Parsnip Soup With Apples and Walnuts From 'Marcus Off Duty'

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Parsnips and sunchokes meet apple and walnuts in this vibrant soup from Marcus Samuelsson. [Photograph: Paul Brissman]

If you're of the 'judge a chef by his soup' mindset, this vibrant bowlful from Marcus Samuelsson's new cookbook, Marcus Off Duty, should earn him some high points. Bright as the autumn sun and perfect for a cold day, the warm earthiness of the parsnips and vaguely floral sunchokes fills your mouth at first slurp.

The cream and lemon juice duke it out over which gets to leave the last impression, but really it's the cumin and peppery sweet spice of garam masala that lingers after you swallow. And that's a sip without what Samuelsson calls the 'garnish,' but which I call the 'salad,' seeing as I consumed more of it right off a fork than I did on the soup spoon. But it does elevate the soup, and I wanted some in every bite. Walnuts are toasted with olive oil, garlic, and lemon juice, then tossed with walnut oil, diced apple, parsley and tarragon. Something about the garlicky, tannic walnuts, sweet apple, and licorice notes from the tarragon is discordant but makes for an amazing mouthful, and turns the soup into a dang-I-just-nailed-that-dinner-party first course.

Why I picked this recipe: I love parsnips, but usually only have them roasted.

What worked: The soup was an masterful balancing act of flavors—some delicate, some bold.

What didn't: Nary a complaint.

Suggested tweaks: If you can't find the sunchokes (Jerusalem artichokes), Samuelsson says you can simply sub in more parsnips, which I think wouldn't change the soup overmuch. On that note, it will be helpful to know that I got the 3 cups of diced parsnips out of just over 1 pound of untrimmed parsnips, and the 1 cup of sunchokes out of about 8 ounces before peeling. (So if you're going the all-parsnip route, buy about 1 1/2 pounds.)

Thanks to our friends at Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, we are giving away 5 copies of Marcus Off Duty this week.