Turnip and Leek Soup

28 Jul

Turnip and leek soupMy husband got it in his head to plant turnips this year. They all disappeared except one, which became a monster. I kid you not, it weighed about 4 pounds when we finally dug it up last week.

What to do with a huge amount of turnip? Turnips are not in my cooking vocabulary. I didn’t grow up with turnips. My mother and grandmothers never served turnips. My cookbooks don’t have many recipes for turnips. I think the only time I’ve eaten turnips, other than as a minor ingredient in a soup, was in Scotland, where we enjoyed them mashed up with potatoes — “neeps and tatties.”

Luckily, my friend Jan served this wonderful soup a couple of months ago when she hosted our regular canasta game, and I took the recipe. I had to buy the leeks, but I had plenty of kale in my garden too!

This is a rather time-intensive recipe, because there are a lot of veggies that need washing and/or peeling and chopping, and then you have to prepare the walnuts and kale while the soup is cooking. But the end result is delicious, and as you can see, fancy enough to serve at a meal where you want to impress. The contrast between the silky-smooth pureed soup and the crunchy roasted walnuts is intriguing.

I bought a bunch of three large leeks and didn’t even bother to weigh them; I wouldn’t worry too much about having exactly a half-pound.

I didn’t have walnut oil so I used olive oil to mix with the kale. Walnut oil would probably add some flavor, but you don’t need to reject this recipe if you don’t have it.

You can keep the pureed soup in the refrigerator for a day or two before serving. Whisk the soup before you reheat it. (And when I made it, I didn’t bother to strain the soup because there didn’t seem to be any fibrous bits of turnip lurking in it — and it was fine!)

Ingredients:

1 Tbs. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 to 2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 lb. leeks (4 medium), white and light green part only, cleaned and sliced
1 lb.turnips, peeled and cut in wedges or diced
1/4 lb. potatoes, peeled and diced, or 1/4 cup medium-grain rice
6 cups water or vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
6 oz. curly kale, stemmed and washed
1 Tbs. walnut oil
1/3 cup (1-1/2 oz.) toasted walnuts, chopped (toast in a 350-degree oven for about 10 minutes, till fragrant; take care that they don’t get too brown)

Directions:

Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat and add the onion. Cook, stirring until tender, about 4 or 5 minutes.

Add the leeks and continue to cook, stirring, until they begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook, stirring, until the garlic smells fragrant, 30 seconds to one minute.

Add turnips, potatoes or rice, water or stock, bay leaf and salt, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer 45 minutes to an hour. The turnips should be very tender. Remove the bay leaf.

While the soup is simmering, blanch the kale in boiling, salted water until tender, 1-1/2 to mines, or steam for about 3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl of cold water, drain and squeeze out excess water. Slice the kale into thin slivers and toss with the walnut oil.

Using an immersion blender, or in batches in a regular blender, puree the soup. Strain the soup to remove any fibers from the turnip and return to the pot. Heat through, stirring, and season to taste with salt and  pepper.

Ladle into bowls and top each serving with a spoonful of greens and a sprinkling of walnuts.

Serves 4 to 6

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