One of the dangers of living in Big Urban Environments, or close to Big Retail Stores is that you might occasionally get lost in time, lose track of seasons, or the month of the year, as these guys are really pushing the boundaries of time travel. For the Kings of Retail Halloween starts in late August, Christmas sneaks in early-November and the Fourth of July barbecues light up in May. But no one is pushing it further that the fashion industry. It is 22F out there, and despite being huge improvement from the last week’s 4F, we are still in that precipices between late February and early March, when, quite frankly, everything around us is plain vanilla gray and uninspiring. And cold. Cold, cold, cold. Yet, when I took a walk to Soho for a little bit of window shopping, I saw nothing but bathing suits, sandals and summer dresses. Hello, Fashion People, it is twenty two out there, I do not feel like moving my little finger an inch away from its warm and cozy little place inside the glove, let alone taking off my coat, and my cap, and my UGS, and trying on chilly silk fabrics in even chillier dressing rooms. It is in June that the desire will kick in, but hey, by then the windows will be sporting latest fall outfits, and winter coats and who, I mean really who, craves the sweltering touch of herringbone wool in June?
The only place that never lies about the time of the year, about the weather, about the economy, about anything is the market. Market always tells the truth. And no matter how much we crave spring at this dark February/March moment, and no matter how many Easter eggs and chocolates pave our way around the town, and no matter how many pastels we see on the way to the train station, the market tells us to wait. It is still early, still naked. The market is still sleeping... When the market speaks I try to listen, which brings me back to the roots, the onions, apples and pears, and an occasional spice.
Yes, I know, I did write about pears just last week, and yes, I cooked a whole pot of root vegetables only three posts ago, but I cannot help it. It is that time of the year when we all go back to the roots, or the pears for that matter. Plus, something else happened. To cut the long story short it went like this. School pick up time. Miss Pain was hungry. Miss Pain wanted soup. Miss Pain wanted soup RIGHT AWAY. Miss Pain threw a tantrum. Miss Pain threw a tantrum in front of a gigantic photo of Chef Daniel Boulud, which happened to stand in front of the entrance to Hale & Hearty Soups on the Upper West Side. (God Bless H&HS for putting their store close to the school and helping all of us unfortunate parents in the time of need.) And while Miss Pain happily slurped Hale & Hearty Soups’ Chef Series Curried Cauliflower and Apple Soup Made by Chef Daniel Boulud, I could not help but happily muse about all possible ways this soup can be re-created from different combination of fruits and vegetables. Which, naturally, catapulted me straight to parsnips and pears.
It took me one point seven nanoseconds to google original Chef Boulud’s recipe. I then switched the ingredients... And tweaked the quantities a little... The end result was a cup of warm velvety goodness in a beautiful butterscotch color to get us through this last stretch of winter.
New recipes can be born out of thin air. Out of February desperation. Out of an empty market. Out of child’s tantrum. Out of Chef’s photo... Isn't that the best part of cooking?
Curried Cream of Parsnip & Pear Soup
* 5-6 cups light vegetable stock
* 1 1/2 tbsp butter
* 1 medium yellow onion (about 5 oz), finely chopped
* 1 1/2 tsp Madras curry powder
* 1/2 tsp saffron threads
* 1 large Bosc pear (about 8 oz), peeled, split, cored and diced
* 14 oz parsnips, peeled and diced
* 1 cup heavy cream
* salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste
Warm the stock over medium heat.
In a cast iron pot, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the onions, curry powder and saffron and sweat for about two to three minutes, stirring often. Add the pear and sweat for another three minutes, stirring often. Add the parsnip and sweat for another three to four minutes, stirring often. Season with salt. Add five cups of warm stock and bring to a boil. Once the soup reaches the boil, reduce the heat to low, and simmer uncovered for about 25-30 minutes, until parsnip is tender. Add the cream and continue to simmer for another 10 minutes. Season with white pepper, and if needed, adjust saltiness. Transfer the soup to a blender, and purée at high speed until smooth. If the soup is too thick, add the remaining cup of warm stock. Keep the soup warm until ready to serve, or refrigerate and reheat gently just before serving.