PARSNIP, COCONUT & LEMONGRASS SOUP

Inspired by a recipe from Mary Berry, this soup is simple and flavorful. I don’t think parsnips receive the attention and praise they deserve. There’s something about their slight sharpness that can be quite pleasing. Maybe for some it might be an acquired taste… Come to think of it, when I was a teenager, I would march out of the house if my poor Mom would dare serving parsnips in any type of preparation. I was difficult. I got better… At least in some aspects…

Back to soup. Make it. If you are not lucky enough to have friends who give you a gorgeous lemongrass plant, search for those cute little plastic tubes at the grocery store.  They are actually not that bad if you cannot have the real thing. I confess to always having the ginger kind in my fridge. And once our lemongrass goes into hibernation, that version will be joining us too.

PARSNIP, COCONUT AND LEMONGRASS SOUP
(inspired by Mary Berry Everyday)

1 tablespoon grapeseed oil
3/4 pound parsnips (about 8 medium ones), peeled, cut in chunks
1 medium shallot, minced
2 teaspoons finely minced ginger
2 teaspoons Thai red curry paste
2 tsp honey
1/2 cup coconut milk
2 cups vegetable stock  (or water)
2 teaspoons fish sauce
1 lemongrass stalk, bashed to release flavor
salt and pepper to taste
yogurt and black sesame seeds for garnish (optional)

Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the shallot and parsnips, and saute for a few minutes, until they start to get a golden color at the edges.  Add the ginger, red curry paste and honey and saute for 30 seconds, then add the coconut milk, stock, fish sauce and lemon grass.

Bring to the boil, then cover with a lid, reduce the heat and simmer for about 15 minutes or until the vegetables are cooked through, very tender. Check the seasoning, adding salt and pepper to taste, then remove the lemon grass and discard.

Process the soup in a blender or food processor. Serve warm with a dollop of yogurt and black sesame seeds, if so desired.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here

Comments: Loved this soup. Lemongrass, fish sauce, coconut milk, ginger, red curry paste, they do make a fantastic fantasy of flavors in your mouth, but oddly enough, you can still detect a bright and clear taste of parsnip. I had it for lunch several times in that particular week. Phil tried some and enjoyed it, but he prefers to have his smoothie – Wasa cracker/nuts/jam combination so I was left alone to savor this comforting soup day in, day out.  It gets a bit thicker each day, but adding a bit of water brings it back to a perfect consistency. I also like to squirt a little lemon juice right on the bowl.  Have I ever told you that we never, absolutely never run out of lemons in the fridge?  I get nervous if I see only one in there. Use them all the time, not only for cooking but in my carbonated water and that evening tea.

Soup weather is approaching fast. Too fast.
Grab a pin to be ready for it!

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UNDER THE SPELL OF LEMONGRASS

I tasted lemongrass for the first time in 1986,  in a tiny Vietnamese restaurant in Redwood City, a few miles away from my home while I lived in California.  I’m afraid the restaurant, Than’s,  no longer exists. My former husband and I used to have lunch at Than’s on Saturdays.   In those days we knew next to nothing about Vietnamese food, but  on our first visit I ordered “Chicken in Lemongrass Sauce,” and thought I had died and gone to heaven.  Whenever we returned over the  following three years  we’d share two dishes, and lemongrass chicken was always one of them.   I just couldn’t get over it.    Some people say that you can substitute lemon zest, or Meyer lemon’s zest, …they lie.  Lemongrass has  NO comparable substitute:  it’s just that special and just that good.

So, when I had the luck of finding fresh lemongrass in our farmer’s market, I made sure to bring some home, and put it to good use….

THAI CHICKEN BREASTS WITH HERB-LEMONGRASS CRUST
(adapted from Fine Cooking #86,  July 2007)

1 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
1/2 cup coconut milk
1/4 cup chopped fresh lemongrass
12 fresh basil leaves
1 serrano pepper, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
salt to taste
2 tsp brown sugar
1/2 tsp black pepper
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, trimmed
1 lime, cut into wedges

Combine 3/4 of the cilantro with the coconut milk, lemongrass, basil, serrano, garlic, salt, brown sugar, pepper and coriander in a blender and puree until smooth. Place the chicken breasts in a dish in a single layer, and pour this marinade over them, turning to coat them completely. Refrigerate for 2 to 24 hours (mine stayed 7 hours in the fridge).

Heat a grill to medium high, grill the chicken until it has good grill marks on the first side, 4 to 5 minutes. Flip the chicken and continue to cook until completely cooked through (check by making a slice into one of the thicker breasts), 5 to 6 more minutes. Transfer to a serving dish and let rest for 5 minutes. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 cup cilantro and serve with the lime wedges.

ENJOY!

to print the recipe, click here


Comments: The secret for this recipe is blending the marinade to turn it into a thick paste.  The lemongrass flavor is more pronounced this way,  a blast of freshness in perfect balance with the coconut milk and herbs.

Food memories can be so strong!  While slicing  the lemongrass, I went straight back to Redwood City, and could almost visualize the table cloths in that simple, but amazing restaurant. It was run by a husband and wife, their two young kids very shy peeking at the customers from behind the counter. I often wonder where they are now, probably all grown up and graduated from college. 😉

ONE YEAR AGO: Greens, Grapefruit and Shrimp Salad

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