Like many of you, I am regularly astonished at how foodblogs have transformed the way that we approach our cooking. Indeed, I have a wealth of cookbooks and years of anchored-to-the-stove experience. But for fresh ideas and personal connection, nothing beats the community of dedicated cooks that I have at my virtual fingertips via the blogosphere.
Like this velvet dream of a soup that I found earlier this month on Nancy Liguori’s blog, The Smart Palate. If you don’t know her blog, hustle on over. A terrific chef, food writer, and non-practicing MD, Nancy lives in Manhattan and posts about her culinary adventures with a healthy, seasonal, and sustainable slant.
Her pairing of carrots, parsnips, and ginger in a creamy puree captured my attention. It’s not a difficult soup to make. It relies on the vegetables themselves and a little assertive spice for its body and flavor. There’s no potato for thickening. There’s no stock. There’s no cheese, no cream, no dairy. (unless you count the yogurt garnish—entirely optional, vegan friends!)
Parsnips make all the difference.
I confess, I’ve arrived rather late to the Parsnip party. It’s only been in recent years that I’ve eaten them, let alone devise recipes with them. I think they’ve been a relative unknown in the South, and thanks to intrepid local farmers, they’ve begun to show up at our markets.
They are sort of carrot-like, possibly better than carrots, if we were to be so bold or silly to compare them. Parsnips have a little different texture, a deeper, earthier flavor–yet with a pleasant sweetness. As such, they provide a marvelous base for this lush soup.
I followed Nancy’s recipe with only minor deviations. I had more parsnips on hand. I added a smidge of celery. I didn’t have fresh coriander seeds to toast and grind–just some already ground. Same with the pepitas, which Nancy skillet-toasted herself. I picked up a small package of salt roasted seeds for my garnish. I sauteed the parsnips first before adding the carrots and apples, just to account for the inherent variations in cooking times. Parsnips are denser and take longer to become tender.
The soup is both silken and vibrant. A dash of red pepper flakes, or flick of hot sauce would not be out of the question, if you’d like a little fire. Ginger imparts its own kind of heat, but wouldn’t mind being accompanied with some peppery piquancy.
If you are vegan, and decide to leave off the yogurt part of the garnish, it’s okay. But don’t omit those pepitas—not only are the greenish seeds visually appealing atop the puree, their salty, crunchy bites are a welcome contrast to the smooth sweetness of the soup.
GINGERED PARSNIP-CARROT SOUP
adapted from The Smart Palate, Chef Nancy Liguori
1 Tablespoon Butter
1 Tablespoon Olive Oil (plus more for a little drizzle!)
1/2 medium Onion, chopped
2 stalks Celery, finely chopped, leaves included
3 Parsnips, sliced
6 Carrots, sliced
1/2 Apple, diced
1 heaping Tablespoon fresh Ginger root, finely chopped
1 teaspoon Coriander
1/2 teaspoon Cumin
Sea Salt and Black Pepper
to garnish: Plain Greek Yogurt (about a teaspoon per bowl)
Toasted Pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
Melt butter and olive oil together in a deep saucepan on medium heat, and saute onion and celery for a couple of minutes. Stir in parsnips and continue cooking for another five minutes. Add carrots, apple, and fresh ginger. Allow the vegetables to caramelize as they cook, and scrape up the little browned bits from the bottom of the pan.
Season with salt, pepper, cumin, and coriander.
Cover vegetables with water—about 5 cups—-and bring to just under a boil.
Simmer, covered, until parsnips and carrots are tender–about 20 minutes.
Puree the veggies and broth in a food processor fitted with the swivel blade.
Taste for seasonings and adjust.
Gently warm the pureed soup and pour into bowls.
Garnish with a swirl of plain Greek yogurt, some toasted pepitas, and a drizzle of fruity olive oil.