Frequently overshadowed by more colorful produce, the humble parsnip deserves more props than it often receives. The slender, goldenish root vegetable possesses the sweetness of a carrot and a slight starchiness that suggests a potato, all while packing a nice little nutritional punch. A good source of potassium, parsnips are also high in fiber, as well as vitamins C and K. They're much easier to peel than rutabagas, too. So there's that.
Unbeknownst to most, the parsnip has a secret weapon in its vast cache of, y'know, weapons that are less secret. It complements a stunning range of flavors. Sweet, savory, spicy - you name it, and the parsnip goes with it. Take vanilla, for instance.
Adapted from Marco Canora's Salt to Taste, the very-simple Parsnip Soup with Vanilla has a grand total of six ingredients: water, salt, pepper, butter, parsnips, and half a vanilla bean. Though the vanilla is always discernable, and becomes more assertive as the dish sits, it never overwhelms the parsnippy goodness. I've made the soup three times in the last three weeks, and plan on making it again soon.
One recipe note: Try to use parsnips with slender tops, since thicker parsnips possess woody cores that might have to be strained out. Otherwise, all you need is a knife and a pot, and you're golden. Just like your parsnips.
- 2 pounds parsnips (not too thick at the top), peeled and chopped into 1-inch chunks
- 8 cups water
- 1/2 vanilla bean
- 2 or 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
In a large Dutch oven, combine parsnips and water. Scrape seeds from vanilla bean and add to Dutch oven along with the husk itself. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 60 minutes. Remove vanilla bean husk. Add butter to soup, then using a blender or an immersion blender, carefully puree soup, in batches if necessary. If soup is too thick, add water until it reaches desired consistency. If soup is too thin, simmer to reduce until it reaches desired consistency. Season to taste with salt and pepper.