[Sunday soup, January 2009.]
Sunday afternoon from where I sit on my third-floor perch the church across the street has gone quiet for the day, all the morning hustle and activity stilled down to a few stragglers making their way home. The sun streams through my beautiful tall windows and I make a cup of tea, read an old beloved book about Ireland. It’s a sweet, slow, kind of day — a perfect Sunday afternoon when I’ve inexplicably got the sniffles again (drats, I thought I was over this!) and a back that’s a bit sore and pleasantly aching from the earlier yoga class. It’s a day for clean laundry and a bit of tidying, a few phone calls East and setting my mind to the week ahead.
It’s a day, then, for soup.
Now, first off, let’s talk parsnips. You knew I was going there (didn’t you?). Parsnips are sort of the carrot’s unfamiliar cousin — not ugly, necessarily, but not particularly beautiful either. They’re lumpy, a bit misshapen, but also a lovely pale shade of white that shines in the habitual afternoon gloom of pretty much every place in winter except San Francisco this weekend (sorry, non-West Coast friends! But it’s unusual, I swear.). I feel certain if parsnips were a person they would be a girl in one of Alice Munro’s short stories: often the narrator and quiet observer — the one who rarely hesitates to share her judgment and feelings with the reader but the one who also detects the subtle poignancy and underlying sweetness of life.
For parsnips are rather deceptively sweet. Unexpected, maybe. They seem like they should taste earthier and perhaps more bitter given their appearance; in fact, they’re quite mellow and sweet. Like their bolder, brighter relative they are often best curried or laced with ginger or, if you’re my brother, roasted and well sprinkled with sea salt and olive oil. I would imagine they’d make a nice puree, perhaps even with potatoes, though I haven’t tried it; I could see thin slices roasted even longer to form crisp chips, an sensory illustration of that elusive and longed-for partnership of the sweet and salty.
I had a parsnip kicking around my vegetable drawer for awhile, a holdover from Christmas dinner. Last year on new year’s eve I made a sort of mish-mash soup of parsnips, carrots, and asparagus and it was fine, but I wanted to make something more seasonal (alas, we must still wait for a few more months for asparagus). Then, too, I’ve been watching The Tudors second season on netflix all weekend and was in a fairly British state of mind. Luckily, though I’d gone late to the Saturday market there were still a few decent parsnips at my favorite seller’s stand, so: Parsnip-apple soup it was!
This soup is pretty plain, I’ll be honest with you. But isn’t there something to be said for the plain and simple? It’s a straightforward soup, one that is not particularly gaudy despite a liberal hand with the curry powder (in fact, it’s not gaudy at all, which I find to be one of its charms) but which manages to endear itself nevertheless through the good winter staples of apples, potatoes, and parsnips (if I’d had turnips, too, now ….). The curry and turmeric in which the garlic is sauteed at the very beginning gave just enough kick and lingering aftertaste to save it from being simply a bland puree; I also thought about adding a handful of spinach at the end but decided to keep it clean after all.
So I had a nice bowl for dinner, early because I sunned myself out a bit on the roof and want to aim for an early bedtime. It’s just the tiniest bit sweeter than I usually like — though as we know I am quite the bittersweet rather than the milk chocolate kind of a girl — so I the next time I might add freshly grated ginger and a bit more curry powder (and maybe even a judicious sprinkling of cayenne). Right before settling in to eat I poured in just a slip of cream because I was feeling decadent and, why not? It smoothed out the bite from the curry (but only a little bit), and I savored my bowl with slices of good toasted walnut bread spread with tart, lemony hummus and sprouts.
[Baklava, January 2009.]
And the best thing of all! I found still in my fridge a few pieces of baklava and those, along with a cup of tea, shall round off my Sunday evening.
2009, I think you and I are going to be quite the pals.
Curried Parsnip-Apple Soup
3 parsnips, peeled and chopped
1 apple, peeled and chopped
3 small red potatoes (or one russet), peeled and chopped
5 cloves garlic, sliced
1/2 tsp. curry powder
1/2 tsp. cumin
6-8 cups water
salt and pepper
In a large pot, sautee the garlic in about 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the cumin, turmeric, and curry powder and sautee a few minutes. Add the chopped vegetables and mix well and cook for about a minute. Add the water and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Simmer vegetables until tender, about 20 minutes. With an immersion blender or in a food processor, puree the soup until creamy and smooth.
Salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot.