Parsnips and Apples Soup, a Sweeter Fare for Meatless Fridays

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

.

I love apples! Seriously. Love them almost more than chocolate. Biting into a warm, crisp, just picked apple in autumn is only one step away from doing the same in summer with tomatoes.

Living in Michigan, where apple production ranks number three in the States, the harvest of this fruit peaks in late September through early October. There are so many apples to choose from that I would have a great time every week at the farm markets buying mixed bags. I’ve long since given up storing a bushel of apples through the winter, buying instead a few specialty varieties each week.

Apples are wonderful to teach the youngest of children about our faith. When you cut an apple in half along the equatorial plane, the cross section in the core looks like a star; the five-pointed Epiphany Star. The five seeds inside the five-pointed star stand for the five wounds of Christ.

Children love stars, and while stars are not traditionally associated with the Lenten season, there is a weekly program for children, six and up, called The Seven Stars of Lent. This worship resource helps to prepare children’s’ hearts to celebrate the Resurrection of Christ.

A second apple story used to teach about the Trinity is cut an apple in half from top to bottom and note the three parts: skin, meat and seeds. The outer skin represents the Father who encompasses all, Jesus is the meat of the fruit that feeds us, and the seeds are the Holy Spirit that when planted, will bring new life. An apple wouldn’t be an apple if any one of these elements was missing; so, too, with the Trinity.

Now, since you’re cutting up all those apples for educational purposes, how about a recipe! This is a savory and sweet soup more for the adult pallet; try cutting the spices by half for kids.

Parsnip and Apple Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup chopped sweet onion (Vidalia is best)

2 1/2 cups (about a pound) peeled and chopped Pink Lady apples (or any slightly tart apple is fine—Granny Smiths are too sour!)

1 tablespoon curry powder

1 1/2 teaspoons grated peeled fresh ginger or 1/2 teaspoon dry

3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

3 1/2 cups (about 1 1/2 pounds) chopped peeled parsnip

1 clove garlic finely chopped

4 cups chicken broth

1 cup apple cider (don’t use apple juice)

1/4 teaspoon salt (optional)

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Sour cream dollops when serving

In a stock pot, sauté onions in oil until tender. Add apples, curry, ginger, and cardamom.  Simmer for about a minute to dissolve spices, stirring constantly. Add broth, parsnips, garlic, and cider. Cover and simmer for about 30 minutes or until parsnips are tender. CAREFULLY blend soup until smooth using a blender (or use an immersion blender). Serve with sour cream.

A side note here, I like to use oven roasted parsnips. They tend to be sweeter and lend a fuller flavor to the soup. Of course, your stove-top cooking time will be reduced.

Photo morguefile.com, by marybaird.

A Childhood with Oxtail Soup

.

As a child, my first memory of a soup is Oxtail. Not so much for its flavor—though it is delicious—but for the adventure at my grandmother’s side. [Skip to end for recipe.}

In late winter, after Christmas and before Lent, I would often spend a weekend at my maternal grandparents’ house. I delighted in the quietness and solitude that their home afforded.

When I was too small to help prepare foods, I would sit at grandma’s side on the bench to the kitchen table and chatter as she sliced and diced. My job was to carefully scoop up the prepared veggies with my pudgy hands and dump them in the fluted glass custard bowls. So much did I hunger for grandmother’s love that even when she chopped the onions I would not move away, no matter how much the stinging created tears.

Often, early in the morning before she even began preparing the vegetables for soup, we would hop in her brown and white Fairlane and head for the local butcher’s. Walking through the shop door next to my grandmother, I would feel slightly nauseated by the strong feculent scent and visual display of raw bloodied meats. My dizziness was exacerbated by the whirring heat venting out from under the glass cases as I stood in my snowsuit.

This particular butcher’s shop fed the ethnic appetites of the surrounding communities just outside Detroit. It was a time when religious affiliations mattered little and moral values spoke volumes. His display of goods was not nearly as polite as the governmentally regulated meat counters we see today. Besides the usual wurst’s, burger, and chops, I would stare at rows of blue-grey tongues of beef, plump veined mountain oysters, puddles of purple bloodied livers in silver trays, wrinkled kidneys and tripe, sinewy pig’s feet, and whole plucked chickens. There were other pieces of animal anatomy available for purchase, though I never ventured that far down the display case, staying instead near my grandmother’s side.

Grandma could ask for any number of meat items, but for this soup she would ask for eight joints high on the tail—“they are meatier you know” she would say to no one in particular. The butcher would nod and then disappear through double white doors. After a few minutes and multiple hard whacks he’d return with several joints on a reddish-brown sheet for grandmother to inspect. Her approval resulted in the bundle being wrapped in white paper and tied with string. If the butcher shop was not too busy, I would often get my own little trussed bundle.

Upon returning home she would set about preparing the vegetables with me dutifully at her side. Once the slicing and dicing was completed, she would pull out a large brushed aluminum stock pot, the bottom darkened with use, and, setting it on the back unit, would tip it to one side as she lit the burner with a wooden match. Adding the stock that had been thawed the night before, she would set about cooking our supper.

This recipe tastes very much the same as when my grandmother would make it. Oxtails in the 1950s were considered marginal foods and very inexpensive. Today they cost almost as much as sirloin. Though expensive, try to use them rather than stewing beef, for they add a unique flavor to the soup that cannot be duplicated.

Oxtail Soup

64 oz. beef stock (8-10 cups): Use homemade, prepackaged, or (my favorite) paste dissolved in water. Bouillon cubes may be used but they make the broth excessively salty and often bitter.

6-8 beef tail joints

½ large sweet onion, about a cup, diced and divided in half

2 celery stalks with leaves, diced

1 large carrot (unpeeled), diced

3 whole cloves or ¼ tsp. ground

½ tsp. salt (omit if using paste or bouillon)

¼ tsp. allspice (up to ½ tsp. to desired taste)

1/8 tsp. ground bay leaf

1-12 oz. can diced tomatoes, or better yet, home canned or frozen tomatoes

1-12 oz. can tomato juice, or 2 small 5.5 oz. cans

½ c. dry pearl barley, for thicker soup use up to 1 c.

1-10 oz. bag frozen peas and carrots or ¾ c. each fresh, do not use peas in pods.

Place stock in large soup pot; add beef tail joints, celery, carrot, and ½ of diced onion. Bring to boil, turn down heat and simmer until meat is tender, about two hours. Remove joints to cool. Meanwhile, puree stock. Remove meat from joints, discard bone and return meat to soup. Add remaining ingredients, bring to a low boil and simmer until barley is tender–about 20-30 minutes.

Leftover soup thickens; use tomato juice, white wine, or beef broth to thin, do NOT use water.

I rarely use the salt suggested in this recipe because of the sodium content in store-bought stocks and tomato juice. You can add fresh ground pepper to the soup when serving if desired, but avoid adding it to the soup when it is cooking. The pepper when added during cooking seems to dull the flavor of the allspice and cloves.

A brown rice mix can be substituted if you don’t like the nutty taste or chewy texture of barley. I have also used wild rice and loved it! Allow wild rice to cook for 30 minutes after you puree the soup and before you return the meat to the pot.

Image from Wikimedia.org, public domain, Stillleben mit Deckelterrine, brauner Tonschale, Brot und Weinglas. Öl auf Leinwand, 18th century.

A Winter’s Soup

.

As an avid vegetable gardener I have often kept a root cellar, or something similar, for storing harvested produce. In one house it was literally a hand dug portion of the basements exposed to tree roots and in another a field-stone basement. Putting food by just seems like a natural progression for those of us who celebrate life with soil between our hands.

At one time I lived in an old farm house on a double lot. My vegetable patch wasn’t very big, although it sure felt like twenty acres come harvest time. Many of my homegrown root vegetables—potatoes, carrots, parsnips, garlic and onions—would be set for storage in a cool dark corner of the basement.

In this farm house, I’d head down the back kitchen stairs into the Michigan basement—hand dug, dirt floor, fieldstone walls—and from inside the cellar, unlock the bulk-head doors over the cement steps that lead outside. I could then carry into the basement directly from the gardens bins and bags of barely cleaned root vegetables for storage.

A lot of these old fieldstone basements were formed with a ledge about four feet up. I’m not sure why, but thank the Good Lord for a perfect place to set the produce. The overhead beams were old and as hard as the stones, so twine was threaded between them and the up-stairs floor-boards to hang the garlic and onions; the herbs went into the attic. Once everything was hauled into place, the mouse traps would be set. Michigan basements are known for harboring the neighborhood mouse population.

There was also a fair amount of tomato canning that took place. That is until I got the upright freezer and stopped the boiling-pots-in-August insanity. I never made sauces with the tomatoes after that, preferring to freezer-pack them fresh and often unpeeled. When they thawed out, the skins just slipped off and the added flavor from them was worth the mess.

Feeling a bit out of sorts as the dark days of winter wore on, I would often look through cookbooks and old magazines for meal options. The publications from the Christmas season always showed fancy foods and fabulous families, neither of which were part of my world. The days were dark, and I was feeling much like the produce in the basement waiting for purposefulness.

I needed to do something, I needed to share. I had no idea who would be the recipient of the food I was fixing to cook, but I knew the Holy Spirit would make a suggestion.

I had a fair amount of pot roast left from the previous night’s dinner. To this day, I still haven’t figured out how to make a small roast! I decided that this would be the protein I needed in a soup. I grabbed a stock pot from under the sink and headed to the basement with my old black lab slowly following me down the steep stairs.

Loaded with the produce I would need, back up to the kitchen I went. The pot was so heavy that I plopped it down every other step until I got to the linoleum. Up and onto the counter it went, and out the veggies came into the sink that I now started to fill with cold water.

I had a sweet potato in the fridge; one of the magazine recipes had used sweet potatoes instead of white ones in a stew. It sounded like a nice note to add, so I pulled that out along with the meat, celery and seasonings.

With the wooden handled veggie brush, a Fuller Brush housewarming gift from long ago, I scrubbed the skins of the potatoes and carrots. Peeling the parsnips and store bought rutabaga; I set them all together on the over-sized walnut cutting board next to the cabbage.

Having already rinsed the kettle and set it on the stove to dry, I dumped in the stock and lit the burner and donning my apron, albeit a little late, I set about combining the soup. This recipe has fewer servings than the first over-excited-to-share version.

Winter Roots Beef Soup

6 cups beef broth (avoid cubes of bouillon, they give the root veggies an odd saltiness though bouillon paste works fine)

½ to 1 lb. leftover beef roast, diced

1 large potato diced, peeled if the skin is tough

1 medium sweet potato, peeled and diced

2 carrots, peeled and diced

½ rutabaga, peeled and diced

2 parsnips, peeled and diced

¼ head red cabbage (or green) shredded

14-16 oz. diced tomatoes, frozen or canned

2 stalks celery, diced

2 large cloves garlic, minced

¼ -½ sweet onion, finely sliced and then cut slices in half

¼ tsp. celery seed

¼ tsp. thyme

1 tbl. parsley flakes, or ¼ c. fresh parsley, diced

Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Literally, dump all of it together into a stock pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and cook until potatoes are tender. Serve.

This is a hearty soup with a rich beefy flavor. You can use leftover turkey breast (only!) or chicken by switch the broth to 3 c. vegetable and 3 c. beef. Realize that using chicken or turkey stock changes the taste significantly, and not for the better in my opinion. Leftover pork does not work well at all.

I often freeze leftover roasts in anticipation of making this soup knowing that I can easily double or triple the ingredients. But be mindful of the herbs and seasoning if tripling. Double them first, and then after simmering a while, taste to see if want to add more.

Acts 14:17 …yet he did not leave himself without witness, for he did good and gave you from heaven rains and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness.

Image Morguefile.com.

Mother Mary Would Love this Blueberry Pie!

.

Summer celebrations are great fun! The weather is usually perfect for outdoor gatherings with foods made fresh from whatever is in abundance.

Here in Michigan, from June-September, the blueberries are in—big and plump and full of flavor. No more of the little half-pint containers trucked-in from states far, far away. Nope. For eight to ten weeks 2 lb. cartons show up at the market, and the berries find their way into just about everything, from breakfasts to sauces at dinner.

The harvest is at its peak by mid-August, about the time of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary. My tradition for this holy day is to bake something special—don’t all celebrations need a special treat?—using blueberries, of course.

This year I offer you a favorite pie, made only in mid-summer when the blueberries are most flavorful and their skins, being fresh,  are still thin.

Blueberry and Sour Cream Pie

9” pie shell, unbaked (Yes, I buy mine)

Filling:

1 c. sour cream

1 egg beaten

1 tsp. corn starch

2 tbl. flour

¼ tsp. salt

1 ¼ c.sugar

1 tsp. vanilla

3-3 1/2 c. fresh blueberries

Topping: using a fork, mix together and refrigerate while pie bakes

2 tbl. sugar

3 tbl. flour

3 tbl. soft butter (the real stuff!)

3-4 tbl. chopped walnuts, can substitute with pecans or almonds

Preheat oven to 400º

Press out crust into a deep 9” pie pan. (HINT: To be sure the pan will hold ALL of the ingredients, measure our 4 ½ c. of water and pour it in the pie pan. If it holds the water, the pan is big enough.)

Combine the first seven ingredients and mix on low for about 3-4 minutes. The mixture should be smooth and creamy. Gently fold in the blueberries and pour in to pie shell. Bake for 40-45 minutes (the center should be set, not soupy).

Remove from oven and sprinkle topping—which will be kind of sticky—on pie. Place it back in the oven and bake another 15-20 minutes, until topping browns.

Cool completely on a rack so filling sets. And don’t be bummed that, like most pies, it shrinks down when cooled.

Serves 8 (Ha! Usually)

This pie is tender and flavorful and best served  without whipped cream or ice cream on top…but then again, ice cream on the side is always welcomed!

Images Pixabay.com, CCO Creative Commons.

Cucumber Recipes for the August Garden

cropped cucumber bud 762ae36b2d07c81606229e9c7c890e65It’s August and in Central Michigan the farmers’ markets are in full swing. There are family reunions taking place and end of summer gatherings held at a moments notice.

Its also time to pick up speed harvesting the veggie patch. I’ve tried to keep my garden under control with only one or two plantings of a vegetable type, and still there is plenty to give neighbors or donate to food shares—I’ve watered a lot during this year’s drought, so there’s that adding to the abundance.

The tomatoes are still green (there will be a lot of them ripening all at once!) but the Straight Eights cucumbers are freakishly productive—unwittingly I planted three hills. With a bumper crop coming on faster than I can give them away, I made a couple of my favorite cucumber recipes. Thought you might enjoy them too!

This cucumber salad is a single person’s size, but can be double or triple as needed. Keep in mind it only keeps for 24 hours and then separates becoming watery…cucumbers are like that, you know.

Creamy Cucumber Salad

1 large cucumber, peeled, thinly sliced, sprinkled with 1 tsp. table salt and set aside for 30 minutes, then drained

COMBINE:

½ cup sour cream

4 tsp. cider vinegar

2 tbl. fresh chives (or 1 tbl. green onion tops diced)

1 tsp. dried dill weed

1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper

Pour sour cream mix over cucumbers and gently mix. Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Serve.

This next recipe is a quick salad, and my favorite! Though the measurements are flexible, it always comes out perfectly fine: two parts sour cream to one part mayo. It too separates, though because it lacks vinegar not quite as bad. I’ve eaten it up to three days out by just draining the water off the top.

Dilled Cucumbers in Sour Cream

2 medium cucumbers, peeled, thinly sliced

COMBINE:

1 cup (small tub) sour cream

1/3 cup mayonnaise (not salad dressing!)

2 tbl. dill weed (for each additional cup of sour cream/mayo, add another tablespoon)

The following recipe will keep for a week! I highly doubt these addictive little crunchers will last that long. I love the crispiness of the cucumbers and the cooling flavor of this salad.

Pickled Cucumber Salad

3 medium cucumbers, skin on, thinly sliced

½ Vidalia onion, thinly sliced

3 tbl. fresh minced dill (or parsley), up to 1/3 cup if desired

COMBINE: Mix until sugar is dissolved

½ cup white vinegar

1 cup sugar

¾ cup water

½ tsp. table salt

In a 2-quart, sealable glass container toss onions and cucumbers with dill. Pour liquid on top, cover and let set for 24 hours (well, okay, 10 hours if you want them with dinner).

This recipe takes more time, but is well worth the effort. A familiar summer-time fare in my kitchen.

Gazpacho

2 cups cucumber, peeled and chopped

3 lbs, approximately 6 cups, chopped tomatoes

32 oz. tomato juice

1 ½ cup green bell pepper, chopped

1 ¼ cup Vidalia sweet onion, finely diced

1 cup celery, finely diced

3 large garlic cloves, minced

1 tbl. rice vinegar

1 tbl. cider vinegar

1 tbl. balsamic vinegar

¼ tsp. dried basil

¾ tsp. table salt

½ tsp. fresh ground pepper

½ tsp. hot sauce

Combine all ingredients, cover and chill for 4 hours. Yields 8-12 servings.

I have often substituted home canned or frozen tomatoes for fresh, but then reduced the juice by 8 oz. The vinegar combinations can be whatever you have on hand, except for white vinegar which is too harsh for this recipe. It is a nice change of taste to use red bell peppers, or English cucumbers with their skins on.

I hope you enjoy these recipes. May God bless you with enough to share.

Image by svklimkin, morguefile.com.

 

Stay in touch! Like The Catholic Garden, Morning Rose Prayer Gardens’ page on Facebook: