beans can be blended in a standard blender. Work in small batches, transferring blended soup to stovetop pot after each batch to keep warm. Serve garnished with Parmesan Herb Croutons.
2 C Sourdough (or any rustic bread) cut into bite-size chunks)
4 T Grated Parmesan Cheese
1 T dried thyme
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Toss bread chunks with generous amount of olive oil (enough to coat) and dried thyme. Spread bread pieces evenly on a baking sheet and bake on a rack in the center of the oven for 7-8 minutes. Remove baking sheet, stir croutons and add parmesan cheese. Return to oven and bake for additional 7-8 minutes or until croutons are well toasted and golden.