You probably think I’m crazy. Salsify is a food photographer’s worst nightmare. Why would I ever choose something so ugly for my blog? I have to throw out my usual hashtags of #foodporn and #veggieofthegods in place of #eatmuddysticks.If you’ve ever seen salsify at the farmers market or a specialty produce store, you probably walked right by thinking they were literally the sticks they used to dig up the real root vegetables like carrots and beets. Or perhaps you thought they were parsnips that they found at the bottom of a compost heap. So why, you ask, do I bring you a recipe for these muddy sticks instead of all the glorious fall veggies at our fingertips?
Well, reason one is because this blog is about creating yummy recipes for exotic produce, not your run-of-the-mill butternut squash. But reason two — the far better reason — is because salsify is delicious! If you get over the fact that they look like decomposed witch fingers, they are actually pearly white inside and oh so yummy. They have an earthy taste a bit like artichokes crossed with parsnip, and can be used any way you would eat other root veggies — mashed, scalloped, fried, or in soups (my favorite fall treat).If you need more convincing, here are its nutritional highlights: it beats bananas in potassium, beats almost everything in inulin (a super-special fiber that acts as a prebiotic to keep your gut healthy), is a good source of protein, iron and copper, and has some C and B vitamins to boot.I served this to my family on a beautiful fall day in Sonoma County and we sat around all conjuring up theories on salsify’s origins and relatives (my research now indicates we were waaaaay off). Turns out that salsify is in the dandelion family (if you’ve ever pulled up a giant dandelion with a big, onerous taproot from your garden, it’s not hard to see the relation). Black salsify, like the one I use in this soup, was first cultivated in Spain which is why this variety is also called Spanish Salsify and was apparently popular in the 1500’s because it was thought to ward off the plague (about as kooky a theory as not bathing to ward of the plague). Whether this will protect you from the plague next time you go to Yosemite or not, this is a wonderful, mild soup for a fall day. I hope you enjoy the balance of flavors the ingredients afford: the green apple gives it a hint of sweetness, the splash of vermouth brightens up the earthy flavor of the salsify, and the crispy salsify chips give it the bit of crunch that takes any pureed soup to the gourmet level.
BTW, if you can’t find salsify, go aheaed and give the recipe a try using parsnip — I’m sure it would be delicious!
Splendiferous Salsify Soup with Salsify Chips
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil or butter
- 1 large white onion, peeled and diced
- 3 celery stalks, chopped
- 4 salsifies, peeled and chopped, plus 1 salsify with the peel on for the chips
- 1 potato, peeled and chopped
- 1 green apple, peeled, seeded and chopped
- 40 oz vegetable stock
- 1 splash of dry vermouth (or dry sherry)
- 1/2 cup cream
- Salt and freshly cracked pepper to taste
Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and sauté for 5-10 minutes until onion softens but does not brown. Add the celery and sauté another 2-3 minutes. Add the chopped salsify, potato, apple and sauté for 5 minutes until vegetables begin to soften. Pour in the vegetable stock and vermouth and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer on low for 30 minutes.
While the soup simmers you can make the salsify chips. Wash and scrub the salsify and dry with a towel. Slice very finely into thin chips. Heat some cooking oil in a small pan over medium-high heat. Drop in the salsify chips and deep fry until they begin to get a bit wavy and toasted. Remove with a slotted spoon and lay them out on a paper towel to cool slightly and harden.
Next, pureé the soup until very smooth. Stir in the cream/half & half. Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and freshly cracked pepper. If you prefer your soup thinner you can add more stock. Serve hot and topped with salsify chips.