Rain fell beautifully this morning as I fried onions and peeled potatoes and collected the things I needed to make soups with unusual root vegetables.
While most of us are familiar with carrots, turnips, beets, and taters, there are some other less familiar but equally wonderful root veggies that taste marvelous and work brilliantly in hot, creamy soups that take away the chill of an early spring evening. Celeriac, Jerusalem artichokes, swedes, and salsify are a few of the unique root veggies that we can now find piled high in farmer’s markets.
Celeriac is one of my favorites because it’s so darn ugly with its pale, knobbly exterior that it looks like it can’t possibly taste good. But, oh, it does, especially when paired with potatoes and leeks and topped with crispy fried onions.
For a scrumptious celeriac soup, slice and fry up a leek in some olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Be sure to stir often so it doesn’t burn. While it’s cooking, peel and chop the celeriac and a couple of potatoes. When the leek is cooked, add the root vegetables and salt and pepper. Cover with chicken stock (adding a few bouillon cubes is always an excellent idea), then cover and simmer for about 20 minutes until the vegetables are soft and can be crushed easily with a fork. Using an immersion blender, puree into a smooth consistency, adding a bit of milk or cream and tasting to see if more seasoning is needed. Ladle into bowls and top with crispy fried onions.
Jerusalem Artichoke Soup
Jerusalem artichokes are another knobbly root veggie that taste great and are worth a bit of finicky prep work. Since they’re small and need to be peeled before eating, Jerusalem artichokes require a bit of extra time for preparation. They also have the unfortunate effect of making some folks rather gaseous. (Imagine beans on steroids and you’ve got the picture.) That said, the flavor is worth the effort, and, if you add a few potatoes and swedes or a parsnip, the side effects are drastically reduced.
Prepare as described for Celeriac Soup, but use half Jerusalem artichokes and half other root veggies, and add a teaspoon of fresh thyme leaves.
Swede and Salsify Soup
Swedes look like turnips with their purplish tops, but they have a creamier skin. Salsify looks like a long, black carrot and has a white interior. As with the previously listed root veggies, they result in a soup that is pale and rather nondescript. While this doesn’t affect the taste whatsoever, you can jazz up the color a bit by adding in a carrot or two, or some roasted red or orange bell peppers. This results in a vibrantly colored soup with an added flavor profile. I like to enhance it even further with fresh dill; somehow, it makes root veggies sing. Prepare this soup as you would the others, but add the fresh dill last to keep it perky.