Parsnips have earned a somewhat unfair reputation as stodgy winter fare. And while it’s true that they’re great roasted to a caramelized, burnished gold, they also lend themselves to lighter preparations that can even be enjoyed—perhaps even especially enjoyed—when it gets hot out and root vegetables are usually the last thing on your mind.
This chilled, silken parsnip soup has an incredible depth of flavor but it still falls squarely in the “things you can enjoy on a sweltering hot summer day” camp. It comes together quickly in just one pan, doesn’t have to cook for hours on the stove, and it pairs the earthy sweetness of parsnips with the lovely, tropical flavor of coconuts and lime—a lovely culinary magic trick that easily bridges the gap between the seasons.
The finishing touch on this simple dish is a garnish of quick-pickled rhubarb. The tanginess of the sunset-hued sections of rhubarb plays wonderfully against the nutty, zesty sweetness of the soup.
I particularly love eating this soup cold from a chilled bowl, but I should note that it also tastes delicious served piping hot on a cool fall day. So, try some now and then try some again when the temperature begins to dip—see which you like better. Or why choose? Put it in your regular rotation and make it whenever the mood strikes you—whatever the weather!
Chilled Parsnip-Coconut Soup with Lime and Pickled Rhubarb
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 large leeks, roots and dark green tops removed and tough outer layers removed and discarded (or saved for stock)
2 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
2–3 large parsnips, peeled, trimmed, and chopped into ½-inch pieces (about 1.5 lbs)
1 tsp thyme leaves, picked from stems and roughly chopped
1 quart chicken stock (or water)
Juice of 2 limes
Zest of 1 lime
1 14-oz can coconut milk
Salt and pepper to taste
2 ribs rhubarb, washed and trimmed
½ cup apple cider vinegar
3 tbsp water
½ tsp salt
1 tsp honey
Thyme leaves, picked off the stem
Coarse sea salt
Zest of 1 lime
First, clean the leeks by cutting them into quarters lengthwise to within an inch of their bases, so that they stay attached—much like a brush.
Rinse them under cool running water, separating the layers with your fingers to allow the water to run between them and rinse out any grit. Make sure that they are absolutely free of any traces of dirt before proceeding with the recipe. Even a little bit will ruin the texture of the soup and make it quite unpalatable.
Roughly chop the leeks crosswise.
Place a large saucepan over medium-high heat and add the butter to it.
When the butter has melted and has stopped actively sputtering, add the chopped leeks to the pan along with a pinch of salt.
Cook for 5 minutes or so, stirring often, or until the leeks are glossy, limp, and aromatic.
Add the sliced garlic and chopped thyme and cook for 5 minutes more, taking care not to let the garlic or onions burn. If at any point it looks like the onions or garlic are beginning to stick to the pan, add a splash of water to the pan.
Add the chopped parsnips to the pan along with half a cup of water. Turn the heat down to low, cover the pan with a tight-fitting lid and let cook over low heat for 7–10 minutes.
When the parsnips are just tender to the tip of a small paring knife, add the stock to the pan, stir to blend all the ingredients, and turn the heat up to high.
When the soup comes to a boil, turn the heat back down to medium and let cook for 10–15 minutes longer to allow the flavors to really meld.
Turn off the heat. Set the pan aside and allow the soup to cool for 10–15 minutes.
While the soup is cooling, prepare the rhubarb pickle by slicing the rhubarb into coin-sized cross sections as thin as you can make them.
In a small stainless-steel or glass bowl, mix together the vinegar, sugar, salt, and honey. Stir to dissolve the honey and salt.
Tip the sliced rhubarb into the pickling liquid. Make sure that all the rhubarb is submerged before setting aside for at least an hour or overnight.
When the soup has cooled down a little bit, you can start blending it.
Ladle the soup into a blender jar, making sure not to fill the jar more than three-fourths full. Blend in batches if need be.
Blend the soup on high speed until it is completely smooth. Add the coconut milk to the last batch, blending so that the coconut milk and the soup are well combined.
Combine all the batches of soup, along with the batch with the coconut milk, in a large nonreactive bowl or Tupperware container. The soup should be the consistency of heavy cream. Add more water to the mixture if need be to thin it out.
Add the lime juice and zest and taste for seasoning. Add more salt or lime juice as needed.
Let the soup chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour, though preferably overnight.
When you’re ready to serve, use a whisk to loosen up the soup, which will have thickened in the fridge. Add some chilled water to the mixture if need be to bring it back to a creamy, pourable consistency. Taste for salt once again before serving and adjust as needed. Salt can be harder to taste in cold foods, so you want to make sure you’re happy with the seasoning when the soup comes out of the fridge.
Drain the pickled rhubarb and pat the slices dry with paper towels.
Ladle the soup into chilled bowls, scatter with the slices of pickled rhubarb, lime zest, coarse salt, and thyme.
Serve while still perfectly chilled.