These past few months, since exactly Aug 1 when I returned from Turkey, the weather has been unseasonably glorious for Seattle. Warm sunny days, bright blues skies. I don't think I've seen a single drop of rain, or if I have, my mind has completely erased that memory. Each day I take a few moments to bask in the sun, hoping for just one more day like the last. Yesterday, the air started to get crisp. I brought out my winter scarf, tucked away my shorts and tanks. My coffee intake has started to double, and yesterday I prematurely turned on the fire place. Twenty minutes later, sweaty and uncomfortable, I had quickly regret that decision. I find myself buying way too many tiny heirloom tomatoes, because soon enough, all I will be able to find is pale tasteless no-thank-you tomatoes. My basil is thriving in this sun. She is growing and sprouting like mad, and I don't mind, because that means I get to enjoy basil on everything, and that makes me happy. I have just moved her down onto the ground near the window, because we lack shelves and counter space. To be cautious, I typed 'dogs and basil' into google search, just to make sure it isn't poisonous. The seventh search result was 'stupid dog ate my basil' and I couldn't help but laugh out loud. Turns out, basil is not poisonous to dogs, but that really doesn't matter, because my dog prefers doughnuts and butter to green leafy herbs.
Tis the season for tubers and root vegetables. Soups, pumpkins, fireplaces, bourbon and whiskey. The sun has started hiding earlier and earlier, and pretty soon it will be asleep by 4:00 pm. It makes me a little angry thinking about it, but not as angry as the construction men banging on our roof, creating tiny shock waves through our apartment, (registering at least a 4.0 - 4.9 on the Richter scale). This morning I woke up and said 'NO', they will not damper my spirits today. So, I waltzed into the kitchen, tied up my apron, and got to work. Roasting parsnips, browning butter with nutmeg. The house quickly began to fill with the smell of autumn, and I was once again, relaxed and calm. Parsnips are not the prettiest vegetable I have ever seen, but they are so sweet and spicy. They combine nicely with the sweet floral flavors from apples. The starch from the parsnips and potato, thicken up a soup nicely, requiring less cream in the end. I've been on a toasting kick ever since the panzanella I made a couple weeks back. Covering bread in olive oil and salt, and baking until crispy, seems like the right thing to do. If you are on the dip-bread-into-soup bandwagon, then you will love the addition of crispy pieces of bread directly into the soup - less mess and more time for the bread to soak up the flavors!
ROASTED PARSNIP AND APPLE SOUP RECIPE
makes 8 cups
notes: roasting the parsnips will bring out a sweet and buttery flavor which I adore, but if you are strapped for time, omit the roasting and add the parsnips to the soup along with the potato and apples. This will shave off 1 hour of cooking time, without compromising the taste. Choose a fresh loaf of sourdough or something with a dense crumb for the croutons. This will prevent the bread from soaking up too much olive oil and becoming to soggy. I also prefer a bread with a crispy crust for that extra crunch. I have a fresh basil plant in my kitchen, but feel free to add whatever herb you have on hand for garnish. Oregano, parsley, tarragon would all be great options.
2 lbs parsnips, trimmed, peeled, and chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
4 tbsp salted butter
1 small onion, peeled and diced
1/4 tsp nutmeg
2 large apples, peeled and chopped
1 potato, peeled and chopped
6 cups broth
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup heavy cream
fresh loaf of bread, cut into 1 inch cubes
kosher salt to taste
fresh Parmesan cheese, shaved
Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Toss the parsnips in 2 tbsp of olive oil. Place in a single layer on a baking pan. Roast the parsnips for 60 minutes, occasionally turning them until tender and easy to pierce with a fork.
Place a large soup pot on medium heat and add the butter. Heat the butter until it starts to foam and turn light brown. Add the onions and fry until translucent and shiny. Stir in the nutmeg.
Add the apples, potato, and roasted parsnips to the pot. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent burning.
Add 6 cups of broth and bring to a boil on medium-high heat, then reduce to low and simmer for 30 minutes until the vegetables are soft and easy to pierce with a fork. With a blender, puree the soup until smooth.
Add the heavy cream and stir. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Place the pot back on the stove and keep warm until you are ready to serve.
Preheat the oven to 400 ºF. Slice the bread in one inch cubes. Toss with a light drizzle of olive oil and kosher salt. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes.
Garnish the soup with some fresh basil, a handful of toasted bread, and some shaved Parmesan cheese.