We wanted to create a simple and impressive appetizer to go with our Bistecca Fiorentina for a nice cold-weather meal. This elegant, creamy soup may seem indulgent, but it contains no cream at all—it’s simply puréed vegetables.
Special equipment: Use a mandoline to create the beet chips. If you don’t have one, just use a vegetable peeler to make beet strips.
1 medium leek, halved lengthwise, rinsed, and thinly sliced crosswise (white and pale green parts only)
1 cup peeled, coarsely chopped parsnips (about 2 medium parsnips)
2 cups coarsely chopped cauliflower florets (about 1/2 a small head)
1 teaspoonkosher salt
2 3/4 cupswater
For the beet crisps:
1 medium red beet
1 cup peanut or canola oil, for frying
For the soup:
Heat olive oil and butter in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Once butter foams, add leek and season well with salt and freshly ground white pepper. Cook, stirring occasionally, until leek is softened but not completely cooked, about 3 minutes.
Add parsnips and stir to coat in oil. Cook until parsnips are softened but not completely tender, about 4 minutes. (Do not let the vegetables color.)
Add cauliflower, stir, and cook for about 1 minute. Add salt and water. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to medium low, and cook until vegetables are completely tender, about 8 to 9 minutes.
Remove from heat and allow soup to cool slightly, about 10 minutes. Process in a blender until completely smooth. Return soup to the saucepan and place over medium-low heat. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.
For the beet crisps:
Trim top off beet and peel it, leaving a 1-inch-wide layer of skin near the top so that you don’t dye your hand while slicing. Using a mandoline or vegetable peeler, make very thin slices of beet—about 8 whole slices or 1/3 cup.
Fill a small saucepan with 1/2 inch oil. Heat over medium heat to 375°F. Line a plate with paper towels and set aside.
Add several beet slices and fry, shaking the pan a little, until beets crisp up, about 30 to 45 seconds. Remove beets from oil with a slotted spoon and place on the paper-towel-lined plate. Sprinkle with salt. Repeat with remaining beet slices.
Serve soup topped with beet chips.
Beverage pairing: A medium-bodied Austrian Grüner Veltliner would be a nice match with the earthy cauliflower and beet elements of this dish. Try the 2005 Hiedler Grüner Veltliner Löss.