Spring-dug parsnips are one of my favorite treats. You probably think of parsnips as a fall food – one of the root vegetables that appear at markets as the temperatures start to get colder. And you’re correct, but some brilliant small farms leave a portion of their parsnips in the ground over the winter and the results are truly wonderful.
Parsnips are sweet to begin with, but exposing them to the cold temps of winter intensifies their sweetness. The deep freeze converts the starches to natural sugars, mellows the flavor, and tenderizes the flesh. So, if you see spring-dug parsnips at the farmers market right now be sure to scoop them up and make this soup. If not, wait until next fall and make it with fall parsnips. It will still taste delicious whenever you make it!
Spring Parsnip Soup with Crispy Leeks Ingredients (serves 4):
2 large parsnips, diced
2 large white potatoes, diced
1 onion, diced
8 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups broth
3 leeks, diced
1 tsp. olive oil
salt and pepper
Directions (45 minutes):
Wash and dice your parsnips and potatoes (no need to peel either). Combine them with chopped onion and 2/3’s of the minced garlic in a large soup pot with a dash of olive oil. Saute on medium/high for 10 – 15 minutes, or until everything has cooked through and become very aromatic.
Add enough broth to cover the vegetables. I like to use my homemade vegetable soup stock, but a high-quality boxed version from the store will also work. Just be sure to check the sodium content on any boxed broths because they are often loaded with salt. Cook the broth with the vegetables for 5 minutes, or until it has reached the appropriate soup temperature.
Turn off the heat and use an immersion blender right in the soup pot to blend all the ingredients together. Add more broth as needed until you’ve reached your ideal consistency. There shouldn’t be any chunks remaining in the soup — instead it should be thick and creamy. Add salt and pepper to taste.
While the soup is resting, saute your diced leeks and the remaining minced garlic on high in a small frying pan. Add a dash of olive oil and some salt to the pan while they are cooking. Stir regularly for 5 – 10 minutes until the leeks have become crispy and start to smell amazing.
Serve the warm soup with a helfy serving of cripsy leeks on top. Garnish with freshly ground salt and pepper.
I love a lot of things about this soup. First of all, crispy leeks are just about the best thing around. After making this, I have a feeling I’ll be adding them to many other dishes this summer! Second, this soup is rich and creamy without using any fats or dairy. And finally, I just can’t say enough about the benefits of getting connected to the natural growing cycles of the food we eat. Not only are you eating fresher and more nutritionally vibrant food, but you’re also supporting local farmers and ecological food production.
Parsnips are in the same family as celery, parsley, and carrots, and despite their bland coloring, they are full of nutrients. They have high levels of folate, potassium, and vitamin C. Folate is a member of the B vitamin family and supports healthy metabolism, nervous system function, and pregnancy. Potassium is both a mineral and an electrolyte and is essential for strong bones, cardiac health, and smooth muscle function. Vitamin C has high antioxidant activity to inhibit free radical damage to DNA, as well as supporting strong immune function. Pretty good for a lowly root!