January is a tricky month where produce is concerned. On the vegetable front, there are a lot of roots, tubers and brassicas. It’s easy to lose inspiration with these humble, funny-looking things. They’re often knobby, dirt-covered, and just plain challenging. But they’re worth a little affection. Especially if a hot bowl of soup is involved.
Here, our friend the potato — the most familiar and best-loved of the roots — plays a strong supporting role, anchoring the parsnips and celery root in a rich puree. There is a whisper of parsnip’s sweetness and a subtle earthy vibe from the celery root, but neither is overpowering. The generous shower of crunchy pepitas, bright parsley and squeeze of lemon juice bring this soup to vibrant life.
Smoky Root Vegetable Soup
Yield: 4-6 servings
2 medium russet potatoes, diced
1 medium celery root
5 or 6 smallish parsnips (larger parsnips will have a tough, woody core)
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups chicken or vegetable broth
1 teaspoon sweet paprika
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup minced parsley
1/4 cup pepitas
1 lemon, sliced into wedges
Preheat oven to 400˚ Fahrenheit.
Peel the tough outer skin of the celery root. Chop into large chunks. Halve the parsnips, and toss together with the diced potatoes, the celery root and one or two tablespoons of olive oil. Arrange on a baking sheet and sprinkle with sea salt and pepper.
Roast at 400˚ until cooked through but firm, tossing once, about 25 minutes.
While the vegetables roast, heat a large stock pot over a medium low flame. Saute the diced onions and minced garlic in one tablespoon of olive oil until soft, about five minutes. Stir to prevent garlic from burning. Remove from heat until vegetables are roasted.
When the vegetables are ready, add them to the stock pot along with four cups of broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and cover the vegetables. Let them simmer for about fifteen minutes.
While the soup simmers, toast the pepitas. Warm a dry skillet over a medium flame. Add the pepitas and toast until they begin to brown and pop. Stir frequently to keep them from burning. Set aside to cool.
Puree the soup with an immersion blender until creamy. (Or use an upright blender and blend in batches, if you don’t have an immersion blender.)
Add the paprika, smoked paprika, cumin, sea salt and Parmesan cheese and stir to incorporate.
To serve, divide soup among bowls, squeeze one lemon wedge into each, dust with a bit of paprika, and finish with the toasted pepitas and minced parsley.
All photos by Kimberley Hasselbrink.
Kimberley Hasselbrink is a food photographer and blogger based in San Francisco. She is the author of the blog The Year in Food, which is framed around a monthly seasonal food guide. Kimberley enjoys unusual produce, strong coffee, road trips and summer nights.