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Sunbreaks, parsnips and celery root; Cookbook winner

Posted Nov 09 2011 7:16pm

Parsnips and celery root

There is a weather phenomenon here called a "sunbreak." Deep down in my heart, I'm pretty convinced you can't really, truly understand what a Seattle sunbreak is unless you live here. I can try to explain, but you won't really get it; I never did on the multiple times I visited. I thought I understood, but it's so peculiar that it's unlike anything one would normally think of as a sunbreak, and only after living here do I now see the light, so to speak.



For much, (most?), of the year, the weather is gloomy, drippy, damp, dark, overcast, or just plain raining. The forecast might say "cloudy with rain," or "cloudy with increasing rain," or maybe on good days "cloudy with decreasing rain." On the best days, the forecast might say "cloudy with sunbreaks." I will try to explain. Picture a gloomy, totally overcast sky. You can't see clouds, you can't see the sun, it's grey and damp and the ground is wet. It looks like it will surely rain, though I've learned that a grey sky doesn't necessarily mean rain. Sometimes there's a faint drizzle that's kind of like a mist that can't be felt but makes everything wet.


parsnips

Then, suddenly, the sky clears and turns blue, The sun emerges and shines warm and bright, and though the ground may stay wet, it appears to be a perfectly beautiful, sunny day. This may last one minute, or five, or maybe even an hour. Then, as suddenly as it appeared, the lovely weather is gone, and the day returns to its previous grey and glum condition. This may happen once, or several times during the day, without warning, and if you're not quick, you may miss it. That's a sunbreak.


coriander

During the winter, I think soup is kind of like a sunbreak. It's warm and bright, and for a short period of time, it fills the air with fragrance, and makes you smile. And you can make it happen whenever you want, unlike an atmospheric sunbreak! Last year around this time, I recreated a soup I'd enjoyed at a local restaurant, and I've been meaning to embellish that soup ever since.



Now that parsnips and celeriac are in season at the farmers market, I created a little sunbreak in my kitchen with a steaming bowl of parsnip soup. This time I've added celery root for depth, and a carrot for a tint of color. Red pepper and fresh ground black pepper are the topping. Sriracha also pairs beautifully with this soup.



The soup is thick, velvety and comforting, and when made in a pressure cooker, is very quick to make. I used three or four parsnips, two carrots, a large potato and a small celery root. Celery root, or celariac, is one of the most unpretty vegetables around. It's beige, bulbous, weird and delicious, with a pronounced celery flavor. It can be eaten raw or cooked, and my favorite way to enjoy it is sliced and roasted, though it's also great in soups and stews. It's too tough to peel, so I use a sharp knife to slice off the outer part and the gnarly bottom before cutting it into the shapes I need for cooking. Celeriac is a good source of vitamin K, a very good source of fiber, a good source of Vitamin C and phosphorus, and a fair source of potassium. It is low in starch.

Here's the approximate recipe
Mellow parsnip and celery root soup (serves four generously)
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 1 to 1-1/2 teaspoons coarse salt (or more to taste)
  • 3 to 4 (or so) parsnips, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 medium organic potato, scrubbed and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
  • 1 celery root about 3 to 4 inches in diameter, cubed same as potato
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 2 to 4 large cloves garlic, peeled and cut in half
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • about 2 cups low sodium vegetable broth (more for thinner soup)
  • fresh ground pepper
  • garnish (red pepper flakes, cracked black pepper, sriracha, chopped green onion — your choice
  1. In a five quart pressure cooker, warm the oil a little and add the cumin seeds. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the seeds become fragrant and start to sizzle, about four minutes.Be careful not to burn them.
  2. Add the coriander and salt and stir.
  3. Quickly add the parsnips, potatoes, celery and garlic, and carrot, and stir to coat the vegetables.
  4. Add the water and bring to pressure. Cook five minutes at pressure. Bring the pressure down and open the pot. (In a conventional pot, cut the veggies into small pieces and cook in the water until tender.)
  5. Add the tahini. With an immersion blender, blend until completely smooth and creamy, adding vegetable broth as needed to achieve your preferred texture. The soup should be pretty thick and creamy. (To use a regular blender, blend a small amount at a time, until all the soup is blended.)
  6. Taste for seasonings.
  7. Place in bowls and add a garnish of your choice.

This recipe is entered in the Sweet or Savory Kitchen Challenge.

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Rabbit Food Cookbook winner



I said I'd use the random number generator to pick a winner of the Rabbit Food Cookbook last Friday, and I did. Though it's taken me until today to announce it, I did inform the winner, Radioactive vegan, over the weekend. She's accepted the prize and the book is on it's way to her. Thanks to everyone who entered and left a comment.
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