Rustic cabbage soup
This excellent winter soup has deep roots in the French countryside, where it was often served as the main dish at suppertime in years gone by. There are many variations — with or without cream, with or without a splash of white wine, with or without toasted rounds of bread and grated cheese.
If you can find it, use Savoy cabbage, which has more flavor and texture than the standard white cabbage, not to mention its beautiful deep green color.
This soup is also widely used in France for diet purposes. For a less caloric version, omit the potatoes and instead slice 2 zucchini into rounds and add after the other ingredients have been simmering for 15 minutes. Alas, you will also have to omit the cream.
1/2 head cabbage, preferably Savoy
3 cloves garlic
2 quarts (2 liters) water
1 tbsp. sea salt or table salt
a few branches of thyme, or 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/4 cup dry white wine
1 tbsp. crème fraîche or sour cream per person
2 tbsp. grated comté or gruyère cheese per person
toasted rounds of bread
Rinse the half cabbage. Trim away and discard the outer leaves. Cut into four wedges. Remove the core. Slice the wedges crosswise into strips.
Peel the potatoes, cut in quarters lengthwise and slice crosswise.
Peel the carrots, cut in half or quarters lengthwise and slice crosswise.
Peel the garlic and slice in quarters lengthwise.
Bring the water to a boil in a large soup pot. Add the cabbage and stir for a minute until the cabbage wilts. Add the potatoes, carrots and garlic. Add the salt, the peppercorns and the thyme.
If you are using white wine, add it now.
Bring the soup back to a boil, then immediately turn down the heat. Allow the soup to simmer, uncovered, for one-half hour or until the potatoes and carrots are tender. If you used thyme branches, remove them now.
Serve the soup as is or with a dollop of cream on each bowl. Alternatively, you can stir the cream into the soup before serving. Choose this second method if also using toasted bread and/or grated cheese.
If using toasted bread, top each bowl of soup with one round.
If using grated cheese, sprinkle it on top of the toasted bread, or directly onto the soup.