Fall weather has transformed our landscape into a wonderland of color. Out with the green and in with the crimson, yellows and gold. It is glorious eye candy and it lifts my spirit as I don my sweater and wish I could freeze time to make it stay until Spring. Knowing that can’t happen, I relish the gifts of the season but forge ahead preparing for the snowman. One thing that means is testing new soup recipes. Every year during the fall/winter I offer soups classes featuring global recipes and seasonal offerings. These classes are among my most popular and always have a waiting list. I guess that speaks volumes about people’s need for warmth and comfort. Last week I addressed techniques for making homemade stock and from the feedback I received, I am not alone in my love of the process. No time or desire to make stock from scratch? Don’t beat yourself up as there are some very good commercial brands available that will do the job just fine. No worries! Look for full flavored stock that is not overly seasoned.
Root vegetables make a hearty base for smooth pureed soups as they provide rich flavor and act as a thickening agent. Today I am featuring the parsnip. Brought to the United States from Europe in the 1600’s, this creamy white root has never achieved the status of its cousin, the carrot. I believe its versatility and taste are underappreciated. It is said the natural sweetness of this root is enhanced if harvested after the first frost as the cold serves to convert its starch to sugar. Some people prefer to keep them in the garden over winter and eat them as a Spring vegetable to further develop their flavor. That said, we are pairing them today with the leeks and parsley.
Here is how it goes down.
Parsnip Soup w/ Leeks and Parsley
Recipe from Simply Recipes adapted by Jeanne Raffetto Tentis
- 2 T unsalted butter
- 3 leeks, white and pale green parts only, sliced lengthwise (carefully cleaned)
- 2 T extra virgin olive oil + more for garnish
- 1 1/2 to 2 pounds parsnips, peeled and chopped (remove inner hard core, if needed)
- 2 strips lemon zest, 1 x 2 inches each
- 1-2 t sea salt
- 4 c chicken stock (use vegetable stock for vegetarian option)
- 2 c water
- 2 c finely chopped fresh flat leaf parsley (reserve a little for garnish)
- 1 T fresh squeezed lemon juice
- Freshly ground black pepper
1. Melt butter in a 4 to 6 quart pot on medium heat. Add the chopped leeks, toss to coat with the butter. When the leeks are heated enough so they begin to sizzle in the pan, lower the heat and cover the pan. Cook until soft, but not brown.
2. Add the parsnips and olive oil, and toss to coat. Sprinkle on the salt. Cook for a minute or two. Add the stock, water and strips of lemon zest. Bring to a boil and reduce to a low simmer. Cover and cook until the parsnips are completely tender, at least 30 minutes.
3. Remove and discard the lemon zest. Add the parsley. Purée the soup until smooth, either by using an immersion blender or by working in batches with a stand-up blender. If using a standing blender, fill the bowl no more than halfway, hold the cover on the blender bowl with a kitchen towel, and start blending at the lowest speed. Return the puréed soup to the pot.
4. Stir in lemon juice and add more salt to taste, if needed.
Garnish with freshly ground black pepper, a little olive oil, and chopped parsley or chives. In the photo I used nasturtium and a bit of parsley flower because they were in my garden and caught my eye.
Both parsnips and leeks are naturally sweet. Parsley and lemon balance the sweetness by adding a crisp, bitter grassy contrast and tart acidity. In addition, the parsley also adds a bright green color that screams celebration of all things fresh. If you are looking for a special dish for St. Patrick’s Day, here’s your ticket. Humble, layers of fresh flavor and of course, green. If parsley is not your thing, spinach would make a good substitute but might lack the brightness of the parsley. You decide. Remember recipes are just a guideline. Make it your own.
So stoke the fires, unveil the soup pot and fill it full of rich stock and seasonal goodness. Don’t forget to taste and season, but most of all, don’t neglect to spread the love, one steamy dish at a time. The gratitude will fill your heart while the soup fills your tummy and warms your bones. From my soup pot to yours, I send my love. Jeanne