November 09, 2011

Sunbreaks, parsnips and celery root; Cookbook winner

Parsnips and celery root

There is a weather phenomenon here called a "sunbreak." Deep down in my heart, I'm pretty convinced you can't really, truly understand what a Seattle sunbreak is unless you live here. I can try to explain, but you won't really get it; I never did on the multiple times I visited. I thought I understood, but it's so peculiar that it's unlike anything one would normally think of as a sunbreak, and only after living here do I now see the light, so to speak.

For much, (most?), of the year, the weather is gloomy, drippy, damp, dark, overcast, or just plain raining. The forecast might say "cloudy with rain," or "cloudy with increasing rain," or maybe on good days "cloudy with decreasing rain." On the best days, the forecast might say "cloudy with sunbreaks." I will try to explain. Picture a gloomy, totally overcast sky. You can't see clouds, you can't see the sun, it's grey and damp and the ground is wet. It looks like it will surely rain, though I've learned that a grey sky doesn't necessarily mean rain. Sometimes there's a faint drizzle that's kind of like a mist that can't be felt but makes everything wet.


Then, suddenly, the sky clears and turns blue, The sun emerges and shines warm and bright, and though the ground may stay wet, it appears to be a perfectly beautiful, sunny day. This may last one minute, or five, or maybe even an hour. Then, as suddenly as it appeared, the lovely weather is gone, and the day returns to its previous grey and glum condition. This may happen once, or several times during the day, without warning, and if you're not quick, you may miss it. That's a sunbreak.


During the winter, I think soup is kind of like a sunbreak. It's warm and bright, and for a short period of time, it fills the air with fragrance, and makes you smile. And you can make it happen whenever you want, unlike an atmospheric sunbreak! Last year around this time, I recreated a soup I'd enjoyed at a local restaurant, and I've been meaning to embellish that soup ever since.

Now that parsnips and celeriac are in season at the farmers market, I created a little sunbreak in my kitchen with a steaming bowl of parsnip soup. This time I've added celery root for depth, and a carrot for a tint of color. Red pepper and fresh ground black pepper are the topping. Sriracha also pairs beautifully with this soup.

The soup is thick, velvety and comforting, and when made in a pressure cooker, is very quick to make. I used three or four parsnips, two carrots, a large potato and a small celery root. Celery root, or celariac, is one of the most unpretty vegetables around. It's beige, bulbous, weird and delicious, with a pronounced celery flavor. It can be eaten raw or cooked, and my favorite way to enjoy it is sliced and roasted, though it's also great in soups and stews. It's too tough to peel, so I use a sharp knife to slice off the outer part and the gnarly bottom before cutting it into the shapes I need for cooking. Celeriac is a good source of vitamin K, a very good source of fiber, a good source of Vitamin C and phosphorus, and a fair source of potassium. It is low in starch.

Here's the approximate recipe:

Mellow parsnip and celery root soup (serves four generously)
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 1 to 1-1/2 teaspoons coarse salt (or more to taste)
  • 3 to 4 (or so) parsnips, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 medium organic potato, scrubbed and cut into 3/4-inch cubes
  • 1 celery root about 3 to 4 inches in diameter, cubed same as potato
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 2 to 4 large cloves garlic, peeled and cut in half
  • 4 cups water
  • 2 tablespoons tahini
  • about 2 cups low sodium vegetable broth (more for thinner soup)
  • fresh ground pepper
  • garnish (red pepper flakes, cracked black pepper, sriracha, chopped green onion — your choice
  1. In a five quart pressure cooker, warm the oil a little and add the cumin seeds. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the seeds become fragrant and start to sizzle, about four minutes.Be careful not to burn them.
  2. Add the coriander and salt and stir.
  3. Quickly add the parsnips, potatoes, celery and garlic, and carrot, and stir to coat the vegetables.
  4. Add the water and bring to pressure. Cook five minutes at pressure. Bring the pressure down and open the pot. (In a conventional pot, cut the veggies into small pieces and cook in the water until tender.)
  5. Add the tahini. With an immersion blender, blend until completely smooth and creamy, adding vegetable broth as needed to achieve your preferred texture. The soup should be pretty thick and creamy. (To use a regular blender, blend a small amount at a time, until all the soup is blended.)
  6. Taste for seasonings.
  7. Place in bowls and add a garnish of your choice.

This recipe is entered in the Sweet or Savory Kitchen Challenge.


Rabbit Food Cookbook winner

I said I'd use the random number generator to pick a winner of the Rabbit Food Cookbook last Friday, and I did. Though it's taken me until today to announce it, I did inform the winner, Radioactive vegan, over the weekend. She's accepted the prize and the book is on it's way to her. Thanks to everyone who entered and left a comment.


  1. Am I crazy for getting a little teary when you describe what I least liked about Seattle? The grey weather. I just miss everything about Seattle, greyness and all. Although this has been my sunniest November in a long time. When the sun broke my students used to run for the window and we'd usually call a special recess if it was in the afternoon on a day in the rainy season. They are pretty rare. The soup looks good. I'll see if I can gets my hands on some of those veggie.s

  2. That is such a lovely, bittersweet story about Seattle. You really took me there. Oddly enough, it reminds me of living in Southern California, but for the opposite reason. While it can be rainy in the winter months, once it hits April, that ends. Then there are months and months of the same cloudless skies. While I miss those endless sunny months now, when I lived in LA it would get to September, and I would crave a cool, rainy day that invites you to cuddle up in cozy clothes. Every once in a while in those late summer months there would be a drop of rain on the windshield. It would sometimes last seconds, at most a minute or two, but when it did I'd want to jump out of the traffic as soon as I could to go dance in the rain. Of course, by then it was done.

  3. I've never had a parsnip! I've always wondered what to do with those albino carrots :)

  4. Oh lovely sounding soup! I can't remember if it is you or Rose who said you loved celeriac most of all root vegetables but I'm glad to see a recipe using one. This looks great with the spices scattered on top. The weather here has been surprisingly nice so no soup as yet, but definitely will be making this soon.

  5. Oh's really not that bad. :) Just wait till you start growing moss behind the ears and webbed feet...then you'll really enjoy the Seattle climate like us natives! I'm telling you, growing up here, playing out in the rain everyday (well we did in the 70's), you develop a certain appreciation for this moist dreary place! :D (I might show you my webbed feet on Sunday.) Is anyone else feeling the effects of the full moon today as much as I am?

    Anyway, the soup looks so creamy and flavorful..definitely worthy of sun break stature. I love the pepper adorning the top and all the pics are absolutely stunning! Perfect recipe for this time of year!

  6. I am fond of grey but not as a sky. I feel yukky enough during Daylight Savings extremes can be scary, but I feel better just knowing there are delicious thick soups out there like this one :)

  7. Bitt,
    You're not the least bit crazy. I know just how you feel. It's hard, hard, hard to leave everything you love behind, and move to a new place. I think it takes at least two years to begin to appreciate your new home. And if the place you left was really great, and filled with wonderful memories, it can be hard to believe the new home will ever measure up.

    Interesting comparison. I guess it's variety we crave more than sunlight or rain!

    Time's a wasting! Get to a farmers market and grab yourself some parsnips. :D And check out Choosing Raw, and Diet Desert and Dogs, for ideas on using raw parsnips to make sushi!

    Well I can't remember either, but I do love celeriac, especially roasted with a spritz of olive oil and tamari.

    Now, now. I didn't actually SAY it was bad, I just described the way it is. It is what it is. And look how you've called the weather "moist and dreary." Ha! Thanks for the photo comment — it's kind of hard to use natural light once the rains begin, but I try. :D I woke up with a headache — is that from the moon? Can't wait to meet you!

    Right. Now it's not only grey all day, but the day ends practically as soon as it begins.

  8. Beautiful root veggies, and such an elegant way to combine them. Good soups are definitely what makes winter bearable, so I'm always happy to see new and delicious ideas.

  9. What a nice post, and your pictures are lovely! Parsnip and celeriac do sound like a tasty combination. I live in a sunny land and we natives handle overcast skies very badly--more than two days and we're all creeping around crushed by depression, crabby, miserable. It's overcast now...

  10. I'm jealous that you and Rose are getting together on Sunday! I want to meet you guys too, you know. Anyhow, I love the pics too. When I remember to use natural light, it's usually too late in the day, or you can see some of my pics have big shadows cast along them. I guess that's okay too. The only time I've used celery root was when we had rabbits. I'd just stick the whole bulb in their hutch, and they'd go crazy over gnawing on it. I'm sure I'd love it, too, though, because I always eat as close to the trimmed off root of the celery stalk as possible. Love that taste.

  11. Hannah,
    Thank you. It's funny how unattractive celeriac and parsnips are, but how richly delicious!

    Thanks! It's sunny here today, go figure. You live in a sunny place, and for that you're fortunate, but what about the seemingly endless cold and snow? I suppose we all have trade-offs, and it's learning to appreciate the good parts that gives us contentment.

    Not just us — we're having a Seattle vegan blogger meetup, and I wish you could come!

    Most of the time I have to use supplementary light since I shoot so often at night. The soup photos are night shots, but I took the others in late afternoon.

    My kids hated celery root (they hated all "white things" in the vegetable kingdom) but it's so delicious, you should try slicing and roasting some.

  12. I think I can relate. I lived in Portland for a time :-)
    Your soup looks so comforting...I'll have to try something like it. xo Aimee

  13. I love the way you described the sunbreak. I always wondered if Seattle was as rainy as everyone said.
    I've never had a parsnip. I've been wanting to give them a try though. Your soup is so beautiful and sounds perfect for these colder days.

  14. Aimee,
    Portland is similar, for sure. And damp, cool weather requires lots of soup!

    Parsnips aren't the most glamorous of veggies, but they add a nice flavor to soups and stews. You should give them a try.

  15. ah, this was nice to read. I've experienced a Seattle sunbreak, and they do really feel incredible. Out of nowhere, that warm happy sunshine... and then it's gone.. and then it's back... and then... who knows. :D

    The soup sounds lovely. We made a very similar soup yesterday. Parsnips deserve more love!

  16. I must say, I really enjoyed reading your essay on Seattle's notorious weather, and learning about sunbreaks (and think Rose should work for Seattle's Tourism council, lol). I know Seattle is green and beautiful and has all kinds of things going for it, but I'm afraid I like a lot more variety in my weather (and definitely a lot more sunshine!)

    I love your metaphor of soup being like sunbreaks. Maybe you should name your parsnip soup "Sunbreak Soup!" :-) I've never had parsnip soup (just parsnips IN soup, in a very minor role), but this sounds really good.

    I'm so excited about you and Rose finally getting a chance to meet! Have a wonderful time at the vegan meetup - I think we'd all love to be joining you!

  17. It's clear, I could never (ever ever) live in Seattle. We have days like that, where it's gray and then suddenly sunny and then gray--but those are the anomalies, between the normally brilliantly sunny days, even in winter! (in fact, the brilliant sunshine is the only thing that makes winter bearable here). But the soup--ah, the soup! Fabulous. Must-try. Glorious. Brilliant. ;) I DO hope you will submit this to our SOS Challenge this month--the ingredient is PARSNIPS!

  18. MeShell,
    Parsnips aren't the most popular of vegetables, are they? I admit I never would have made the soup if I hadn't had a delicious version in a restaurant.

    You did notice how Rose called the city moist and dreary — even when saying nice things about it, it's hard to describe it in "endearing" terms. The summer is quite sunny — usually — though last summer was apparently not typical. September was beautiful. When you come to visit, you'll see. One nice thing I should mention is that there are flowers that bloom here even during February, and the grass is green all winter. (At least I think it is.)

    I'm living here, and I feel the same way as you about sunshine — it made the cold, long, snowy Wisconsin winter almost pleasant at times. Sunbreaks are not the same. It is milder here, as far as temperature goes, but the dampness can get tiresome. And it's weird but interesting to see moss growing on sidewalks.

    I'll try to get organized enough to submit the soup, but no promises.

  19. How funny that your kids hated all white veggies. Kids are too funny. When I see some celery root at the farmer's market, I'll grab some to roast.

  20. Oh, how fun that you're getting together at the meet-up. I wouldn't have known what to do with celeriac or even what it was. In fact, I was looking for parsnips the other day and thought I knew what I was looking for but not quite sure. But they didn't have any. Thanks for the lesson.

  21. Blessedmama,
    They did. Even when I cut them so small that the pieces dissolved in soup, they'd still know. It was frustrating since I think "white things" taste good. :D

    Yes, I'm looking forward to the meetup, which will be at my house. Some of the bloggers have gotten together before, but I couldn't attend.

    If you like roasted veggies, try roasting parsnips and celery root. It really brings out the sweetness.

  22. That is some pretty badass soup there.


  23. The one time I was in Seattle was during the summer when it actually was sunny. Loved your description of a sunbreak and the soup indeed looks just like a bit of sunshine from the kitchen. :-)

  24. Andrea, this soup looks great. I'm going to check at my neighboring town's farmer's market this weekend to see if they have any parsnips or celeriac! Unfortunately, it's the last market of the year :-(

    AND, you are officially on my blog roll, yay!

    Vegan Fazool blog

  25. Oooh, great recipe. I love parsnips!

  26. Evolve,
    We think it's pretty great.

    Chow vegan,
    Summer is definitely the best time to visit Seattle, unless you're partial to gloom and rain. I had a co-worker who was happiest when it rained, and I still wonder if his opinion would change if he lived here.

    Thanks for including me on your blog roll. I sure hope you can find celeriac — it's a favorite of mine. It's cool that we have farmers markets in Seattle that go all year, but honestly, sometimes the weather is not conducive to shopping outdoors.

    If you try the soup, I hope you enjoy it!


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