Recipe for vegetarian pear and parsnip soup
I've been making this soup on and off for years, yet every time I make it, I'm surprised at how well the parsnips and pears work together to become something that looks like porridge but tastes like heaven. You can use the same method to make carrot soup, too. Roast the vegetables to bring out the natural sweetness; then, cook them in water or stock with a bit of seasoning and a pear or apple. When all is soft, puree, and brighten the seasoning with fresh herbs. Consider this soup for a first course on your Thanksgiving table. It's earthy, but refined.
Vegetarian pear and parsnip soup
2 lbs parsnips, ends trimmed, peeled
1 medium red or sweet onion, peeled and quartered
2 cloves garlic, whole but not peeled
Sea salt and fresh black pepper
1-2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large pear (or 2 medium), any variety, peeled and cubed
2 cups water (or chicken stock)
1-2 Tbsp minced fresh thyme (or parsley, marjoram, chives, or a mixture), to taste
1/4 cup heavy cream
Additional salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 375°F. Place parsnips, onion and garlic on a rimmed baking sheet; season with salt, pepper and olive oil, and toss to coat. Roast for 40 minutes, shaking the pan once or twice, until vegetables are lightly browned. Remove pan from oven, and set aside for 10 minutes. Squeeze the garlic cloves out of their skin, directly into a Dutch oven or heavy soup pot. Cut the parsnips into 1-inch chunks and add to the soup pot with onion, pear, and water or stock, plus water to almost cover the vegetables. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer and cook, uncovered, until the pear is tender (15 minutes). Add herbs; cook 5 minutes more. Use an immersion blender to purée the soup in the pot (or purée in batches in a blender). Add cream (optional). Season with sea salt and lots of freshly-ground black pepper, to taste. Serve hot, garnished with snips of fresh herbs.