Curried Parsnip Soup
How often do we overlook parsnips in the produce aisle? Bunches of brightly-colored carrots beckon to us, but I am guilty of passing right over their paler counterparts without a glance. A member of the Apaiaceae family (carrots, dill, cumin, parsley, caraway), parsnips are biennial and are usually treated as annuals, planted before the winter growing season. Grown since ancient times, parsnips are high in potassium and fiber. With the rise of increased diabetes in this country, dietitians often recommend parsnips to lower bad cholesterol levels and the risk of diabetes.
Lately, I have been experimenting with more root vegetables and I have come to love the carrot’s neglected cousin, the parsnip. As a child, I don’t remember parsnips (Pastinaca sativa) ever being served on their own for dinner and I certainly never unwrapped raw parsnip sticks in my lunch box! Parsnips are slightly sweet and are often paired with carrots in recipes. They are delicious roasted with a little garlic, as well as boiled and mashed. The following recipe for parsnip soup is revised from a favorite in The Greens Cook Book. It is easy to make and long on flavor. Choose the smallest parsnips possible, free from feathery threads, as they will be less fibrous and sweeter than the larger ones.
3-4 small to medium parsnips, about 7 inches long
4 Tablespoons butter
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 Tablespoon curry powder
4 Tablespoons cilantro leaves, chopped
2-3 leeks, white parts only, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 celery stalks, diced
1 teaspoon salt
5-6 cups vegetable stock
1 cup light cream
whole cilantro leaves for garnish
3 radishes, very thinly sliced, for garnish
- Scrub the parsnips and trim the tops, and dice into evenly-sized pieces. (Optional: If the parsnips are not organic, you may want to peel them. If they are larger, quarter them lengthwise and cut out most of the fibrous inner core.)
- Heat the butter in a soup pot and add the onion. Cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until it turns a rich golden color, about 15 minutes. Stir in curry powder and half the chopped cilantro, and cook for 1 minute.
- Add parsnips, leek, carrots, celery, salt, and stock. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, cover, and cook until the vegetables are soft.
- Cool the soup briefly and blend with an immersion blender, leaving a little texture and flecks of color. Return the soup to the pot, stir in the cream, and taste for salt.
- Serve garnished with remaining chopped cilantro, whole cilantro leaves, and radish slices.
Note: This soup may be served hot or cold. If parsnips are harvested in early spring, the cold variety can be especially nice. Serves 4-6.
The Greens Cook Book by Deborah Madison, Bantam Books, 1987