December 30, 2010

Cultivator Soup


Cultivator Soup, both vegan and gluten-free
Cultivator Soup is both vegan and gluten-free

Back in the 80's I was Pastry Chef at The Winchester Inn in Ashland, Oregon. Among my duties was soupmaking, and over the years I worked there I must have made more than a thousand pots of soup, including several hundred batches of a deceptively simple soup called Cultivator. I may not have remembered the precise recipe, but I've certainly remembered the main ingredients and the spirit of the soup.

It isn't possible to give precise measurements of ingredients for this soup, I can only explain how to make it and what it should taste like. But most savory recipes are that way, even though recipe writers don't want to admit it. Basically, you'll want about two quarts of diced root vegetables and an equal amount of vegetable stock.

Cultivator Soup

2 quarts vegetable stock or water
about 2 cups diced rutabagas
about 2 cups diced turnips
about 2 cups diced parsnips
about 2 cups diced red beets
Ingredients for Cultivator Soup
If you use a vegetable stock it needs to be fresh and clear--roasted veggie stock won't work for this soup. You can use plain water if you wish, or you can make a stock a la minute, which is what I did. Put two quarts of cold water into a soup pot. Add one small-medium yellow onion, quartered, the dark green parts of two leeks, and two carrots, unpeeled, cut into chunks. Carefully wash the vegetables for the soup, then peel all but the beets into the stock. If you have a potato that needs peeling, add those peels as well. Toss in a sprig of fresh curly parsley, bring to a simmer, then proceed with getting the soup ingredients ready.

Diced Vegetables for Cultivator Soup
What I did was peel each root vegetable directly into the stock pot, then dice it. All parts not being used in the soup (tops and roots) went into the stock pot as well. The diced veg went into a bowl of water to avoid oxidation. The very last thing I did was peel and dice the beets, which went into their own bowl, and the peels and tops went into the compost bucket--beet parts in the stock will yield a muddy color in the soup. When the stock was ready--it's a matter of taste, but took about an hour--I strained it carefully. Twice. The veg from the stock is perfectly fine for compost.

A quick rinse of the pot, and it was ready to make soup. Add the strained vegetable stock to the pot. Drain the "white" root veggies and add them. Then drain the beets and add them. Bring to a simmer until the largish pieces are just done. You might want a bit of kosher salt at this point, or maybe not. Total time for me, including the stock, was about 2½ hours. Everything except peeling and dicing the beets can be done as much as a day ahead--save the beets for the last minute to get the best color.

What you should taste is the sweetness of root vegetables, with parsnip being perhaps dominant, and the beet flavor should be in the background. You should see a clear broth with a beautiful, jewel tone from the beets. The vegetables, which are diced fairly large, should be just done, not mushy. Serve with a light sprinkling of minced fresh parsley.

If you're cooking this for people who don't like vegetables, or don't like one of the featured root veggies, just don't tell them what's in it. As long as they don't mind eating beets they'll enjoy this soup. It's the only way I'll eat turnips and rutabagas. Beets and parsnips I enjoy!

24 comments:

  1. I love the picture of this soup! This looks wonderful!

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  2. You outdid yourself here, Gareth -- Cultivator Soup AND the Winchester Inn! You're making me homesick.

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  3. Soup as a pastry chef? Cool. That is chock full of goodness in every which way. Have a wonderful new year!

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  4. That soup sounds so tasty! I can taste the combination of beets and turnips just by looking at the picture. Thank you for sharing!

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  5. What a pretty soup! It looks healthy and comforting! Happy New Year!

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  6. I have some parsnips and turnips already in my cold storage. Off to get some beets and a rutabaga...Yum!!
    Happy New Year!

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  7. I came in early to do the pastry work, so made breakfast for the guests staying at the Inn, and whipped up any soups that needed done. Pastry work often involves long periods of waiting while things rest or cool or set up.

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  8. I kind of miss Ashland too, but probably not enough to try to live there.

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  9. Please let us know how it turns out, even post a picture or link if you wish.

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  10. whatsfordinneracrossstatelinesDecember 31, 2010 at 2:10 PM

    I really like this recipe, my husband is a huge root vegetable fan and complains I don't use them enough. I usually roast them, but I like having a new way to fix them, the colors are so vibrant too! Happy New Years!
    -Gina-

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  11. I've never heard of cultivator soup but I like the sound of it... especially at this time of year. I also paused at a pastry chef making soups ;)

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  12. I grew up on beets and I love them! Try this soup borscht style chef! Looks great.

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  13. delicious healthy soup happy new year

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  14. I love beets but don't tend to put them in soup...you've convinced me to do so!!! Happy New Year!

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  15. I love all of those vegetables, and soup is my ultimate comfort food :-)

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  16. Excellent idea! I have some left over, I'll give it a try. Thanks!

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  17. FoodieroadshowblogJanuary 2, 2011 at 7:36 AM

    Looks beautiful, like a bowl of jewels. My kind of soup.

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  18. I made this last night...so delicious! It was definitely a new group of flavors that I was not used to in soup, but it was really good! I couldn't believe how sweet it tasted!

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  19. The beets and parsnips are full of sugar. Glad you liked it!

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  20. looks very healthy

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  21. You can't beat simple and tasty. I'm embarrassed to say, but I just realized I don't know if I've ever had a rutabaga. Or have I and thought I was grabbing a turnip? Anyway, after a conversation with a friend about rutabega I've been wanting to try it. This is the perfect recipe for the test. Thanks for posting.

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    1. Visually the only difference is that rutabagas don't have any purple. I don't normally like turnips or rutabagas, but in this soup, they fit right in and are really tasty.

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