Saturday, December 17, 2011
MEETING A PARSNIP
It is a given: if the cashier at the supermarket is not close to retirement age when I unload my groceries for him or her to ring up, I will be asked, "What are these?" when my choice of parsnips come down the little conveyor belt. Only us old folk know what a parsnip is.
I had a young female cashier say to me one time, "I thought parsnips were something just made up for a fairy-tale." Another one said, "Oh, they must be something only old people know about." That one made me laugh, because to be truthful, I don't think I ever cooked them while my children were at home. But my mom used them a lot, always in stew but also she braised them, which was my favorite way of eating them.
She'd use the vegetable peeler on them to get the outer skin off. She'd halve them once crosswise and then again lengthwise. She would melt some butter, lots of it actually, in a skillet, put the pieces of the parsnip cut side down in it, add a little water, and then cook them very slowly until they were tender. Parsnips are sweet. It's rare to find a sweet vegetable, but parsnips are one of them. Braised, they are so succulent they just melted in one's mouth.
In the picture above there are some turnips next to the parsnips. My mother always used turnips in her stews too, and potatoes as well. But when the stew is done I can hardly tell the difference in taste between the turnip and potato pieces (actually the difference is more in texture) so I think potatoes and parsnips complement each other better in a stew. Oh, the parsnips are so flavorable!
I read in this week's LA Times an article on latkes for Hanukkah, and the lady writer, a cook, said she always grates some parships to add to her latkes. For her recipe she always uses 1 parsnip for every 2 potatoes. Now this lady wasn't using the already-prepared dry latke mix from Manischevitz or one of the other prepared potato-pancake mixes. She did it the old fashioned way, hand-grating the potatoes and parsnips. I haven't done them that way for a long, long time. Jerry is quite happy with me using the Manischevitz mix, so why do it the hard way? But I think I'm going to give it a try this year. I can just imagine how good those newly-designed home-made latkes will taste with a slight tinch of parsnips.
But then to top off my incursion into all things parsnip, I read this receipe below and thought I needed to try it too. MMmmmmmmm! Does it sound good -- a wonderful thick soup for the winter.
SWEET CORN AND PARSNIP SOUP
Total time: 1 hour and 10 minutes
Servings: 6 to 8
Note: Adapted from the Organic Panificio Cafe.
2 1/2 tablespoons butter
1 cup diced onion
1 stalk celery, chopped
5 cloves garlic, smashed
3 sprigs parsley, plus chopped parsley for garnish, divided
4 sprigs thyme
1/2 bay leaf
3 cups (1 pound) fresh, sweet yellow corn kernels (from 5 to 6 ears)
1/3 pound peeled and trimmed parsnips, coarsely chopped
2 1/2 teaspoons sea salt, plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon cracked white pepper, plus more to taste
6 to 7 cups milk, more as desired
Raw sugar, to taste if desired
Mascarpone, for garnish
1. In a 4-quart, heavy-bottom soup pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Saute the onions, celery and garlic along with the parsley sprigs, thyme and bay leaf until the onions are soft, about 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
2. Stir in the corn, parsnips, 2 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and continue to saute until the parsnips are tender, 20 minutes, stirring frequently.
3. Stir in the milk and bring the mixture to a simmer. Simmer for 30 minutes.
4. Purée the soup using an immersion blender, or in stages using a standing blender, then strain.
5. Adjust the seasoning to taste and sweeten if desired with raw sugar. This makes about 7 cups soup.
6. Serve warm, with a small dollop of mascarpone and a sprinkling of chopped parsley.
Each of 8 servings: 226 calories; 9 grams protein; 26 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams fiber; 11 grams fat; 6 grams saturated fat; 29 mg. cholesterol; 822 mg. sodium.
Three cheers for good vegetables and good recipes. And for parsnips.