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recipe collector...civil engineer...cookbook devourer...looking to share cookbook & recipe reviews and my real-life kitchen dramas as I re-engineer recipes ...

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Three Free Thursday Part I: Roasted Carrot & Parsnip Soup

Happy Three Free Thursday, Blog Readers! This is the first entry of my new biweekly "Three Free Thursday" blog entries.  On the first Thursday, I will be selecting three free recipes from sources like @RealSimpleFood, @TestKitchen, @WholeFoods, @SeriousEats, @FineCooking and many more recipe outlets on Twitter. Feel free to send in recipe suggestions for Three Free Thursday on Twitter to @RecipEngineer or by e-mail RecipEngineer@gmail.com . On the following Thursday, I'll report back via blog entry the full results of my adventures in the kitchen and let you know if you should try these recipes at home.  Also I'll try to add helpful suggestions of ways to improve the recipes and/or tips to avoid my pitfalls re-creating these recipes.  Here is Part I of the first ever "Three Free Thursday Results" blog entry.  Enjoy!

Recipe: Roasted Carrot & Parsnip Soup
Source: @RealSimpleFood

Carrots and parsnips and onions! Oh my!
 When I selected this Roasted Carrot & Parsnip Soup recipe to test, I was excited by the inclusion of parsnips, a root vegetable that I don't cook with regularly. Parsnips are trendy this year with chefs incorporating parsnips in mashed potatoes, roasting parsnips along with the usual winter root vegetables and being fried up as the alternative to french fries. With the spotlight on parsnips, I expected to find gorgeous plump parsnips in every grocery store.  In reality, I went to three grocery stores and finally settled on under-sized mediocre organic parsnips from my local Whole Foods. It was not a promising start to this cooking adventure.

I returned to my kitchen, unimpressive parsnips and a fresh whole-wheat baguette in hand, gathered my other ingredients from the refrigerator and reviewed the recipe. My immediate reaction was to double the recipe.  It goes against everything my stockpot and I believe in to make soup for only four servings.  This soup freezes well, so it's worth making the double batch and freezing any leftovers.  Prepping the vegetables for a double batch took me approximately 15 minutes and while they were roasting in the oven, I set up the olive oil toasts that the recipe recommends for serving with the soup.

Once the vegetables have roasted for approximately 45 minutes, the recipe requires either a blender, food processor or an immersion blender to puree the roasted carrots, parsnips & onions.  I would recommend purchasing an immersion blender to anyone who makes pureed soups (or whipped cream, mixed drinks or smoothies) on a regular basis.  Immersion blenders are relatively affordable and are perfect for pureeing soups because you can simply take the hot soup off the stove top and puree in your stockpot.  No need to cool soup to room temperature or work in messy batches in a blender or food processor.  Also, I find that my immersion blender allows me to better control the consistency of the final product. When blending this soup, you can adjust the amount of water (or cream/milk) that you add to control the thickness of the soup.  I preferred the soup a little thicker, so that you could eat it off the olive oil toasts.

Surprisingly, the recipe doesn't call for cream or milk. In most pureed soups, cream or whole milk is used to keep the soup from separating and add nice creaminess to the final product. Within ten minutes of cooling, the soup made per the recipe separated and carrot-colored liquid began pooling atop my soup. I re-heated the soup over low heat and stirred in 1/2 cup of heavy cream and 1 Tbsp of butter to bring the soup together.  My taste tester and I agreed that adding dairy fats to the soup made a HUGE difference in the final product. While obviously less healthy, the soup did not separate during cooling and was significantly tastier and more visually appealing. Adding cream (or milk) also combated the sweetness of the dish and made it more filling.
Garnish with parsley and a healthy sprinkle of nutmeg.  Quick sidebar -grating whole nutmeg fresh is absolutely worth the effort. It's affordable, available and significantly better tasting and nicer looking than any sprinkle from a standard jar of nutmeg.  Look for whole nutmeg at spice stores, such as Penzey's Spice (my personal favorite spice store - a local store in Arlington, MA and a catalog, containing tasty recipes, which can be requested at http://www.penzeys.com/).


Roasted Carrot & Parsnip Soup

This soup has rich color and would be a beautiful starter for any winter meal. However, its natural sweetness can be a little overwhelming.  Adding a bit of cream or butter helps to temper the sweetness of the dish and keep it from separating as it cools. Garnish with nutmeg and olive oil toasts or croutons for a lovely presentation.  The soup stores well in the refrigerator or freezer, so you can easily prep this soup in advance and simply re-heat for dinner guests while baking the olive oil toasts fresh. 

  • Add cream and/or butter to the recipe to keep soup from separating and add creaminess.
  • Freeze leftover soup for up to three months in air-tight container or in quart-sized freezer bags for individual portions.
  • Re-heat over low heat and add a small amount of cream or milk and/or a tablespoon of butter to keep soup from separating. 
Rating: 3 out of 5
Thanks for reading Part I of this week's Three Free Thursday! Send your recipe suggestions for the next Three Free Thursday by Wednesday, February 2nd.

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