Humble Roots

By Angela Denstad Stigeler

The gifts have been opened, the feasts are finished and the New Year has been rung. Though we all resolve to get back to sensible eating and reduced spending, it’s hard not to feel a little sorry for one’s self when switching straight from seasonal revelry to newly imposed austerity measures. It doesn’t help matters much when we know that the long winter is just settling in.

Though the outlook may be bleak, now’s the right time to put on the soup kettle. This is a creamy winter-white soup that will bring you back to humble roots: onion, potato, a carrot, some parsnips. Sautéed fennel and cannellini beans add interest to the mix. A little curry spice in the soup, as well as the crouton garnish, will help keep you warm. And though we’re supposed to cease splurging, just a drop of cream couldn’t hurt. It acts like an unexpected extra quilt, a small nicety that blankets the flavors into a satisfying meal. So embrace these humble roots to help keep your resolve at the start of the New Year.

Root Vegetable Soup

with Curried Croutons

1 medium-sized fennel bulb

1 medium onion

2 cloves garlic

2-4 parsnips, about 1 ½ cups, chopped

1 medium carrot

2 medium potatoes

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1 ½ teaspoons curry powder, divided

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided

4 cups chicken or vegetable broth

6 slices bread, preferably day-old

1 15-ounce can white kidney (cannellini) beans

¼ cup half-and-half or cream

Cut off and discard the fennel stalks, reserving some of the fronds for garnish. Quarter the fennel bulb and cut out the core. Chop the fennel and onion, mince the garlic, thinly slice the parsnips and carrot, and peel and dice the potatoes.

In a large soup pot or Dutch oven, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium heat. Add the prepared vegetables and stir to coat. Season with salt, pepper and ½ teaspoon of curry powder and sauté until the vegetables are softened, 10-15 minutes. Add the broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer until tender, about 20 minutes, adding up to 2 cups of water if necessary to keep the vegetables covered.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and combine the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and teaspoon of curry powder in a large bowl. Dice the bread into bite-sized pieces and toss with the olive oil. Spread the seasoned bread out in a single layer on a large rimmed baking sheet and toast in the oven until golden, 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

When the vegetables are cooked through, you can either leave the soup brothy or puree it. Add the white beans and the cream and heat through. Ladle into bowls and top with the croutons and fennel fronds.