Recipe: Hearty Vegetable Bean Soup

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As soon as the outside temperature dips below 50 degrees, I can't wait to make this vegetarian soup, which is ready in about half an hour. What goes into it is usually determined by the contents of my refrigerator: onions, leeks, scallions, carrots, celery, and salad greens are all good. Canned beans make it sturdy enough for a main course.

For a comforting lunch or dinner, serve with grated Gruyère on top and chunks of country bread as an accompaniment.

4 servings (about 6 cups)

Combine the water, leek, carrot, turnip, celery, oil, and salt in a large saucepan or pot. Bring to a boil, cover, reduce the heat to low, and boil gently for about 12 minutes. Add the beans, including the liquid, and bring to a boil again. Boil for a few minutes. Serve in bowls with a generous sprinkling of grated Gruyère and a parsley sprig (if desired) on top and bread alongside.

Episode 213: Earth to Table

For Jacques, nothing beats an earthy soup to keep you warm during the coldest season, and his Hearty Vegetable Bean Soup hits the spot. To spice up the evening, he creates pockets in boneless chicken breasts and fills them with a tasty stuffing in Chicken Suprêmes with Tapenade and Mushroom Sauce served over Vegetable Couscous. The meal ends on a sweet note with a Pear Compote and freshly baked Almond Crumble Cookies.

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Minute Recipe: Melba Toast

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I like my toast very thin and crunchy. If you put a very thin slice of bread in the toaster, however, it tends to burn and curl up. The solution is to use the technique Escoffier used when he created the ultrathin toast that he named Melba toast in tribute to the Australian opera singer Nellie Melba.

Cut crunchy white bread into 1/2-inch slices and toast. You can toast the bread twice to get it really crunchy on the outside. When the bread is toasted, trim off the crust from around it. With the bread slices arranged flat on the table, use a sharp knife held with the blade parallel to the table to cut through the soft center of each slice, giving you 2 wafer-thin slices with one toasted side and one slightly softer side. Top the soft side with butter or another spread.