Remember last week, when all I ate was brisket, eggs, sausage, pasta, doughnuts, bread, and ice cream? Washed down with fancy beer, Budweiser, and whiskey? I don’t regret a thing, but after going so hard for a few days, I have to go soft on you. Pureed-vegetables kind of soft, with a blanket of crunchy apples and a dollop of super-fresh, super-green pesto too keep it interesting.
The recipe was inspired by/adapted from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Fast. Actually, it’s almost just the recipe itself, with apples thrown on top, but I had a very rare moment of disagreement with one of my food idols. See, the book recommends grating or processing the raw parsnips to very fine pieces beforehand, so they can cook faster. Which makes sense until the recipe instructs you to cook onions — just onions — for 15 minutes. Then you add the processed parsnips and cook 5-10 minutes more. The idea is to prep the parsnips while the onions cook alone, but still, none of this adds up to efficiency in my head. I made this the way my instincts told me to: chop the vegetables roughly, throw them in the pot with the onions as soon as those are nice and soft, cover it with stock, and let ‘er go for 20-25 minutes until everything is soft and pureeable.
The simplicity and the elegance of the combination of flavors and ingredients, though, is exactly why I love that cookbook. This is really just a lesson on following your instincts — and if the method in the book makes more sense to you, you do you. Cooking is highly personal that way.
As for the apples, same applies — go with whatever feels right. I wanted a combination of tart and sweet, so I was fussy about it and used both Granny Smith and Pink Lady. Mostly because those tiny specks of pink photograph so nicely, so if you plan to Insta this… You know what to do.
Backlit steam looks nice too. Or maybe I’m still in must-photograph-everything Feast Beast (hashtag for 2016?) mode — with healthier food? Who knows. It’s nice to be home, and quiet, and happy. I hope you are too!
- 2 tablespoons butter (use olive oil for vegan version)
- 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
- 4-5 large parsnips (about 1 1/2 pounds), peeled and chopped into 1-inch chunks
- 6 cups vegetable or chicken stock
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper
- 1 cup fresh parsley, chopped, loosely packed
- 1 lemon
- 1 garlic clove, roughly chopped
- 1/3 cup walnuts
- 4-6 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium apple (I used a mixture of tart and sweet, but either will work)
- Heat the butter or olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat until shimmering (if using oil) or foamy (if using butter), then add onion. Saute until translucent and soft, about 2 minutes.
- Add the parsnip chunks and stock and bring mixture to a boil. Lower heat and simmer for 20-25 minutes, until parsnips are very soft.
- Meanwhile, make the pesto by pureeing the parsley, juice of 1/2 of the lemon, garlic clove, and walnuts. Stop occasionally to scrape down the sides. With the processor running, slowly drizzle in the olive oil until you reach your desired consistency. Season pesto with a little salt and freshly ground black pepper.
- Puree the soup using an immersion blender or a food processor, in batches (be very careful when pureeing hot liquids). Return to pot if needed, season to taste with salt and pepper. Reheat slightly, if necessary.
- Before serving, shred or julienne the apple and toss it in the juice of the other half of your lemon to keep from browning.
- Serve soup hot, with apples scattered across the top, topped with a dollop of the pesto.