Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Spiced Parsnip and Apple Soup

I’ve never been a fan of parsnips, but I sort of changed my mind about them a few weeks ago after using roasted cubes of them in a version of this stuffed pumpkin that I served at Thanksgiving. They’re slightly sweet, earthy, and sharp, and, if they’re in the right company, they’re pretty good. On their own, though, I just can’t eat them. I’ve had them cubed and oven-roasted in a hash (don’t like the texture – they’re sort of dry and mushy), fried as chips, and shaved into salads; none of these preparations impressed me.

I had some parsnips left over from Thanksgiving (they keep very well, apparently), and I didn’t want to be wasteful and throw them out, but I really didn’t know what to do with them. I decided to turn them into soup, because that would get rid of the whole gross texture thing, but who else was I going to invite to the party? 

I had lots of Fuji and Macoun apples from the market, so I invited them, because I knew their mild sweetness would bring out that of the parsnips. I then decided that everything else that was going into the pot needed to be slightly sweet, but not sugary – because that’s just gross when you’re making soup that’s not for dessert. I was going to flavor the soup simply with salt, honey, and white pepper. Well, I grabbed my bottle of Chinese five spice powder instead of the white pepper, and I decided to use it. And you know what? The soup turned out perfect. The flavor of the parsnips was perfectly accented by the apples, honey, and spices. I think I am now a fan of parsnips.

Spiced Parsnip and Apple Soup
(makes 4 cups)
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 medium shallots, finely chopped (about ¼ cup)
2 large parsnips, peeled and chopped into ½” dice (about 3 cups)
3 cups vegetable stock
¼ teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons honey
¼ teaspoon five-spice powder
2 Fuji or Macoun apples, cored and coarsely chopped (about 2 cups)
In a medium pot, heat the oil over medium-low heat. Add the shallots and cook until they are soft and slightly browned, about 5 minutes.
Add the chopped parsnip and cook until they are softened, about 15 minutes.
Add the remaining ingredients, cover, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 5 minutes.
Let the soup cool for about a half hour. Puree the soup in a blender in two batches. Pass the soup through a fine mesh sieve to remove any pieces of apple peel.

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