Sunday, January 12, 2014

Apple and root vegetable soup

When the weather cools down for good, after a burst of very windy late summeriness you might have enjoyed a week ago -- a day ago -- you might in turn be very ready for Apple and Root Vegetable Soup. This comes courtesy of the "Cooking with Bon Appétit" series volume French Country Favorites (The Knapp Press, Los Angeles, 1987). The soup is simply leeks, potatoes, carrots, and apples -- and an onion and celery, if you feel adventurous --

-- plus a whole teaspoon of coriander seeds. The use of coriander gives us a chance to recall our friend Sylvia Windle Humphrey, whom we ushered into our Culinary Hall of Fame as a thanks for introducing us to so many herbs and spices, and to revisit that pleasant book of hers. Remember A Matter of Taste?

In it, she describes coriander, Coriandrum sativum, thus:
"The manna of the children of Israel, the Bible says in Numbers 11:7-8, 'was as coriander seed .. . and the people went about and gathered it ....'
"Delicately perfumed and plentiful, coriander has served man since he first learned to season his foods. On early Egyptian papyruses one can read about it in hieroglyphics... ancient Greece also, one learns from Athenaeus, a scholar of the second and third centuries, liked coriander as a seasoning ....
"Today coriander is grown and used all over the world. The Chinese think it especially good in soups. One of the most common seasonings in Mexico, it is cooked in rice, lentil, and meat dishes. The Arab cuisine leans heavily on it ....
"How have we in America lost track of this mild, inexpensive way to give spirit to our foods?"
How indeed? We have also in a way lost track of parsley, and as luck would have it not only does Sylvia Windle Humphrey tell us more about that herb too, but our soup recipe from this French Country Cooking finishes with a persillade, a combination, frequent in southern French cooking, of minced parsley, minced garlic, and olive oil. It makes a robust little miniature salad to be stirred by the spoonful into each bowl of soup at serving.

But first, let us listen to Mrs. Humphrey, on Petroselinum crispum
"When Parsley Pies were popular in England, in Good Queen Bess's time, then Britain really ruled the waves. None other than whole pastures of parsley were good enough for the horses of the Greek gods, who evidently knew the dietary secrets of keeping their steeds swift and spirited, for parsley is nature's own vitamin pill ...
"For thousands of years parsley has been nourishing man as well as horses. ... Parsley doubling as a flower, or mixed with flowers -- Homer is said to have been fond of a parsley-and-rose motif decorating his banquets -- has gone out of style, as have the parsley crowns such as Hercules wore after conquering the Nemean lion. But no one doubts that dainty bouquets of parsley make many a plain dish feel wanted." 

To get everything started, you will need:
10 cups water
1 pound leeks, trimmed, chopped, well washed
1 pound baking potatoes, peeled and diced
1/4 pound carrots, peeled and chopped
1/2 pound sweet apples, peeled, cored, chopped
1 Tablespoon salt
3 bay leaves
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
1/4 teaspoon whole black peppercorns
For the persillade:
2 cups fresh parsley
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 large garlic clove, minced 
Combine the water, leeks, potatoes, carrots, apples, salt and bay leaves in a large pot. Tie the coriander seeds and peppercorns in cheesecloth [or fold them into a coffee filter and staple it closed], and add to the pot. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer until the vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally, about 45 minutes. 

Use a slotted spoon to transfer the vegetables to a blender or food processor Purée them, and put the purée into a saucepan over medium heat. Add enough of the vegetable cooking liquid (about 2 and 1/2 cups) to make a thick soup, and heat through.

Mix the parsley, oil, and garlic. Ladle the soup into bowls. Swirl some of the persillade into each bowl and serve.(The next day, any leftover parsley mix will be delicious dabbed into spaghetti sauce, a pan of sautéed mushrooms, etc.)

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