Parsnip dumplings in broth – otherwise known as Election night plenty!

November 6, 2012

Parsnip dumplings in broth

Page 28, Ottolenghi

After donating money, volunteering for get out the vote efforts, and worrying like crazy, there was nothing left to do but cook. There was so much riding on this election for me – personally and professionally – and for the country. And, oh my dear friends, what a sea change we saw tonight! So many wins for forward movement – 20 female senators, no new justice center in our county, the defeat of two major rape apologists, an entirely female delegation from New Hampshire, openly gay and trans politicians elected, the country’s first openly gay Senator-elect, the first Asian-American woman elected to the Senate, same-sex marriage added in three states, the retention of the Iowa judges that voted for same-sex marriage here, and PRESIDENT OBAMA!  A sea change, I say. And in the face of ridiculous amounts of opposition and campaigns funded by right-wing hate-mongering zealots. Hey haters, we say NO! to you and YES! to social justice. It brings to mind one of my favorite Marge Piercy poems, one that has gotten me through many a rough day fighting for women’s rights to safety and access to justice, and one that seems particularly appropriate on this election night as my heart explodes with joy and relief that each day we really do mean one more. Ten million, your own country, my friends.

The Low Road

What can they do
to you? Whatever they want.
They can set you up, they can
bust you, they can break
your fingers, they can
burn your brain with electricity,
blur you with drugs till you
can’t walk, can’t remember, they can
take your child, wall up
your lover. They can do anything
you can’t stop them
from doing. How can you stop
them? Alone, you can fight,
you can refuse, you can
take what revenge you can
but they roll over you.

But two people fighting
back to back can cut through
a mob, a snake-dancing file
can break a cordon, an army
can meet an army.

Two people can keep each other
sane, can give support, conviction,
love, massage, hope, sex.
Three people are a delegation,
a committee, a wedge. With four
you can play bridge and start
an organization. With six
you can rent a whole house,
eat pie for dinner with no
seconds, and hold a fund raising party.
A dozen make a demonstration.
A hundred fill a hall.
A thousand have solidarity and your own newsletter;
ten thousand, power and your own paper;
a hundred thousand, your own media;
ten million, your own country.

It goes on one at a time,
it starts when you care
to act, it starts when you do
it again after they said no,
it starts when you say We
and know who you mean, and each
day you mean one more.


And in the midst of the waiting, and the aftermath of a cold afternoon of door knocking to help make sure that voters made it to the polls, I did what I often do when worried or stressed or joyful or expectant, or well, anything else. I cooked. And in a funny twist, I made one of the few losing dishes that I have found in Ottolenghi’s Plenty. The thought of parsnip dumplings floating in a bowl of home-made broth was an irresistible pull on such a cold and uncertain night. And it was…. okay. The process of cooking was the real win, soothing my heart as I listened to pundits on the radio tell me that it would be too close to call, that we faced a loss, that money and corporations might win out this time.

Chope the vegetables, make the broth, strain it carefully, make the dough for dumplings, chill it well, form them and drop into boiling water, watch for them to rise to the top, put them in beautiful bowls and ladle hot broth with carrots over them. How can that go wrong? And really? It didn’t. The broth was delicious, the dumplings underwhelming, but the warmth and intention and love that went into the dish – channeled from my hope (yes, 4 years later and I am still filled with hope) saved it. And nourished us for the waiting and the watching and the eventual joy and celebration as I was able to “say We, and know who you mean, and each day you mean one more.”.

3 tablespoons olive oil
3 carrots, peeled and cut in slices
5 celery stalks, cut in chunks
1 large onion, quartered
1 small celeriac, peeled and quartered
7 cloves of garlic
5 thyme sprigs
2 small bunches of parsley, plus some for garnish
10 black peppercorns, whole
3 bay leaves
8 prunes
salt and pepper

½ pound white sweet potato, peeled and diced
1 ½ cups peeled and diced parsnips
1 garlic clove
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup self rising flour (see note)
1/3 cup semolina
1 egg
salt and pepper

Begin the preparation for the broth first. It can be made ahead of time and reheated when ready to serve. Heat olive oil in a large stock pot. Add all the vegetables and garlic, sauté until the vegetables color slightly. Add the herbs, spices, prunes, and enough water to cover the vegetables. Simmer for 1 ½ hours, adding liquid as needed to maintain a water level that just covers the vegetables. Strain the broth through a sieve into a clean bowl, salt and pepper to taste. Reserve any of the vegetables you would like to add to the soup.

For the dumplings, boil the potato, parsnips, and garlic in salted water. Cook until the potato and parsnips are soft, drain well. In the same pot you used for the vegetables, melt butter and add the vegetables back into the pot. Cook on medium for a few minutes to dry out the vegetables. While still hot, mash the vegetables, add flour, semolina, egg, salt and pepper until all the ingredients are incorporated. Chill the mixture for 30 minutes.

When you are ready to cook the dumplings, reheat the broth. In a separate pot bring salted water to a light simmer. Use a teaspoon to spoon out the dumpling mixture into the water. The dumplings will sink to the bottom. When they rise and begin to float at the top, cook for 30 more seconds. Remove the dumplings with a slotted spoon and place in the serving bowls.

To serve, ladle hot broth into bowls. Add any vegetables you have reserved from the broth. Garnish with parsley.


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