Scorzonera hispanica or Black Salsify or Spanish Salsify or viper's grass. What ever the name is, it is not so common in North America and to be honest I didn't know much about it prior to one cold winter day about a year ago. My parents visiting from Canada, we made our way to a traditional German restaurant. Soup was what I needed and being open to trying anything I ordered the 'Schwarzwurzel' soup. And what I got was an amazing, slightly nutty, slightly sweet creamy rich soup. Since then I had made the decision to make my own, thinking how hard can it be?
I remembered the flavor profile and thought some roasted garlic and onion with some potato would be perfect. There are some things that I wish I would have known prior to starting. But before I get to that, here are some fun facts.
- Black Salsify is full of proteins and several minerals
- It is native to southern Europe, believed to originate from Spain but the first known mention of it came from a 'western' writer seeing in a market stand in Syria in 1575.
- Harvesting is complicated with a twisty root that mush remain unbroken in order for it to remain fresh.
- And if you don't know what you are doing with it, it will do this to your kitchen walls
That's not paint.
Aside from needing to repaint my entire kitchen and a less then enthused wife, the soup was amazing!
So the roots, look like this
Black and twisted, sort of a carrot mixed with a turnip. What, I did (which may or may not be the right way) is to take my trusty veggie peeler and peel. Two things with this. Don't cut the tips off, the root bleeds a white mucus looking, sticky substance that your hands will demand mercy from when you have to scrub it off. Really.
The other thing to do and most important (since what is a little pain in the pursuit of amazing soup) make sure you have a bowl of lemon water, as soon as they are peeled place them in the water.
Also on a side note, when you are peeling be careful or your partner may be less then enthused with you, when the whole kitchen needs to be repainted....Just before guests come over.....
The other way of dealing with the rather thick and sticky roots is to take the whole root and boil it for 10ish minutes and then cool it and peel. The amount of stickiness is greatly reduced as is the damage to the kitchen.
But like I said, I peeled and dropped into a bowl of lemon water. I thoroughly rinsed and dried the peeled root and tossed it with some fresh thyme and salt and pepper along with a whole onion and garlic.
I didn't roast the potatoes but did roast one onion (small to medium), one garlic head and of course the root. Now, I didn't want too much color, so I went for a slow roast (high temperature = lot of color and short cooking time, low temperature = little color and longer cooking time)
When finished roasting, I peeled three potatoes and roughly chopped. I placed all the veggies in a pot, poured over just enough veggie stock to cover the veggies and I added 2 bay leaves. Gentle boil for about 1/2 hour or until potatoes are completely cooked (no resistance when stuck with a fork). Next, take your blender or hand blender.....stop yourself and take out the bay leaves and blend until smooth.
Now, return to the heat and adjust the thickness to your level of happiness. More stock = thinner. Take your favorite tasting spoon and check the seasoning level and adjust with salt and pepper. Add a little chili if you want some spice but otherwise leave as is.
I added a bit of almond milk since this is what I had but you can use any kind of full fat milk or cream but just a touch to finish off the dish. And lastly reheat (not boil unless using cream) and enjoy.
So my experience of Black Salsify wasn't without its disasters but overall the soup with beautiful. Delicate flavor, with a hint of nuttiness and sweetness and one that I would be more the happy to cook again and again.