Rutabaga and Apple Bisque

recipe from "Vegetable Literacy" by Deborah Madison

about 1/5 pounds rutabagas (about one medium-large rutabaga)

2 tablespoons butter, plus more to finish

1 large leek, white part only, thinly sliced (I also use some of the light green part)

2 tart apples, cored and sliced (I've also used sweeter apples)

1 small orange-fleshed sweet potato and/or 2 orange carrots, scrubbed and chopped

1/2 teaspoon herbes de Provence (dried savory, majoram, rosemary, thyme, and oregano)

sea salt

4 to 5 cups chicken or vegetable stock

1/2 cup half-and-half or milk

Freshly ground white pepper

Thickly peel the rutabaga and chop them into a rough dice.  You should have about 4 cups.

Melt the butter in a soup pot over medium-low heat.  Add the leek, apples, sweet potato, rutabagas, and herbs de Provence.  Season with salt, add 1 cup of the stock, cover, and simmer for about 15 minutes.  Add the remaining 4 cups stock, bring to a simmer, re-cover, and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes, depending on the size of the vegetable pieces.

Let the soup cool slightly, then puree in food processor or blender, and return it to the pot.  Add the half-and-half and heat through.  Taste for salt and season with pepper.  Stir in a little extra butter.  The soup will be thick, creamy, and delicate.  Serve hot.

With crunch: Finish with croutons or with fresh bread crumbs crisped in butter.  Or add texture to this soup by stirring in some cooked rice, spelt, or chewy grain.

With smoke: Start the soup with some chopped bacon or smoked paprika for added richness and a smoky flavor.

With a green garnish: Add slivered arugula leaves or watercress sprigs for their contrasting peppery taste.