This is the last picture taken in our old kitchen. Our old kitchen, our old place, our old duplex, where we lived for almost five years, on a noisy street with the nocturnal neighbor who does outdoor home improvement projects by flashlight. I will miss that place, but only a little, and never at night.
I don’t know where this white table is going to live in our new place. Right now, it’s in the living room, looking out of sorts, trying to seem relevant by holding up a vase with a couple of wilting ranunculus. The saddest table in the world. But I love this new-to-us house, even the red carpet and wood paneling downstairs, sort of. I hope we stay here for a long time. The dishwasher is a model called the Quiet Partner. The Quiet Partner! YES.
The kitchen is hardly set up, and I feel like an alien in there, like I’m trying to find my way on a new planet, one with banana-colored formica and a mauve oven and stove. The only thing I’ve cooked so far is spaghetti with braised kale, and then I’ve been microwaving leftovers, which is easy enough, even if you come from outer space. But tomorrow I plan to unpack the blender, and maybe I’ll find the mesh strainer with it, and then I can make parsnip soup. That’s what I want for lunch this week. Parsnip soup, toast and sharp cheddar, and an orange.
This soup is adapted from a parsnip puree that my friend Matthew taught me to make. Matthew and I co-host the podcast Spilled Milk, and recently, when we did an episode on parsnips, he made this puree. We ate it on crostini, which was terrific, but it was so nice on its own that I really wanted to eat it just like that, from the serving bowl, with the serving spoon. Matthew mentioned that with a little thinning, the recipe also makes a good soup, so when I got home, I tried it. There’s barely anything to it: a bag of parsnips, some vegetable stock, a little butter, a little cream, a little salt, a little pass through the mesh strainer. But what you get is something that you, or at least I, can be very pleased with: a perfectly smooth soup in a shade some call Cosmic Latte(!!!), subtle but gutsy, with that sweet vegetal funk and enough fragrance to fill your whole head. The key, I think, is the vegetable stock. Matthew says that the natural sweetness of vegetable stock plays up the natural sweetness of parsnips, and I’m a believer.
Have a good lunch.
Adapted from Spilled Milk and Matthew Amster-Burton
It doesn’t get simpler than this, so be sure you start with fresh, firm parsnips and decent-tasting vegetable stock. Homemade is nice, but honestly, I use Better Than Bouillon No Chicken Base, and the results are great.
3 to 3 ½ lb. parsnips
2 quarts vegetable stock
2 Tbsp. unsalted butter, diced
½ cup heavy cream
Salt, to taste
Peel the parsnips, trim and discard the ends, and cut into ½-inch pieces. Put in a large pot, and add the vegetable stock. Bring to a simmer, and cook, uncovered, until the parsnips can be easily pierced with a fork, about 20 to 25 minutes.
Set a fine-mesh strainer over another large pot. Working in batches, puree the parsnips and stock in a blender, tossing in a couple of pieces of butter with each batch. (And remember that hot liquids expand, so never fill the blender more than a third.) This amount of stock should yield a somewhat thick soup, and you will likely need to add a little additional water or stock as you blend, until the soup reaches your desired consistency. As you finish pureeing each batch, pour the soup through the strainer into the pot, stirring and scraping as needed with a rubber spatula to push the puree through the mesh.
When the soup is entirely pureed, stir in the cream. Rewarm gently over low heat. Taste for salt, and serve hot.
Yield: I can’t remember exactly, but I would guess 6 servings.