This Russian Vegetable Soup Is (Almost) Too Good to Be True

updated Jan 22, 2021
Kitchn Love Letters
Monday Soup

This simple vegetable soup is filled with broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and potatoes, and is garnished with butter and sour cream.

Serves6 to 10

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Credit: Faith Durand

For the past several years, I’ve been part of a cookbook club. In pre-pandemic times, a dozen friends would meet monthly, each of us bringing something different from the month’s pick. It was unexpectedly wonderful to cook like this, untethered from weeknight obligations, and with the pleasure of tasting far more from a cookbook than I would have time to accomplish myself. We cooked through some pretty fabulous books, and kept track of what we made and what we loved most. Now, with in-person cookbook club on hiatus, I’ve gone back to many of those favorite recipes — especially when I’ve found myself in a rut, or lacking an appetite for cooking. And the one I’ve returned to the most is perhaps my most surprising favorite.

Russian vegetable soup.

What? You say. After grand baking books like BraveTart, and luscious chef-driven buffets like Cherry Bombe, a seemingly plain vegetable soup might seem a weird pick for my favorite from years of cookbook club. (And indeed it squeaks into first place with Victualstranscendent, time-consuming miso banana pudding a very close second. But that’s a story for another time.)

This soup at first stuck out because it was such a surprise. I chose it from Kachka, Portland chef Bonnie Morales’ entertaining and thorough document of the Russian cooking of her family, as a practical, make-ahead pick (cookbook club met on Monday nights). The soup calls for very practical ingredients, too: a head of cauliflower and one of broccoli, plain potatoes, oats. It doesn’t even ask for stock — just water (or a quick garlic broth). This sounded austere and plain to the point of boredom, but it fit my schedule.

But when I brought it off the stove, after a short simmer that melted the vegetables and diced potatoes and cooked the sweet oats that thicken the soup, I was staggered by how this soup became something far more than the sum of its humble parts. It was like I threw a few loose things in a pot and got gold in return: almost too good to be true. It’s surprisingly rich, with a hearty yet silky texture subtly enriched by the oats. The dill and parsley added at the last moment are aromatic and delicate, rounding out the funky brassica flavors that fade into a savoriness that just goes on and on. Swirling in a spoonful of thick, tangy sour cream and a pat of butter put every bite over the top. As I dipped my spoon between the savory, thick soup and cool dairy, I marveled at how delicious it was, how nourishing and comforting. I couldn’t stop eating it.

Morales explains that this soup was a standing part of her mother’s in-home Russian Jewish Chicago daycare; every Monday she made this “Monday soup” — gilded with butter and sour cream, but inherently simple.

If there’s one thing we need right now in our kitchens, separated as we are this winter from friends and cookbook clubs and filled-out dinner tables, it’s comfort, and a soup like this that goes back to basics — a soup that even little children can love on a Monday evening. Even better if it’s comfort that also happens to pack in enormous flavor and a few heads of extremely-good-for-you vegetables. This soup is a little gift and one that I’m making over and over this winter; I hope it’s a gift you’ll love too.

Monday Soup

This simple vegetable soup is filled with broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, and potatoes, and is garnished with butter and sour cream.

Serves 6 to 10

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 2 quarts

    water

  • 2 quarts

    garlic broth (see below, or vegetable or chicken broth)

  • 1 head

    cauliflower

  • 1 head

    broccoli (about the same size as the cauliflower)

  • Kosher salt

  • 4

    medium carrots, peeled and grated on the large holes of a box grater

  • 2 1/2 pounds

    Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into a 1/2-inch dice

  • 1 cup

    rolled oats

  • 1/2 cup

    finely chopped fresh dill

  • 1/2 cup

    finely chopped fresh parsley

  • Butter and European-style sour cream for serving

Garlic Broth:

  • 2 heads

    garlic, very well scrubbed and dried (roots intact, as long as they're very clean)

  • Olive oil

  • 2 quarts

    water

Instructions

  1. Pour the water and broth into a stockpot, and bring to a boil. While they’re heating, core the cauliflower, and chop the florets into 1/2-inch pieces. Remove any tough ends and peel any thick stems from the broccoli, and chop the florets into 1/2-inch pieces.

  2. When the broth is simmering, taste and add salt as needed—those vegetables will soak up a lot, so you want it well seasoned. Add the cauliflower and broccoli, along with the carrots and potatoes. Reduce the heat until it’s just high enough to barely maintain a simmer, and gently cook, uncovered, for 30 minutes. Stir in the oats, and cook another 20 minutes, then add the dill and parsley, and remove from the heat. Taste and add salt as needed.

  3. To serve, stir a pat of butter into each bowl, and top with a dollop of sour cream.

Garlic Broth:

  1. Cut the garlic in half (around the equator). Heat a large pot over medium-low heat, and add a slick of oil. Add the halved garlic, cut sides down, and cook, stirring occasionally, until aromatic, about 3 minutes. Be careful not to burn the garlic.

  2. When the garlic is aromatic, add the water. Bring the pot to a boil, then lower the heat until it’s just high enough to maintain a gentle simmer. Simmer until the garlic is fully tender and sweet and the broth is infused with its flavor, about 1 hour. Strain and discard the garlic, add water if needed to replace any that’s evaporated, and season to taste.

Recipe Notes

Excerpted Kachka: A Return to Russian Cooking by Bonnie Frumkin Morales with Deena Prichep. Copyright © 2017 by Bonnie Frumkin Morales and Deena Prichep. Reprinted with permission from Flatiron Books. All rights reserved. Photography by Leela Cyd.

At Kitchn, our editors develop and debut brand-new recipes on the site every single week. But at home, we also have our own tried-and-true dishes that we make over and over again — because quite simply? We love them. Kitchn Love Letters is a series that shares our favorite, over-and-over recipes.