Prepare the cornbread. This may be done several days in advance. Preheat the oven to 450˚F with a 9-inch cast iron skillet inside. Add to the skillet and allow to liquefy:
We just took our winter clothes out of storage, and our apartment looks like it exploded. This is unsettling, mostly because I don't work well in messy environs. It's like having a persistent itch somewhere you can't scratch. This is also unsettling because I feel like we just got the place fairly organized and have taken a step backwards.
This is one of the many things that happens when you have to downsize. Another thing that happens is you wind up putting half your possessions in storage (a.k.a. a kind friend's house all the way across town). So you spend 30 minutes looking for a book you know you own, and the only conclusion you reach is that it must be in storage. Oh well.
This is one area of my life I wish was a bit more streamlined. The "stuff" area. The main sticking point is books, but getting rid of books is fraught with difficulties. At least for me. Also, I just can't get on the e-book bandwagon. I know lots of people love them, and it means you don't have to devote a room in your house (or apartment) to books. But for me, until they can replicate the feel and smell and experience of reading a book, I'm not in.
This has nothing to do with soup, as far as I can tell, but the changing weather around here (and the reason we took our winter clothes out of storage--hence the discussion about "stuff") has me thinking along the lines of soup.
Soup is great because it's a vehicle for almost anything. Vegetables, meat, beans, grains, and even fruit. If you have ingredients, you can make soup. Of course, there are better and worse soups, but soup is generally the cook's friend. As long as you keep some full-flavored stock on hand, you're golden.
In this case, I needed a tasty way to use up a variety of root vegetables I got at the farmer's market, and I've done roasted root vegetables one too many times already this season. I ended up with a velvety, flavorful soup that I topped with brown butter and smoked paprika. It may not look like much, but it's soothing and delicious, and it may indeed become my go-to soup of the season.
I used coconut milk here because I love it as a milk alternative in cooking. Feel free to substitute milk or cream, but I promise the soup doesn't taste like coconut. You could also toast spices in the brown butter for a flavor boost. I don't think the soup needs it, but toasted cumin and coriander are usually nice additions to something like this.
Preheat the oven to 375˚F. Combine in a large roasting pan:
1 celery root, trimmed, peeled, and cut into large chunks
2 russet potatoes (about 1 pound), peeled and cut into chunks
4 parsnips (about 1/2 pound), peeled and cut into chunks
4 tablespoons butter, cubed
1/4 cup dry vermouth or white wine
1/2 cup water or stock
1 bay leaf
Cover with a sheet of foil or a piece of parchment (there's no need to create an airtight seal here--you're just preventing the vegetables from drying out) and roast until very tender, about 35 to 40 minutes.
Transfer the vegetables to a pot and add:
2 cups stock or broth (homemade is preferable)
1 cup coconut milk
Bring the liquid to a boil, then remove from the heat and purée using an immersion blender or a regular blender. Season to taste with:
Salt and pepper (don't be shy--this soup needs plenty of salt)
To brown the butter, heat over medium heat in a small saucepan:
4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter
The butter will melt, then start to sputter. There's no need to stir--just let it do its thing. Within 5 minutes or so, you'll see the milk solids start to brown in the bottom of the saucepan. When the butter smells nutty and delicious, take it off the heat. Scrape the brown bits off the bottom of the pan and spoon the butter over individual servings of the soup. Top with: