Last summer Top Chef Kevin Gillespie came to our co-op because he was hosting a video series sponsored by Stronger Together, being filmed for the International Year of Cooperatives. Our co-op was chosen to take part in the series because of our involvement with our community. He attended our summer party and visited Heritage Lane Farm, Misty Meadows Farm and Bellingham Urban Garden Syndicate (BUGS) to talk about their relationship with our co-op and our community.
Before he left town, I got to go out to dinner with him and the film crew and we talked a lot about food (of course!) as well as his upcoming (and now published) cookbook Fire in my Belly. It’s a great read – lots of photos, a fun layout, and anecdotes from the author. He told me I could demo any of his recipes any time and with the icy fog abounding in our region, I thought his Root Vegetable Soup recipe would be just about perfect for my recipe demo this week.
This is a recipe he created based on a dish his grandma used to make. It is very simple to make, although it does require some knife skills as all the veggies need to be cut into the same size pieces to cook correctly. I must admit that it was my first time preparing some of the root vegetables in this dish, and it was also a great excuse to use some of the delicious local produce we still have in stock (organic Jerusalem Artichokes, aka sunchokes, from Rabbit Fields Farm in Everson). The recipe calls for turnip greens, which we do carry occasionally but are out of currently, so I substituted collard greens. Other than that I was pretty true to the original recipe, except for cutting it down to 4 servings (you can find the original recipe for 8 servings in Kevin’s book).
One of my favorite cutting techniques is chiffonade – you roll your leafy greens into a roll and cut thin little ribbons. They are so pretty and you can cut through a pile of greens in no time. As for cutting the various root vegetables into a small dice, you will have to expect some waste as you first have to square off the edges of the veggies so you are left with flat edges to cut your dice from. If you need a little guidance for safe and effective cutting techniques, you can check out the video and photos at Stella Culinary.
Root Vegetable Soup
adapted from Fire in my Belly by Kevin Gillespie with David Joachim, used with permission
4 oz Pancetta or unsmoked bacon, diced into 1/4” pieces (vegetarian option below)
1 1/4 c onion, diced 1/4”
2/3 c rutabaga, peeled and diced 1/4”
1/2 c celery, diced 1/4”
1/3 c carrots, peeled and diced 1/4”
3/4 c sunchokes (Jerusalem Artichoke), peeled and diced 1/4”
3/4 c turnips, peeled and diced 1/4”
1/2 c parsnip, peeled and diced 1/4”
2 large cloves of garlic, thinly sliced (a mandolin works great for this task)
3 c chicken stock
1 t sea salt
~ 2 c Turnip or Collard greens, sliced into chiffonade (thin strips)
Juice from one lemon
~1/8 c Italian parsley, minced
~1/8 c chives, very thinly sliced
~1/8 c celery leaves, minced
1. Heat a large enameled cast-iron pot or other soup pot over medium heat.
2. Add the pancetta, stir, and cook until the pancetta is golden brown, about 8 to 10 minutes.
3. Add the onions, rutabaga, celery, and carrots and cook until the vegetables start to soften and the onions become translucent, about 6 minutes, stirring now and then.
4. Add the sunchokes, turnips, and parsnips and cook for an additional 8 minutes, stirring a few times.
5. Stir in the garlic and cook just until fragrant, about 1 minute.
6. Stir in the chicken stock, pepper, and salt. Bring the mixture to a boil, then cut the heat down to low, cover, and simmer for 5 minutes. The vegetables should be just tender.
7. Remove the pot from the heat, and stir in the turnip greens and about 1 T lemon juice. Taste and season as needed with additional salt and lemon juice.
8. Ladle into bowls and garnish with the parsley, chives, and celery leaves.
Tips from the Top Chef:
Don’t be tempted to mince the garlic here. It should be sliced. If you mince it, the small pieces will cook faster and develop a bitter taste. The slices also contribute to the texture of the soup.
If you want to make the soup ahead, prepare it up to the point of simmering the vegetables in the seasoned stock. Cool it down, and refrigerate it for up to 2 days. Then reheat the soup and add the greens and lemon juice just before serving and garnishing.
If you don’t have the root vegetables listed, then you can substitute with what you do have. The most important thing is to dice all the vegetables the same size so they cook quickly and evenly before the liquid is added. The vegetables retain better shape and flavor this way.
For a vegetarian version, use vegetable stock in place of chicken stock; sauté 4-5 shiitake mushrooms (cut into thin slices about a 1/4″ wide) over medium heat in 1-2 T butter or a fatty oil until they are soft, about 7 minutes, and proceed with the rest of the recipe. Alternately you can use vegetarian bacon, prepared and cooked just like the pancetta in the recipe. Neither will give you the same rich flavor of the pork, but either should add some umami to the dish.