Sunday, November 22, 2015

Soup of the Month: Roasted Root Vegetable

November's Soup of the Month is another one that came about more or less through the "Stone Soup" process: throw in whatever you've got and see how it comes out.

The "stone," in this case, was a couple of turnips that we received as part of a CSA box three weeks ago, when Brian's coworker offered it to us because she was going to be out of town. We only knew one recipe that called for turnip, and after making that one, we still had one big turnip left, which wasn't getting any younger. I'd found a recipe somewhere for a roasted vegetable soup that used turnips, but we didn't have the other ingredients needed, so Brian decided to try whipping up his own.

Since we had some carrots and sweet potatoes left over from the CSA box as well, he diced up one of each along with the turnip, plus a few plain white potatoes for ballast. He coated them all with olive oil and salt and roasted them at 450°F for 40 minutes. Then he decided that as long as he was roasting, he'd make some roasted garlic to raise the flavor of the soup. However, he knew that if he roasted the whole head wrapped in foil, in the traditional way, he'd have to wait for it to cool before he could pull apart the cloves and extract their insides—so in another moment of improvisation, he decided to separate and peel all the cloves first, then wrap them all together in the foil and put them on the roasting sheet with the veggies. And lo and behold, this worked beautifully. When the bundle came out of the oven, all he had to do was unwrap the foil and dump the contents straight into the blender with half a cup of water, puree it all together, and dump it into the pot.

The pot itself, meanwhile, was bubbling away on the stove with 3 1/2 quarts of water in it. After dumping in the garlic mixture and the roasted veggies, he started adding seasonings willy-nilly, throwing in whatever seemed like it would taste good: a teaspoon and a half of salt, a bay leaf, 1/2 teaspoon of dry mustard, 1/2 teaspoon of ground ginger.

Then, tasting the mixture, he decided it needed a bit more body. His first thought was nuts, so he roasted a quarter cup of chopped walnuts, but when he smelled them and the soup together, he thought it wasn't quite right. So he got out a jar of peanuts and smelled those alongside the soup, and that combination seemed much better. However, rather than chop up the peanuts and stir them in, he decided to add a couple of tablespoons of peanut butter—the "natural" kind, with nothing in it but peanuts and salt—so that it would blend more completely with the rest of the soup. He went ahead and threw the walnuts in anyway, since he had them. After simmering this hodge-podge together for 20 to 30 minutes, during which time it thickened to an almost porridge-like consistency, he deemed it ready to eat.

And it was...interesting. Certainly not like any other soup I'd ever had before. The hint of peanut butter was vaguely reminiscent of the tahini in Brian's favorite chick pea-spinach soup, but the other ingredients were so completely different that it didn't have at all the same vibe. The roasted veggies made a a nice, smooth base, and the toasted walnuts added an interesting bit of crunch. On the whole, everything seemed to go together reasonably well, but there was one discordant note: the turnip. Roasting vegetables usually softens bitter flavors and brings out their sweetness, but in this soup, it was still definitely present. Every time I got a mouthful of turnip, there was this jarring bitter flavor, almost like ear wax, that didn't go at all with the milder and sweeter flavors of the carrot and sweet potato.

So if we ever make this recipe again, we'll probably skip the turnip—effectively making the stone soup without the stone. And if we ever again find ourselves unexpectedly in possession of a turnip or two, we'll find some other way to dispose of it than putting it in a soup. Real Simple has a couple of recipes, including Roasted Turnips with Ginger and Mashed Turnips with Bacon, that look more promising.

So that's eleven months of Soups and Salads of the Month down, and only one more to go. Almost there!
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