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Roast Parsnip Soup with Apple Crisps


I did my part at the recent Empty Bowls, and I’ve had soup on my mind ever since. So, I reached for that Irish standby, “Avoca Cafe Cookbook 2,” for some inspiration. That’s when I saw this recipe, which showcases a winter root vegetable I’ve only recently come to love: parsnips.

Roast Parsnip Soup with Apple Crisps

Roast Parsnip Soup with Apple Crisps

“Parsnips are an integral part of winter eating,” the cookbook’s author, Hugo Arnold, writes, “their nutty, robust flavor making them as good with roast meats as they are on their own.”

What makes this soup especially appealing is the addition of sauteed onion, which adds its own kind of sweetness. Then you add tart apple crisps for an appealing contrast of textures.

A few words about garnishes, because this recipe has four options: All of these are optional, and that includes the apple crisps. The soup is the star here, creamy and rich and wonderful.

Somehow, I managed to have a can of chestnut puree in the pantry, so I could taste it as the recipe called for. Yes, it was a nice addition to the soup because of its sweet nuttiness. But, seriously, if you don’t have it, you won’t be missing out. And you won’t be faced with my dilemma, which is: What do I do with the rest of the can of chestnut puree?

You can also make this soup vegan easily by using vegetable stock and sauteing the onion in a little olive oil.

Roasted Parsnip Soup with Apple Crisps

1 Granny Smith or other tart apple (optional)
3 parsnips, diced
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, peeled finely chopped
1 potato, peeled and finely diced
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
2 1/2 cups light chicken stock
4 teaspoons creme fraiche or sour cream (optional)
4 teaspoons chestnut puree (optional)
1 tablespoons snipped chives (optional)

To make the apple crisps well ahead, preheat the oven to 275 degrees. Core the apple and thinly slice. Lay the slices out on a baking tray and place in the oven for 1 hour or until dried and crisp.

When ready to make the soup, preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Toss the diced parsnips in the olive oil, season well and roast in the oven for 20 minutes or until well colored.

In a stockpot, gently saute the onion and potato in the butter over a low heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the roasted parsnips and stock, and simmer for 20 minutes or until all the vegetables are soft. Allow to cool slightly, then liquify, using a food processor or immersion blender. Reheat and check the seasoning. (If your stock is salty, you may not need to add more.)

Garnish each bowl with a teaspoon of creme fraiche or sour cream, a teaspoon of chestnut puree and the apple crisps, along with a few snipped chives.

Makes 4 servings.

Adapted from “Avoca Cafe Cookbook 2” by Hugo Arnold with Leylie Hayes

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Do Some Spring Cleaning with Winter Legume Soup


“This hearty soup is taken from the Sicilian tradition of emptying your cupboards at the end of winter to make a pot of soup and clear the way for spring,” writes chef Jody Williams in “Buvette: The Pleasure of Good Food” (Grand Central Life & Style, $30). “It’s sometimes referred to as San Guiseppe Soup because spring cleaning coincides with the celebration of St. Joseph (Giuseppe in Italian).”

Winter Legume Soup

buvette1/2 cup dried garbanzo beans
1 cup dried fava beans
1 cup green split peas
1/2 cup dried cranberry beans
1/2 cup green lentils
Extra-virgin olive oil
Leaves from 2 bunches Swiss chard, washed and roughly chopped
1 yellow onion, peeled and finely diced
1 fennel bulb, trimmed and finely diced
1 tablespoon fennel seeds, finely ground
2 tablespoons tomato paste
Freshly ground black pepper
Coarse salt
8 thick slices toast, rubbed with garlic, for serving

Place the garbanzo beans in a bowl, cover with cold water and allow them to soak overnight. You can leave them out at room temperature or place them in the refrigerator. Wherever they’re out of the way!

The next day, drain the garbanzo beans and set aside.

beansPlace the fava beans, split peas, cranberry beans and lentils into a large bowl and cover with warm water. Let the legumes soak for half an hour. Drain them and set them aside, separate from the garbanzo beans.

Meanwhile, place 1/4 cup of olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the Swiss chard, onion and fennel, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to soften, about 15 minutes.

Stir the ground fennel seeds and the tomato paste into the vegetables and cook until fragrant, just about a minute. Stir in the drained garbanzo beans and cover the mixture with water. Bring the soup to a boil, reduce the heat, and allow it to simmer for 30 minutes.

Add the reserved legumes to the pot and add enough water to cover. Cook until all of the legumes are tender and soft and the sou pis quite thick, about 1 1/2 hours, adding water as the soup is cooking, if it gets too dry or too thick at any point. Season the soup with plenty of salt and pepper. Place a piece of garlic-rubbed toast into the bottom of each of eight soup bowls, drizzle each slice liberally with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Ladle the hot soup over the toast and serve immediately.

Makes 8 servings.

From “Buvette: The Pleasure of Good Food” by Jody Williams

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Use Fresh Zucchini in This Creamy Soup


Every summer, the hunt is on for new ways to use zucchini, the squash that seems to proliferate like kudzu. So, this refreshingly different recipe, from “Sunset: Edible Garden Cookbook” (Oxmoor House, $24.95), quickly caught my eye. It’s a perfect way to use up some basil, too, which has been growing like wildfire, thanks to the recent rains and some steady watering.

Creamy Basil Zucchini Soup

Creamy Basil Zucchini Soup

“Reader Daniela F. Thompson of Lafayette, Calif., got this recipe from her mother, who was a teacher,” Sunset magazine’s editors write. “The students’ parents would bring her mom pounds of zucchini, and this soup was a way to use up all that squash. In summertime, Daniela likes to serve her mother’s soup with sliced tomatoes and hunks of baguette.”

The recipe tells you to purée the soup and then pass it through a sieve, which gives it a smooth, velvety texture. I omitted that step, preferring a more rustic approach. The little bits of both zucchini and basil provide an extra pop of flavor.

Creamy Basil Zucchini Soup

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 pounds zucchini, sliced 1/4-inch thick
4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 cup loosely packed basil, plus more for garnish
2 tablespoons crème fraîche or sour cream, plus more for garnish
1/4 teaspoon chili powder, plus more for garnish
Kosher salt

Heat oil and onions in a large saucepan over medium heat. Cook until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add zucchini and cook another 2 minutes; add broth and basil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook 20 minutes.

Purée soup in batches in a blender. If desired, pour soup through a fine-mesh strainer into a bowl, using a ladle to push any solid bits through. Add crème fraîche and chili powder. Season with salt to taste.

Divide soup among bowls and garnish each with a little additional crème fraîche, a sprinkle of chili powder and a few basil leaves.

Makes 4 to 6 servings.

Approximate nutritional value per serving: 101 calories, 5.5 grams protein, 5 grams fat, 11 grams carbohydrate, 440 mg sodium, 4.7 grams cholesterol.

Adapted from “Sunset: Edible Garden Cookbook”

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Apple-Rutabaga Soup Offers a Taste of “Liquid Autumn”


One of the tastiest, most satisfying birthday gifts I’ve ever received was a dinner at the Inn at Little Washington, deep in the rolling hills of Virginia. The restaurant has long been considered one of the finest in the country, and its plush decor is only a prelude to the opulent flavors that lie in store from chef Patrick O’Connell’s kitchen.

One treat we sampled was this Apple-Rutabaga Soup. I admit I was never a big rutabaga fan; but softened and sweetened by the addition of apple, sweet potato and butternut squash, it came into its own, as an essential element in a sublime soup, the recipe of which is included “Patrick’s O’Connell”s Refined American Cuisine: The Inn at Little Washington” (Bulfinch Press, $45).

One taste and you’ll realize why O’Connell calls it “liquid autumn.”

I loved the tiniest hint of cayenne pepper. If you have a greater heat tolerance, you may want to up the amount slightly or pass the cayenne around with each bowl to give it a sprinkle of red on top.

Plus, you can make this recipe vegetarian by using vegetable stock instead of chicken.

Apple-Rutabaga Soup

1/4 pound (1 stick) butter
1 cup roughly chopped onion
1 cup peeled, cored and roughly chopped Granny Smith apple
1 cup peeled and roughly chopped rutabaga
1 cup peeled, seeded and roughly chopped butternut squash
1 cup peeled and roughly chopped carrots
1 cup peeled and roughly chopped sweet potato
1 quart chicken stock or vegetable stock
2 cups heavy cream
¼ cup maple syrup
Salt, to taste
Cayenne pepper, to taste

In a large saucepan over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Add the onion, apple, rutabaga, squash, carrots and sweet potato, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are translucent.

Add the stock and bring to a boil. Simmer for 20 to 25 minutes or until all of the vegetables are cooked through and tender.

Purée the vegetables in a blender or food processor. Strain through a fine mesh sieve into the same pot you used to cook the vegetables. Add the cream, maple syrup, salt and cayenne pepper.

Return the pot to the stove, bring the soup to a simmer, and serve.

Makes 2 quarts or 6-8 servings.

From “Patrick O’Connell’s Refined American Cuisine: The Inn at Little Washington”

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Roasted Red Pepper Soup with Sherry and Toasted Almonds


Roasted Red Pepper Soup with Sherry and Toasted Almonds

Sometimes, a recipe jumps off the page and practically begs you to make it. Such was the case with celebrity chef Jeffrey Saad’s soup that matches the winning flavors of red bell pepper, sherry and almonds.

“Sherry and almonds are a classic wine and food pairing,” the chef writes in “Jeffrey Saad’s Global Kitchen: Recipes Without Borders” (Ballantine Books, $22). “By reducing the sherry down with the toasted almonds, the flavor in this soup becomes intriguingly complex. The sherry adds a unique  woody, aged flavor that balances brilliantly with the almonds, while the paprika accentuates the bell pepper flavor, creating a velvety puréed delight.”

But I also wanted to tweak the recipe slightly. I knew I could make it vegan simply by substituting vegetable stock for the chicken stock he called for, which makes it great for a Meatless Monday, an appetizer or even a main course with a salad. He also called for Marcona almonds, but skinned, slivered versions aren’t readily available  in San Antonio. You could pulse Marcona almonds in a food processor to break them down slightly, if you can only find them whole.

As for the texture, I found myself doing a mixture of the techniques he mentions. I put two-thirds of the soup in the blender and processed it down, while leaving just enough alone to give it a rustic crunch.

Roasted Red Pepper Soup with Sherry and Toasted Almonds

1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 cups finely chopped red bell pepper
1 cup chopped shallots
1/2 cup skinless slivered almonds, Marcona preferred
1 cup dry sherry
1 cup tomato purée or chopped canned tomatoes
2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons roughly chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Let the pepper, shallots and almonds turn golden.

In a medium pot over medium-high heat, add the olive oil. Once the oil is hot, add the red bell pepper, shallots and almonds. Keep an eye on the heat and stir frequently to get a golden color without burning. Sauté until evenly golden, about 5  minutes.

Add the sherry and simmer until fully absorbed. Add the tomato purée, stock, paprika and salt.  Cover and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes.

Remove the pot from the heat and allow to cool. Transfer the mixture to a blender and purée until smooth, or keep the soup chunky if you like the texture. Strain the puréed soup if you want  it silky smooth.

Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with the parsley.

Makes 4 servings.

Adapted from “Jeffrey Saad’s Global Kitchen: Recipes Without Borders”

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