A simple, smooth soup of parsnips, dairy and a few sharp spices can produce a velvety side-dish of surprising flavor complexity.
Parsnips (Pastinaca sativa) are an ancient root vegetable dating back to the Greeks and Romans. They have a creamy appearance and starchy texture that lies somewhere between a potato and a carrot, but with a bit more sweetness than both. Cutting into the flesh can reveal an almost apple-like aroma, as taxonomically the plant is closely related to parsley.
Boiled or sautéed with a neutral broth and a touch of dairy yields a smooth, easily puréed base that is as versatile as any creamy potato-based soup. Other vegetables, aromatic herbs or pungent spices can be added to take a soup like this in many different culinary directions, and can pair well with unconventional or exotic cuisines and flame-cooked meats.
The herbal, fruity flavors of the parsnip almost naturally lend themselves to Indian cooking despite being of Eurasian origin, embracing the spiciness of a curry powder or garam masala. White peppercorns and red chile flakes are used here to ratchet up the heat, and can be adjusted or customized to personal preference.
Serve with a freshly made sandwich such as roast beef, turkey or grilled cheese. Garnish with a pinch of paprika, or fresh minced chives.
Spicy Parsnip Soup
1 lb parsnips
1 white onion
2 cloves of garlic
4 c chicken stock
½ c half-and-half
2 T butter
1 t curry powder
½ t white pepper
red chile flakes
1 Chop the onion and sauté in the butter over medium heat until soft, about 5 min.
2 Mince the garlic, and peel and dice the parsnips. Add to the onion along with the curry powder, chile flakes, and white pepper and sauté for a few minutes more.
3 Add the stock and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for 15 min or until the parsnips are tender.
4 Purée the soup until smooth, and stir in the dairy (do not boil). Season to taste.