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Simple Cooking: Roasted Celery Root And Parsnip Soup With Dashi Stock

By Chuck Sudo in Food on Mar 21, 2013 4:00PM

Photo credit: Chuck Sudo/Chicagoist

It's technically spring in Chicago, although an Arctic cold front has us wearing layers like it's mid-January. The cold weather has us craving comfort foods and especially hearty root vegetables as we near the sowing season. Two of our favorite root vegetables are parsnip and celery root.

When roasted, these are among the sweetest root vegetables to enjoy and make amazing soup. Normally we would use a vegetable stock as the base but we decided to try something different. We made dashi, a stock typically used in Japanese cooking with a kombu (seaweed) base. Some variations of dashi call for katsuobushi, a seasoning made from dried fish flakes, but we wanted the umami from the kombu to complement the sweetness of the parsnip and celery root and, as an indiscriminate omnivore, we also wanted to shake things up a bit and work on a recipe that would appeal to vegans. We skipped the katsuobushi.

The result is a surprisingly hearty soup; call it a Franco-Sino porridge. Eat this with some fresh sourdough bread and wait for warmer weather to arrive.

3 cups celery root, cubed
3 cups parsnip, chopped
4 cups dashi stock
3 Tablespoons olive oil

Dashi Recipe
4 cups water
5" x 5" piece of kombu
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon marjoram flakes
1/4 teaspoon whole coriander

To make the dashi, add the kombu and the spices (wrapped in cheesecloth or in a spice bag) to the water and place on the stove under medium heat. Remove the kombu when it floats to the surface. To impart a stronger flavor to the dashi, you may want to let the mix soak overnight, which gives the stock a more viscous consistency. Don't let this stock boil or else it could become bitter.

While the stock is warming, dress the parsnips and celery root with olive oil in a roasting pan and place in an 450 degree oven between 60-90 minutes or until carmelized, turning the vegetables over twice for consistency. When ready, add the vegetables to the dashi, bring to a simmer for 15 minutes, then transfer to a food processor or use a wand blender to puree. Serve with a teaspoon of garlic pesto (recipe below).

Garlic Pesto
1/2 cup basil
5 large cloves garlic, quartered
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper

Mix all the ingredients in a food processor until smooth.