Roots and bones, I’m not breaking up with you, I just need some space.
Roots — celery root, rutabaga, turnip, parsnip — you know who you are. I’ve gotten to know you well and appreciate your subtle flavor and unique nature more than ever before. I’ve grow to depend on you, day in and day out. Meal after meal, you’ve been there for me throughout the fall and winter. The truth is, I’m running out of ideas — ways to make our relationship new and exciting. I’ve also found myself attracted to younger vegetables — like baby leeks and carrots.
And bones — hocks, shanks, shins and backs, you’re nutritious, thrifty and add so much depth to my stock. Just last night I felt I may have underestimated your importance as I read a description of the grandfather in To Siberia by Per Petterson, ” his thick hair was brushed back like shining fur, and there was no gray in it, because he had eaten bones and gristle all his life.” I vow to continue to learn about your under-appreciated goodness and to come back to you soon. But don’t be concerned if my spring fling becomes a summer romance with foods that are light, fresh and delicate.
All I’m trying to say is that my taste in food is transforming with the seasons. It’s only natural that one group of foods can’t be all a person needs. As I made these two delicious soups, I had only tender feelings for you, roots and bones. Even as winter comes to a close, I feel reluctant to let you go. I promise this will be a slow transition but I wanted to give you a fair warning that the season is changing.
I got my inspiration for these soups from recipes in a NY Times article by Jane Sigal, The Taste Bone’s Connected to the …Soup Bone. She has an appreciation for the finer qualities of bones and at the same time, adds a bone to the soup rather than taking the time to make stock first. It’s the contribution of the root vegetables and their flavors that make this shortcut possible.
Chunky Beet Borscht
5-6 red beets, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch dice
1lb. meaty bones, I used cross cut beef shanks
1 green cabbage, shredded
1 large can of tomatoes, chopped and with their juice
1 large onion, quartered and sliced
1 bay leaf
1lb. potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch dice
Salt & pepper to taste
Coarsely chopped greens, either beet greens or whatever you have on hand, I used spinach
Balsamic vinegar to taste
In a soup pot, combine beets, bones, cabbage, tomatoes, onion, 8 cups water, bay leaf and salt. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 1 1/2 hrs.
Remove bone, cut meat from the bone and return meat chunks to the soup. Discard the bone and the bay leaf.
Add potatoes to the soup and cook until soft, about 15 minutes. Just before you eat, add greens to the hot soup. Salt & pepper to taste and drizzle with balsamic vinegar. Add a dollop of sour cream, if you wish.
Creamy Celery Root Soup
2 T butter or olive oil
6-8 baby leeks, white and light green parts, sliced
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
1 large celery root, peeled and chopped
2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
1 ham hock
1 sprig thyme, 6 sprigs parsley and 1 bay leaf, tied in a bundle
Splash of heavy cream, optional
Salt & pepper to taste
In a soup pot, melt butter. Add leeks, celery and salt. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until soft, about 10 minutes.
Peel the celery root with a knife and cut into 1″ dice. Add celery root, potatoes, 6 cups water, ham hock and herb bundle to pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook uncovered for 45 minutes.
Remove ham hock, cut meat off the bone, return chopped meat to soup. Discard the bone and the herb bundle.
Using an immersion blender or food processor, puree soup. Add a splash of heavy cream, and season with salt & pepper. Garnish with fresh herbs or grated cheese.