It was a typical CSA pickup. I checked in. Grabbed my peaches, then started towards the veggies. I came across the usual leafy green suspects, turnips, lettuce and then stopped. I stared into the bin. A large, slightly misshaped purple thing stared back at me. Hello kohlrabi. Think broccoli stem, but more round and purple. It was seriously ugly with a few stems haphazardly extending from its base. Certainly new to me, but after being a CSA member for three years, not much phases me anymore. I picked it up, added it to my haul and headed home without the faintest idea of what to make.
Squash might very well be one of my favorite vegetables. I’ve never heard a person say, “I don’t like squash.” There are so many varieties, saying you dislike squash is like saying you don’t like herbs. It’s hard to generalize. I’m not a huge fan of spaghetti squash. Perhaps it’s because I don’t quite “get it”. But shying away from that one variety isn’t going to put me off squash for life. In the summer, I love zucchini, bright yellow summer squash and all the mini variations that come with it. Winter warms me to butternut squash, acorn squash and pumpkin (yes, pumpkin is a squash too!). I put up both summer and winter varieties, shredded or chopped in the summer, pureed in the winter so I’m never without.
Locavore living isn’t always easy. The bulk of our winter food consists of root vegetables, beans, grains, greens, frozen and canned stuff. We cheat a bit, mostly with stuff we wouldn’t be able to get around here anyway like citrus and avocados. But for the most part we try to live locally. So when spring arrives and the Greenmarkets start showing evidence of food other than cellared winter produce, you can imagine I get a bit excited. Too excited, maybe. I fill my bags with asparagus, ramps, lettuce and quarts of strawberries, completely ignoring how perishable some items are and there’s only two mouths to feed. I started canning for just that reason, to make sure we weren’t wasting things. Most meals use a little of this and a little of that, leaving me with odd quantities of produce left over, threatening to spoil. In the winter, all these things would easily be tossed into a kitchen sink stew, cooking on the stove or in the slow cooker for hours, maybe with some beef or sausage. However in the warmth of the summer, I want nothing like that. So my kitchen sink meals get a bit more creative.
A few days of warmth followed by so so temperatures. April is often one of the most disappointing months for me. I understand March being wishy-washy with its temperature decisions. Spring, winter, spring, winter. It’s in transition. But April. We are now in full-fledged spring. There’s no excuse for cooler temperatures. I expect sunshine and daffodils from here on out. But yesterday seemed to miss the memo. I wanted to drown myself in warming comfort food to shield myself from the bite of “spring”. Nothing rich and hearty like a winter stew. I wanted something that spoke to the lightness of spring but soothed my winter reality. A creamy soup, warm but light, paired with a salad. Parsnip soup.
I know what you’re thinking. Your read the title and automatically interpret one word–FATTENING. Well you’re wrong. There isn’t an ounce of cream in the stuff. Cheese, yes, but not an overwhelming amount. Mostly healthy veggies, milk and a dash of Parmesan. I made this recipe as part of my “let’s make Brussels Sprouts a feature food” project. Over the last few years I’ve come to love the bright green crunchy morsels and am sick of them cast off as a side dish. Grilled hanger steak WITH Brussels sprouts. Striped bass GARNISHED with shaved Brussels Sprouts. Brussels sprouts are forever the sidekick. Always a bridesmaid, never the bride. RoCCA was one of the first restaurants I saw that featured an appetizer that was purely Brussels sprouts. I was intrigued and inspired. If they can do it, why can’t I? I resolved myself to creating a dish that would finally put Brussels Sprouts in the spotlight.