I call this "French" simply because I got the recipe idea from "French Women Don't Get Fat." Yet I do believe the French make and eat many more light and healthy soups than we Americans do. No doubt they eschew the canned varieties loaded with funky ingredients.
Fresh vegetables are key. Seasonal is preferred. Winter is a perfect time to make a pot of this soup, especially after the long holiday season of overeating and over everything. True, there are no 'seasonal vegetables' here in the Great White North in January, but there are plenty of offerings at your local grocery store that can find their way into a pot. You will be warmed on the inside, refreshed back into good health, and spend very little time and money in the process.
This soup is a great "diet" starter. One secret I've learned is light eating in the evening. I can eat a hearty breakfast and a good lunch, if I end the day with a light and nutritious dinner. So if you're feeling that stuffed and sluggish post-holiday way, make a large pot of this soup and enjoy it for a week, either at lunch or dinner.
If you like chunky soup, skip the blending step at the end. A blended soup fools us into believing that it is creamy and indulgent, but please make it the way you and your family prefer. If some of the vegetables seem foreign or frightening, TRY THEM ANYWAY. Turnips, celery root, and cabbage are delicious, mild, cleansing and life-giving veggies. Get out a large soup pot and spend an hour in your kitchen - getting the ingredients ready is most of the work, the soup cooks itself.
French Vegetable Soup
2 or 3 large leeks, white and light green parts, sliced lengthwise and then into half-moons, well-rinsed
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 medium-large Yukon Gold potatoes (red or russet are ok, too), peeled and cubed
5 large carrots, chopped
2 purple-topped turnips, peeled and chopped
1 celery root, peeled and chopped
1/2 small head of cabbage, chopped
1 - 15 ounce can diced tomatoes with juice (optional)
Fresh or dried thyme, parsley, tarragon (thyme is my favorite)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
In a large stock pot, saute the leeks and garlic in the butter until softened, about 10 minutes. Add a bit of salt and pepper and the white wine. Add potatoes, carrots, turnips, and celery root and enough water to cover, plus a bit more salt and pepper. Simmer until almost tender, about 20 minutes. Add the cabbage and tomatoes (if using) and the herbs, simmering for another 10-15 minutes or so. Test the vegetables to make sure they are tender, and taste for seasoning. If it seems to need more "brightness" add in splash of lemon juice.
At this point you can cool the soup slightly and then blend with a hand-blender or in a regular blender. If you prefer it with a bit of "tooth" then leave it as is.
To serve the blended soup, add a small dollop of sour cream or yogurt on top and a sprinkling of fresh herbs.