Saturday, October 18, 2014

A Great Fall Soup with Parsnips and Pears

White Chocolate and Triple Dark Chocolate Friendship Breads
Before getting to my soup idea and recipe, a couple of days back it again came time to make Friendship Bread from my active starter. I still have the starter on the counter, merrily bubbling away. This time, the flavors I used were chocolate and white "chocolate". I knew our friend Rich was coming to town for pheasant hunting season, which starts today up in these parts. Rich is a real, true, chocoholic. My husband and I - not so much. I had planned to take a starter to my friend Deb, and while doing that, also took her a loaf of the freshly baked Triple Chocolate Friendship Bread. Both of these breads turned out exceptionally wonderful. I prefer the white chocolate one myself, but I can also truly say the dark Triple Chocolate is also really good. For the white chocolate version, I used white chocolate instant pudding mixes and a whole bag of white (fake white chocolate) baking chips for the two loaves in the recipe. For the second batch with actual chocolate, I substituted 1/4 cup of cocoa for 1/4 of the flour in the recipe, used chocolate instant pudding mix and added in a whole bag of Ghirardelli Bittersweet Chocolate chips. Yum! We had them for dessert last evening.

On to the Soup!

I saw a recipe for a parsnip and pear soup in my latest Food and Wine Magazine, but the flavor ingredients didn't appeal to me. The thought of parsnips, which I love, and pears, which I don't love, but tolerate, sounded good together. I like a little natural sweetness mixed in with savory at times, and this seemed a good combo. I also wanted to use fennel bulb, if I could find one (last time I looked, there were none at either of two stores I tried). I thought leeks would be a nice idea, to keep the onion flavor, with less harshness to this delicate flavor combo. However, I had not planned to go out of my way to buy leeks. That said, I already had some in my fridge, after having used them during my cooking demo at the Methodist Church; see my blog of October 5th. I was demonstrating where to cut the leeks, how much of the light green parts to use, and how to clean them of dirt and grit.

Parsnip, Pear and Leek Soup
I generally have a very developed ability to combine flavors in my mind, making it easy to make a really flavorful final dish. While I loved the whole idea of parsnips and pears, I was having a little bit of trouble with combining those flavors in my mind. Still, I went forward with the recipe yesterday. I did find fennel bulb, so that did become a part of the mix. When sauteing the leeks I used butter, as it gives such great flavor, although olive oil or any less flavored cooking oil would work fine. I used a little white wine, cooked to complete evaporation, just to give the flavors a boost. The wine could be omitted. I used unsalted chicken stock, though a vegetable stock or even plain water could be substituted. These alternatives would make the recipe vegan. It is already gluten free, egg free and easily dairy free if using oil instead of butter. If using salted stock, do be careful before adding salt to the recipe.

One other thing: I left the skin on the pears. They may be peeled if desired, but I felt that since I was going to puree the soup, the skin would not affect texture, and only add in a little fiber, never a bad thing.

Parsnip, Pear and Leek Soup

makes about 10 cups

3 tablespoons butter (or oil of choice)
3 leeks, white and light green parts only, sliced in 1/2-inch bits, or 3 cups
2 stalks celery, chopped, about 1 cup
1 medium fennel bulb, chopped, about 2 cups
1 - 2 cloves garlic, sliced
2 teaspoons salt, or as needed
1 hefty sprig of thyme
1/2 cup dry white wine, optional
2 Bartlett pears, cored, chopped, 3 cups
3 - 4 parsnips, peeled, chopped, to make 3 cups
1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon leaves
1 bay leaf
4 cups unsalted stock or water

vegetables and thyme in pan to saute  |  remaining ingredients added to pan
In a 4 to 6 quart pot, melt the butter and add in the leeks, celery, fennel, garlic and the thyme sprig. Sprinkle with 1 teaspoon of the salt (this brings out sweetness and moisture). Allow the vegetables to "sweat" and soften for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add in the wine, if using, and allow the mixture to cook until all the wine has evaporated, about 8 or 10 minutes more. While vegetables are sauteing and wine reduces, prepare the pears and parsnips, then add them to the pot once the wine has evaporated, along with the tarragon, bay leaf and stock. Bring the mixture to boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cover. Cook for about 15 or 20 minutes, or until the parsnips are tender when pierced with a knife. Remove the bay leaf and thyme sprig and puree the soup in two batches. Serve immediately or make up to 3 days ahead and reheat slowly before serving. 

Lots of layers of flavor made this soup really spectacular. There was a lot going on, with no real ability to discern which vegetable or fruit was the main player. Like a fine wine, it just kept on giving. I highly recommend this soup!  

My passion is to teach people how to create a harmony of flavors with their cooking, and help pass along my love and joy of food, both simple and exotic, plain or fancy. I continue my journey in ethnic and domestic cuisines, trying new things weekly. I would love to hear from you, to help me continue my journey to explore diverse culinary experiences and hopefully to start you on a journey of your own. Join me at A Harmony of Flavors Website and Marketplace, Tumblr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.