Parsnip Soup with Croutons

If you’ve never tasted a parsnip go out right now and buy some. They’re sweet and easy to cook and useful for an incredible number and variety of recipes. Parsnips, the vegetable that looks like a creamy-white carrot, is at its finest just after the first frost, when the starches turn to sugar. The season is now and for the next couple of months (of course you can get them all year but they’re best now).

I learned to love parsnips because my Mom always stuck one in the pot when she made chicken soup, and it gave the broth a lovely, sweetness. Fanny Farmer was less than charmed by parsnips than I am. In 1906 she wrote, “Parsnips are raised mostly as cattle food.”

Taste for yourself. Here’s a thick and hearty soup to warm you up on colder days. If you’ve never eaten a parsnip this will give you a good first taste. If you have, well, then you already know how good they are and can add this recipe to your collection.

Btw, this is a terrific first course for a Thanksgiving dinner.

Parsnip Soup with Croutons

2 slices homestyle, firm white or whole wheat bread or French bread

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons butter or olive oil

1/2 teaspoon combined dried oregano and thyme (or use mixed dried herbs)

1 clove garlic, mashed

1 large yellow or Spanish onion, chopped

1 pound parsnips, peeled and sliced (1/4-inch thick)

2 large Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into small chunks

5 cups vegetable stock

salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 cup half and half cream, whole milk or coconut milk

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Trim the crusts from the bread and cut the bread into 3/4-inch dice. Place the bread on a baking sheet and cook for 7-8 minutes, or until lightly toasted. Melt 2 tablespoons of the olive oil plus one tablespoon of the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the herbs and garlic, then pour this mixture over the lightly toasted croutons. Toss the bread to coat them with the herbed butter mixture. Return the pan to the oven and bake for another 8-10 minutes or until crispy and golden brown. Remove from the oven and set aside. Heat the remaining one tablespoon olive oil and butter to the saucepan over medium heat. When the butter has melted and looks foamy, add the onion and cook for 3-4 minutes, or until softened. Add the parsnips, potatoes and stock and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil over high heat. Lower the heat and simmer the soup for about 45 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Puree the soup with a hand blender or in a traditional blender or food processor. Return the soup to the pan, stir in the cream and reheat. Serve the soup topped with the croutons. Makes 6 servings