Where do you get your best produce?
Last weekend, here, was yet another blistery one with winds gusting, making an already cold day, freezing. A day when most of us would rather curl up cozily under a wrap and stay home and sip on hot beverages.
Yet, the Grand Army Plaza farmers market was still in full force. I went in quest of vegetables for the week. I was cursing that I had to trudge through packed ice and snow for 20 minutes to get there. That it was freaking cold and I was muttering that this was all probably a wasted effort because the market probably isn't going to be there etc. etc., you know, moaning away in general. However, when I got there and saw rows of stands as they usually are with fresh produce, flowers, breads and everything, I instantly warmed up and felt pangs of remorse. After all, they trudged at least two hours in the early hours driving through icy roads to get there.
I was impressed. I admire their committment. I respect them for it and thank them for making my winter days warmer. There they were huddling in their coats, hands stuffed in pockets, stamping their feet in rhythm to stay warm. But, they were there. Sure as day!
This frosty winter brings to focus, the sense of eating seasonal ever more. One would think that given the harsh conditions, harvests must suffer. Actually, they don't.
, especially root vegetables, are naturally immunized to the cold. They thrive in them. So, as long as farmers can protect against seeping damp rotting vegetables both unpicked as well as stored, you are going to find a brilliant selection of them at the market.
As I walked around, I saw a glorious variety of potatoes, turnips, parsnips, carrots and beets. I genuinely love the mud that comes off the produce as I sift through them to find the ones that I want. As I was browsing around, content in knowing that, I am going to have soup later that day, I came upon a huge bag of assorted produce, tagged at $5. Yes, about 3 pounds of all those root vegetables that I mentioned in a bag for just that!
To say I was thrilled is an understatement. I genuinely think that the farmers markets in New York are priced affordable as is, but such finds are always a treasure! They were gnarled and some had bits of it chopped off but they were perfect for soup! And more.. like roast vegetable salad and making stock. Posts on those coming next.
Anyway, back home, it was only matter of peeling (save the peels!) and simmering with the mildest seasoning to bring joy to the palate. This soup is nothing but about the produce that goes in. The flavor comes from all the root vegetable, which, is why it is essential to pick the best you can get. Also, I use a ton of ginger and garlic. Not only do I love the flavor of slow cooked garlic but it is a natural immunity booster. Ginger is a warming spice and boosts the body's metabolism, helping you burn more and generate heat as well as the extra intake you inevitably have during this season. I find mine at the farmers market.
Winter Root Vegetable Soup
(makes a massive pot)
The color of the soup comes from what vegetable you put in. I added a fair bit of purple carrots and beets and got a reddish brown soup. If you want a lighter soup, then leave out the dark vegetables.
1 lb assorted root vegetables, diced (I used potatoes, parsnips, carrot, beets, turnips)
1 large onion, diced
5-6 cloves of garlic, crushed
1/2 inch chunk of ginger, crushed
2 tsp ground turmeric
2 tsp chili flakes
1 tsp fennel seeds
6 cups of water (you don't need vegetable stock since it is all vegetables. Also the trick I use when eyeballing is to cover the vegetables with water and then an inch more)
salt and pepper to taste
Toast the fennel seeds in olive oil and add the onion, garlic and ginger. Saute until they are soft. Add the turmeric and chili flakes and cook for a couple of minutes. Add all the diced vegetables and water, toss to coat.
Bring the mixture to a boil and then simmer on medium for 40 or so minutes, until all the vegetables are tender and the water has reduced to about half the original amount.
Puree the mixture to the require texture. If you find the soup too thick, add more water and heat through on the stove. If not, you can serve immediately with a touch of olive oil or cheese or chopped nuts.
The soup can be refrigerated unto 10 days and frozen for a month. It does thicken in the fridge from the starch of vegetables, so when you reheat add water and bring to a boil.