I'll par your snip!
Tonight I had the pleasure to attend a truly great guest speaker evening at the Contemporary Arts Center, full of laughter and nearly tear-inducing moments of sincerity. Davy Rothbart-- Found Magazine creator (first I typed "founder," but that looked way weird), author, documentary subject, This American Life contributor, and all around creative overachiever--filled the CAC's theater more than to capacity, and brought a huge burst of life into a cold February night.
Davy was enthusiastic, infectious, delightful, and just a little bit, errrrr, how-you-say long-winded? It certainly didn't feel like it was too long, not even a little bit--I gladly would have sat there another hour--but that doesn't change the fact that by the time I arrived home at 8:30 to start cooking, I was a wee (read: LOT) bit hungry. Luckily, I had a quick recipe ready to fire up, knock out, and sit down to really savor for a few moments (read: two bowls (oops)) prior to heading out to Arnold's to meet up with the CAC crew and listen in as Davy continued to marvel and regale.
Davy seems to be one of those people who really lives--who, while he is always looking for the next project, still takes the time to be fully and precisely where he is at the moment and to enjoy the H out of it. Who knew one could be so inspired on a lowly Monday night?
Similarly, I suppose, who knew a parsnip could be so lovely as a main ingredient? (Am I reaching here? Maybe. Shuddup.) In their raw form, parsnips are not the most appetizing. They smell bitter and dirty, like a handful of old pennies. But treat them with a little heat and a little love (okay, and other ingredients--geez, somebody's mushy tonight), and they become subtly sweet and shockingly satisfying. The parsnip shows up looking like a carrot without a tan (a vampire carrot?!?!), and then surprises you with just how good it can be.
If you're like me and you haven't cooked a ton with parsnips in the past, this soup is a great way to introduce yourself to their flavor without many other strong personalities cluttering up the joint. For something so quick and easy, this soup has a fairly complex outcome. Each bite starts off sweet, then savory comes through, then the habanero zings in with a lingering heat.
The heat really comes from the habanero, so if you're wary, just ignore that ingredient. Now that I think of it, the soup may come off as more sophisticated without the habanero's blatantly obvious heat (but, IMHO, less fun (and, hey, I've never claimed to be sophisticated)).
Spicy Parsnip Soup
adapted from Jamie Oliver's 30-minute-meals (although it totally takes 45 minutes)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 onion, peeled and roughly chopped
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
a thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped
1 tablespoon garam masala
5 parsnips, peeled and chopped
2 cups milk
3 cups vegetable stock
1 tiny fresh habanero, deseeded and minced
fresh cilantro leaves
Heat olive oil and the butter over medium heat in your soup pot. Add the onion, garlic, ginger and garam masala. Cook for about 10 minutes, or until the onions are soft.
Add the chopped parsnip and stir well. Pour in the milk and stock and bring to the boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 30 minutes.
Check to be sure the parsnips are nice and soft. When they're ready, puree with an immersion blender (or carefully, in batches, in a regular blender). Taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper if necessary.
Serve with a sprinkling of minced habanero (pro tip: don't touch it with your bare hands) and fresh cilantro leaves.