Turnip & Pear Soup with Crisp Croutons & Fried Sage

Serves 4

Music Pairing: Dreaming by Blondie

My love of food, and feeding people, often compels me to think about recipes in a way that everyone can enjoy them. My first thought was to keep this soup dairy-free and vegan. Really, it wouldn’t be difficult because the soup’s body and creamy texture is mostly achieved by pureeing the roasted vegetables in the blender with some vegetable broth. In the end, though, I decided to add a little bit of cream to the soup as it was heating in the pot. You can most certainly skip the cream, and swap in additional broth in its place. The recipe I’m linking to for the croutons is made with Parmesan cheese, but again, simply omit the cheese if you want to keep the recipe entirely dairy-free.

A note about the size of the turnips. The ones I used were about the size of my fist, and I have small hands. Keep that in mind when selecting your turnips. If you can only find large, softball-sized turnips, then my advice would be to use only two, and keep the remaining ingredients the same as called for in the recipe.

3 turnips, scrubbed clean, or peeled, and cut into chunks

1 shallot, cut into quarters

1 pear, cut into chunks

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more to garnish

fine sea salt, to taste

10 fresh sage leaves

1 1/2 to 2 cups vegetable broth

1/4 cup heavy cream, optional (see headnote)

1 tablespoon grapeseed oil

Good quality extra virgin olive oil, to garnish

1/2 cup croutons, for garnish

Preheat the oven to 375F.

Add the turnips, shallot and pear to a 13-inch by 9-inch deep roasting pan. Drizzle the olive oil on top, and sprinkle with the salt. Use your fingers to tear up two of the sage leaves, and add them to the pan. Give it a good shake, or stir with a spoon, to coat the vegetables. Cook for 50 minutes, until the turnips are golden, and tender when pierced with a fork.

Remove the pan from the oven, and let the vegetables cool for 10 minutes. Do not skip this step, or the turnips will get gummy when you try to puree them.

Transfer all the vegetables from the pan into the bowl of a blender. Add 1 1/2 cups of the broth. Pulse a few times to break down the ingredients, then blend on high until the it becomes a thick, smooth soup. If you prefer your soup a little thinner, add the remaining 1/2 cup, and blend until again for 30 seconds.

Pour the soup into a deep pot. Stir in the cream, if using (see headnote).Cook over medium-low flame until heated through.

Meanwhile, heat the grapeseed oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add the remaining sage leaves, being careful to stand back as the oil will pop and sizzle from the water released by the herbs. Cook the leaves until crispy, 45 to 60 seconds. Transfer to a paper-towel lined plate to drain.

To serve the soup, divide it evenly among four bowls. Swirl a little of the good quality olive oil on top (if the spout is large, then hold your pointer finger over the opening so it trickles out slowly). Top with a few croutons and fried sage leaves. Serve immediately.