It’s been a very cold winter so far in Chicago this year.
Today’s high temperature is only 2 F and earlier this month we tied the all-time Chicago low record temperature of -16 F. That’s really cold for around here, although it sounds like it’s bad everywhere this winter (even Australia, where they are having a deadly heat wave!).
It hasn’t been so bad for me because I work (mostly) out of the house. So far, it’s only cost me one car battery.
But I really feel bad for our dogs, especially Max. Normally, Bud, Max and I walk at least a mile each day. We all look forward to it and It burns a surprising amount of energy in them.
When it gets colder than 20 F or so, it’s simply too cold for the dogs, especially for Max, who has a thinner coat and is shivering by the time we make it to the corner. And when they don’t get to walk and are stuck in the house all day, they get really charged up. Bud has been particularly naughty lately.
One benefit of this cold weather is that it makes hot soup such an appealing option for dinner. This winter, Sandi and I have been featuring soup/salad/homemade bread one night per week since before Thanksgiving.
I’ve really enjoyed making traditional favorites such as split pea and mushroom barley (we’ve been eating vegetarian since last April, so this is our replacement for the old standby beef barley), and experimenting with new soups, such as this wonderful Apple and Parsnip Soup that I found on the truly amazing VegHotPot blog.
What I love about this soup is it’s unusually complex flavor. It’s similar to a vichyssoise but with an apple and a couple of parsnips added. Yet because parsnips have such an interesting flavor — both sweet and slightly tangy, even smoky — that this soup really makes you sit up and take notice.
Parsnips are one of the most interesting — and often overlooked — of the winter root vegetables. They actually were used as a sweetener in Europe before sugar cane and sugar beets were introduced there. And they were the primary starchy vegetable in the US until they were overshadowed by potatoes after the Irish emigration in the 19th Century. Roasted parsnips continue to be a traditional holiday dish in many families.
This recipe is vegan, although I added a swirl of sour cream for the photo. Stay warm, everybody. Spring is coming, I promise!
Parsnip and Apple Soup
1 Large Onion
1 Large Leek
2 Garlic Cloves
1 tsp Ground Cumin
1 tsp Dried Thyme
Fresh Cracked Black Pepper
2 Parsnips, peeled, cored and cut into medium dice
1 Potato, peeled and cut into medium dice
1 Large Apple, any sweet kind, peeled, cored and cut into medium dice
4-1/2 cups Water
4 tsp Organic Vegetable Base
Olive Oil for sauteing
1. It’s important to prepare the all the fruit and vegetables before you start cooking because the high sugar content in the onion, parsnip, garlic and apple can cause them to cook quickly and the caramelization can cause the soup to darken.
2. Put a soup pot over a medium flame. When hot, add a drizzle of olive oil and let it heat up for minute then add the onion, leek, garlic, cumin and thyme. Saute for around 4 to 5 minutes on a low/medium heat until they soften then season with salt and pepper. Add the parsnip and potato and cook for another couple of minutes, stirring frequently so they don’t brown.
3. Add the apple, water and vegetable base, bring to a low boil then reduce to a simmer and cook over a low heat for about 15 to 20 minutes. Remove from heat. Puree the soup using either an immersion blender or by blending batches in a blender until the soup is smooth.
Like most soups, this one will taste even better the second day, once the flavors have had a chance to get to spend some time together in the refrigerator.
You can garnish this soup with a crusty spicy crouton, a sprinkle of sliced chives or scallion, or a swirl of sour cream or creme fraiche from a squeeze bottle.