Monday, November 28, 2011

The Soup Project: "Creamy" Parsnip Soup

I was looking forward to this parsnip soup after our trip to the beach this past weekend.

Since our families live far away, we decided to escape for Thanksgiving to Long Beach, Washington, definitely not to be confused with Long Beach, California.

It wasn't the first time we'd gone here on Thanksgiving, but last week predictions for rain had dampened my spirits just a bit. Don't get me wrong, I love the beach and I can wave watch in any weather and big waves are scary fun at first. But when the rain starts pelting me sideways and the drops sting like black flies, and the wind roars so loud I know the dogs won't hear me, it's time to get close to a fireplace inside and curl up with a good book.

We must have driven horough a foot of water over the road in Raymond. And of course, all the vehicles ahead of us had big wheels. It looked like the police were getting ready to rope off that section of road, and I breathed a sigh of relieve as we drove through it. But the road got better as we approached the beach, and when we arrived at the lodge, the sun was shining through dark clouds.

We were just north of Long Beach. But turn south off the highway and you'd end up in Illwaco, a historic fishing village that looks partly run down with empty storefronts that need repairs, tiny restaurants all offering "the best" clam chowder, and artist galleries with pricey art on the waterfront. Of course there were lots of fishing boats.

And bright cheery colors.

Lots of people think coastal towns are all grey with fog in winter but on the streets in Long Beach many buildings and houses have strong yellow, blue, purple and red colors. Look up, and you see rainbows just after a rain.

In the summer, kite flyers flock to the beaches. In Long Beach you can check out all the cool places to get kites for the annual kite festival in August. If you haven't been, you must go because kites aren't the simple affairs they used to be.

I never get tired of looking at the murals like this one of Jake the Alligator Man who appears to have just celebrated his 75th birthday party this past year. I wondered what kind of cake they served.

But the best part of Long Beach is the beach. We've stayed at the same place for years. It's nothing to brag about but they take dogs and they're right next to the dunes. It's all about location when we go to the beach. (And who will take our motley crew.)

In the winter, the beach is fairly empty. Clammers (is that what you call the people who dig for clams?) come around sometimes, and you pass walkers, runners, sometimes cars drive past, and you meet other folks with dogs, but most of the time in winter it's just you and the ocean waves.

On a sad note--I wish people who use plastic water bottles would get a close up view of how the beach looks after a storm. Then go grab a bag and start filling it with bottles. Quit using plastic water bottles people! Our world is filled with way too much plastic.

Racing across the wet sand, ears flying, this trip was Chloe's (right) first trip to the beach with us.

Finn has to be lead dog. He's all about big drama. He runs and slams into Chloe like he's in a mosh pit. It's all great fun for him. He leaps and growls and mouth wrestles and he even bites Chloe's tail if she doesn't react in any way, but when he crosses a line, she runs out of patience, lets him have it. He hangs his head like a wayward husband who has stayed out late with his buddies. Times like this I wonder--who's the boss?

Flocks of birds gather at the shore moving north. Sometimes the flocks are big, but I can't say how big because these birds are small and they don't let you come very close. These birds land, run up to the waves, to get what?

They're moving north on the migratory bird superhighway. Sometimes the flocks pass each other and fly tandem or swirl around, flying in an uneven path heading north, looking for shore food.

On Thanksgiving we spent hours on the beach instead of at the kitchen table. The next evening we dined at the Shoalwater Restaurant. Tom had his annual steak; I chose Wild Mushroom Soup and had greens from a local farm with a lemonade vinaigrette. The vinaigrette was really good and seemed easy to make. Add more sweetener to a lemon vinaigrette and isn't that lemonade vinaigrette? As for the soup, while it was vegetarian, I'm dreaming up ideas for a vegan version for next week's soup.

I thought it would be hard say goodbye, but once the rain started pounding down on Sunday, even the dogs refused to head out to the beach for one last goodbye. They curled up on fluffy blankets, draming about biscuits and sunnier days ahead.

A kitchen vacation was exactly what I needed. On the drive home I looked forward to a bowl of steaming soup and crusty Italian bread.

Parsnip is the vegetable that inspires this week's soup. I didn't grow up with parsnips and for me, it seems like a vegetables that more people appreciate in the Midwest, but every winter when farmers bring parsnips to market, I try different recipes with them.

Parsnips are carrot relatives, first brought to this country by Europeans in the 1600s, but they never really gained popularity. Winter is the best time for these nutty roots that produce more sugars as temperatures plunge. This vegetable likes a long cool growing season--like the Northwest. That's why many farmers sell them at markets in the Northwest.

This parsnip soup was inspired from "Cream of Parsnip Soup" in the Victory Garden Cookbook (1982), by Marian Morash and "Creamy Spicy Parsnip and Carrot Soup" in Vegetables from Amaranth to Zucchini (2001) by Elizabeth Scheneider. Neither version was vegan, but I ofen turn to these books again and again for inspiration.

"Creamy" Parsnip Soup

1/2 cup dry porcini mushrooms
4 cups boiling water
3/4 cup cashews
1 cup apple cider
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 onion, diced
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 to 1 1/2 pounds parsnips, peeled and sliced
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 teaspoon coriander
1/2 teaspoon cardamom
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper
Lemon juice
Chopped chives, croutons or Parmesan cheese for garnish

1. Pour boiling water over mushrooms. In another container pour apple cider over the raw cashews and add the lemon juice. Set both containers aside for a few hours. Place the cashews in the refrigerator if leaving for more than a few hours. Strain mushrooms from broth.

2. Heat a heavy skillet over medium heat. Add onion and oil. Stir and cook until onions become transparent. Add garlic and continue to cook until lightly browned.

3. Stir in parsnips, turmeric, coriander and cardamom. Stir and cook for about 5 minutes, then add mushroom water. Simmer for 20 minutes or until parsnips are very soft.

4. Puree 1 to 2 cups at a time until creamy. Return to soup pot. Chop the porcini mushrooms and add them. Heat on low for 5 to 10 minutes.

5. Place the cashews and apple cider in a blender and liquefy. Blend into the soup mixture. Add salt, pepper and a bit of lemon juice if desired to adjust the flavors. Add more water to thin, if necessary. Garnish with chives, croutons or Parmesan cheese.

Finn waiting patiently for leftovers.


Kathy said...

Deb, Great post! The beach sounds like a lovely place to spend time with your dogs and celebrate a quiet Thanksgiving. Love your pictures, the descriptions of the shops and the weather. Your dogs are so cute, I think they were smiling for the camera!

Lorraine said...

Hi Debra,
I use parsnips frequently, but never as the star of a soup. Thanks for the yummy looking recipe. I hope you don't mind if I link your blog on mine--A Fork in the Road.

Miz Helen said...

Hi Debra,
I just love your photos of Long Beach and your dogs. I love the bright colors in the community, what a fun place to visit. I just love your little dogs they are just precious! The Creamy Parsnip Soup would sure be a hit here today, it is so cold, it looks awesome! Hope you are having a great week end and thanks so much for sharing with Full Plate Thursday.
Come Back Soon!
Miz Helen

Debra Daniels-Zeller said...

Thanks Helen, I love your Full Plate Thursdays--a great place to share favorite recipes.

Debbie @ Easy Natural Food said...

I love visiting seaside towns and the beach no matter what the weather. Your dogs look like they were having a blast...I love the stories your write about them :) This soup looks mouthwatering - love the spice combo. Thanks for sharing with Sunday Night Soup Night!

Debra Daniels-Zeller said...

Thanks Debbie, I love Sunday Soup Night.