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Creamy Parsnip Bisque with Hazelnut Pesto

There is nothing that makes a meal a wee bit more special than a creamy, smooth, satiny bisque. In this version, we skip the saturated fats that would come with dairy products and cook parsnips to sweet perfection as our base. And the hazelnut pesto is not only super yummy, it's gorgeous on this delicate, cream-colored soup. 

Ingredients

1 onion, diced 
1 small leek, split lengthwise, rinsed well, diced 
6-8 parsnips, diced 
3 cups unsweetened almond or soy milk 
3 cups spring or filtered water 
1/4 cup mirin or white wine
2 1/2 teaspoons white miso 
small bunch fresh parsley, minced for garnish 

hazelnut pesto 

1 cup hazelnuts, oven toasted, skinned 
1 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves 
1 cup loosely packed fresh Italian flat leaf parsley leaves 
3 shallots, diced 
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil 
2 teaspoons white miso 
2 teaspoons umeboshi vinegar or fresh lemon juice 
1 teaspoon brown rice syrup 

Directions 
Layer vegetables in a soup pot in the order listed. Gently add milk, water and mirin. Cover and bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer until parsnips are quite soft, about 30 minutes. Remove a small amount of broth, dissolve miso and stir into soup. Simmer, uncovered, for 3-4 minutes to activate enzyme activity. While the soup cooks, make the pesto. Combine all ingredients in a food processor and puree until smooth. You will have more pesto that you may need for this recipe. It will keep, refrigerated, for about a week. 

Transfer soup, by ladles, through a chinois or food mill, to create a smooth puree. Return to pot and simmer for 1 minute. Serve, garnished with a generous dollop of pesto and sprinkled with minced parsley. Makes 6-8 servings. 

Note: To roast hazelnuts, arrange nuts on a baking sheet and bake at 325 degrees for about 15-20 minutes, until fragrant. Transfer nuts to a paper sack and allow skins to loosen in the steam or about 10 minutes. Then rub nuts in a towel to remove the skins.Both these recipes can be made the day before the party and the soup simply re-heated. Just let the pesto come to room temperature. 

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