This is my favorite time of year. When the breeze is still warm enough to draw you out of your dwellings, but cool enough to necessitate a light sweater. When the trees are still bountiful with their green flora, yet speckled with reds, yellows and browns. That time of year when my obsession to wear all white turns to an obsession to wear all black – only deviating these monochromes for brightly colored scarves. It’s around this time when piles of pumpkins are arriving from The Farm, being stacked up next to beds of late summer tomatoes, and game and fowl season is approaching, adding new characters to the city’s menus. Darker flavors are bellowing for darker wines, which is less a testament to its color and more to its character. I find myself reaching, not quite for reds, but for whites hinting at oxidative qualities. My fridge has been carefully stocked with sherry: fino and manzanilla for warm days and shellfish, and oloroso and amontillado for cool days and roasted root vegetables.
I don’t pretend to call myself a cook – at home or professionally. I cook occasionally and I understand flavor combinations and textures, but I will be the first to say that I am often uncomfortable around fire and knives. It’s not my fault though, I’ve been spoiled living with a professional chef for the last five years, and have relied, probably too heavily, on his mastery. I will say, however, I can whip up a damn good one pot soup, as it calls for little to no measurement or concentration.
Our large windows gaze at the sky, pregnant with grey clouds, the air soft and cool. M texts, he wants soup and I agree. It’s a perfect day for an earthy bowl of parsnip and white bean soup with shiitakes and pepitas. The only thing I want to drink with this is sherry. An amontillado has a rich nuttiness that is perfect with caramelized root vegetables and toasted pumpkin seeds. The saltiness compliments the rosemary and sage unexpectedly and brightens the dish nicely.
White beans are my favorite staple for fall/winter soups. They lay the perfect base layer for more intense flavors. I came across this recipe on Yummy Beet and really enjoyed its simplicity. I did take it a bit further adding a few of my own touches.
Parsnip & White Bean Soup with Shiitake and Sage
- 6 cloves garlic with skin on
- 1lb parsnips, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 large shallot, cut into quarters
- extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tbsp fresh rosemary
- 1 tbsp sage, coarsely chopped
- 6 sage leaves, whole
- sea salt to taste
- Ground black peppercorn, to taste
- 2 tsp ground pink peppercorn
- 1, 15 oz can white beans, drained and rinsed
- 6 cups no salt added vegetable broth
- juice of 1 lemon
- 1 tbsp Sherry vinegar (or to taste)
- 1 tbsp yellow curry powder
- pinch of cinnamon
- pinch of turmeric
- cup of coarsely chopped parsley
- Tamari roasted pumpkin seeds for garnish
- 3/4lb small shiitake mushrooms
- 2 tbsp grass-fed butter
- Preheat oven to 400ºF. On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss garlic, parsnips, shallot, oil, rosemary, sage, salt (to taste), and black and pink pepper. Roast for 40-45 minutes, or until garlic and parsnips are tender and turning golden.
- Once cool enough to handle, squeeze garlic from skins into a blender, along with roasted vegetables, beans, broth, and lemon juice; purée until smooth, adding more broth if too thick.
- Transfer blended soup to a large pot. Heat over low, stirring frequently. Add Sherry vinegar, curry, cinnamon, turmeric and parsley. Add salt to taste.
- In a medium pan, heat up the butter on medium heat. Julienne shiitake mushrooms. Once melted, add mushrooms to pan and sauté until almost fried. Take mushrooms out of the pan, turn the heat up to high and add extra virgin olive oil. Once hot, add sage leaves and let fry until they’re crispy. Take them out of the pan and let cool.
- Pour the soup into a bowl, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle pumpkin seeds, add shiitakes and fried sage.
- Serve with a chilled glass of sherry – preferably an amontillado.