Pear and Gouda soup with toasted walnut-cranberry salsa

Makes 4 cups – 4 to 6 servings

Baby Gouda has a mild, nutlike flavor, and it melts into a buttery-textured soup that’s perfect for an elegant first course. For a traditional Dutch accent, accompany the sumptuous soup with dark bread.

For the soup

2 ripe pears, cored, peeled, and coarsely chopped
1 ½ cups vegetable stock
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
¼ teaspoon nutmeg, preferably freshly grated

For the salsa

½ red-skinned pear, julienned
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons toasted finely chopped toasted walnuts
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped dried cranberries
Dash of nutmeg, preferably freshly grated

To complete the recipe

2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 cup milk
4 ounces baby Gouda cheese, cut into small pieces (about ¾ cup)
½ cup pure apple juice or sweet white wine, such as Sauternes
Salt to taste
Ground white pepper to taste
Nutmeg, preferably freshly grated, for garnish

To make the soup, combine the pears, vegetable stock, ginger, and nutmeg in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat; cover and simmer until the pear is very tender, about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, stir together all the salsa ingredients in a small bowl; set aside.

In a separate small saucepan, melt the butter over low heat. Add the flour and stir until smooth, about 1 minute. (Do not let brown.) Remove from the heat. Gradually add the milk and whisk vigorously. Place the pan back over medium heat and cook, stirring constantly. When the mixture begins to simmer, reduce the heat to low and stir constantly until thickened, about 4 minutes. Add the cheese and stir until melted, about 1 minute. Remove from the heat.

Puree the pear-stock mixture in a blender until smooth. Add to the cheese sauce and stir constantly over low heat until heated through. Gradually stir in the apple juice and continue to heat, but do not let the soup come to a boil. Season to taste.

Top each serving with a sprinkling of nutmeg and a mound of salsa.

Advance preparation

This soup and salsa are both best when made just before serving.