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Garlic (Recipe: pear and parsnip soup)

Updated March 2011.


Here in Rhode Island, people don't always know what to do with the letter R.

It pops up where it shouldn't: Coventry becomes "Carventry," Lydia becomes "Lydier."

And it's missing from at least one fundamental pantry ingredient: garlic, which the locals call gah-lick.

Fortunately, it's only the R that's missing, and not the garlic itself. Rhode Island is justly famous for Italian-American cuisine, with no skimping on the garlic. Two farms within a few miles of my house offer unusual and heirloom varieties, including both softneck (the most common type) and hardneck. In the supermarket, garlic is garlic, anonymous and uniform, but at the farm stands, garlic answers to many names: Rocambole, Spanish Roja, Chesnok Red, Mexican Red Silver.

Well known as one of the world's healthiest foods, garlic is also one of the world's oldest cultivated vegetables, native to central Asia where it has been grown for more than 5,000 years. Migrating populations and explorers brought garlic to countries all around the globe, including Singapore, India, Mexico, France, Tunisia, Malaysia, and the United States, which is now one of the world's largest producers.

A member of the lily family, garlic (Allium sativum) grows underground in a bulb, called a "head", made up of individual cloves. The cloves, and the whole head, are encased in a papery skin that is not edible.

With a nod to David Letterman, here are a few things to know about garlic.

Three ways to peel the cloves:

  1. Drop individual cloves into a pot of boiling water. Remove after 30 seconds and place in a bowl of ice water. When the cloves are cool enough to handle, slip the peel off.
  2. Place one clove on a cutting board. Position a large chef's knife over the clove, and smash it with the heel of your hand. The peel will pop right off the clove.
  3. Use one of these rubber tubes. I know, it's a one-task gizmo, but it's an inexpensive and efficient gizmo.

Two ways to get the smell of garlic off your hands after you've peeled the cloves:

  1. Wash your hands with soap and water, then rub them on a chrome faucet.
  2. Wash your hands in cold water, rub them all over with table salt, then wash again in soap and warm water.

One way to get the smell of garlic off your breath after you've eaten the peeled garlic cloves: chew some fresh parsley. Think about persillade and chimichurri; each of these classic sauces brings together garlic and its antidote. Clever, aren't they?

Pear and parsnip soup

Pear and parsnip soup

Just in time for Thanksgiving menu planning. Also great for lunch, with a grilled cheese and tomato sandwich. Make this vegetarian by substituting vegetable stock or water for the chicken stock. Serves 6.


2 lbs parsnips, ends trimmed, peeled
1 medium red or sweet onion, peeled and quartered
2 cloves garlic, whole but not peeled
Sea salt & black pepper
1-2 Tbsp olive oil
1 large pear (or 2 medium), any variety, peeled and cubed
2 cups homemade chicken stock, or low-sodium store-bought (I use Swanson 99% Fat Free)
1-2 Tbsp minced fresh thyme (or parsley, marjoram, chives, or a mixture), to taste
1/4 cup heavy cream (optional)


Preheat oven to 375°F. Place parsnips, onion and garlic on a rimmed baking sheet; season with salt, pepper and olive oil, and toss to coat. Roast for 30-40 minutes, or until vegetables are lightly browned. Remove pan from oven, and set aside for 10 minutes. Cut parsnips into chunks and put in a soup pot on the stove with onion, peeled garlic, pear, and chicken stock, plus water to almost cover the vegetables. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer and cook, uncovered, until the pear is tender (15 minutes). Add herbs; cook 5 minutes more. Use an immersion blender to purée the soup in the pot (or purée in batches in a blender). Add cream if you wish. Season with sea salt and lots of freshly-ground black pepper, to taste. Serve hot, garnished with snips of fresh herbs.

[Printer-friendly recipe.]

More recipes in The Perfect Pantry:

Tuna Nicoise-ish
Braised fish Tunisian style
Everything-from-the-pantry bean soup
Garlic eggplant
Stir-fried garlic lettuce
Pasta puttanesca

Other recipes that use these pantry ingredients:
Garlic tofu noodles, from Hooked on Heat
Garlic chicken panini, from Panini Happy
Garlic and ginger roasted peanuts, from White on Rice Couple
Gluten-free focaccia with garlic and tomato, from Gluten-Free Goddess
Garlic dill pickles, from Food in Jars

Disclosure: The Perfect Pantry earns a few pennies on purchases made through the Amazon.com links in this post. Thank you for supporting this site when you start your shopping here.


I´m definitely in the smash the garlic clove for peeling. so satisfying, that smack on the wooden board.

This is some unusual soup, my friend!

I made pesto the other day (for the first time!) and was wonderfully surprised by how greatly garlic appears in it.

Lydia, great Thanksgiving recipe! The Monthly Mouthful is so excited to include it :)

Just for the record: non-rhotic variations of English are what you are describing. Rhotic versions of English (as spoken in most of the US) pronounce every R as written. Non-rhotic ones as you say, don't know what to do with it.

Those clever linguists: they have a word for everything!

Ain't nothing wrong with garlic. That soup would be perfect for a rainy day like today.

I am thinking I should move to Rhode Island, as I have difficulties sometimes to pronounce the R especially when it's near a T. Like when I came to the US I couldn't pronounce water the Amercian way. I would pronounce it the English way.
I wish I had this soup earlier this week when I used all my fresh pears to make a spicy jam. Oh well I guess another trip to the market is never too much.

Here in New Hampsha we go the non-rhotic way(thanks mae!) with gahlic too. Now that I've pushed through my fear of parsnips, i think this sounds great or would that be gweat?

Lydia, I can see that you have started to get into soup season. And this sounds really good. I love garlic, and can't cook without it at all!

Is it gahlic here in New Hampshire? Ay-uh... and what about pahsnip? Well, it's Thanksgiving in RI for us, my kids haven't found Buddy's sauce yet, so we'll just have to go for the soup. As for pears, I made a Soup Peddler soup, Red Lenil with Apricot, with pear for the apricots -- wonderful...and pears quartered, baked with water + maple syrup dusted with almond meal...

Lobstersquad, I'm a smasher, too.

Patricia, isn't pesto wonderful? This soup has just the littlest bit of garlic, to balance the sweetness of the pears and parsnips.

Link, can't wait to see your garlic! Mine was not a total success this year (my first attempt), but I'm going to try again. The pears on my trees are also on the mealy side some years, but they are great for chutney.

Hillary, thanks -- I'll look forward to the Monthly Mouthful on your blog tomorrow.

Mae, I think The Perfect Pantry has the smartest readers in the world! Thank you for sharing this knowledge with us. Clever linguists indeed!

Tammy, I picked up some pears at the farm stand on the way home today. They are so amazing in this soup.

Rose, pear jam sounds great, and I'm sure it will find its way into some of your delicious baking projects. I know that my friends from Japan also have trouble pronouncing the R sound. But here in Rhode Island, it's the native English speakers who have misplaced their R's!

Callipygia, I'm giggling. This soup really is great (with an R); I think you'd like it up in New Hampsha too.

Anh, I am definitely into soups now, especially with winter squashes and root veggies. More to come....

Susan, it's definitely gahlic up north, too! I can tell your kids where to find Buddy sauce (Stop & Shop supermarkets), or I can stock up for you. Your soups with pears sound wonderful. Ooooh, and the baked pears sound delicious, too.

I love this sort of soup especially with those ingredients. Using fresh lime or lemon juice will also help to get rid of the garlic odor. Cheers!

Life without garlic just isn't life at all. Love your cookie idea, will investigate this with my resident artist.

What an interesting recipe! I would love to serve this to garlic haters--because they would love it. Then I would tell them about the garlic. (I love to do things like that.)

Heather, tis the season for warm and creamy soups! Thanks for the tip about lime/lemon juice, too.

Neil, I'm with you 100%. Life without garlic would be so bland. If your resident artist is your daughter, I think she would really enjoy this cookie decorating idea.

Sher, I like the way you think.... and the taste of garlic is so much in the background here, that your garlic haters would really never know. But you would know the difference if you left the garlic out.

Gad Sher really has a diabolical mind doesn't she and I'm so much with you two on the garlic hater thing! Funny! at least to some of us.
This soup looks awesome Lydia!

I love parsnips! Too bad they don't grow in mauritius:( I'd love to have your soup!

Tanna, I respect people's food allergies and cultural dietary restrictions, but when someone says they don't like garlic, I have to believe they can be convinced to change their mind!

Valentina, hmmmm, no parsnips? Squash or pumpkin would work -- it's the substitution of the pear, where we might usually use apple, that makes this soup interesting.

I've never heard of rubbing your hands on a chrome faucet to remove garlic smell and I can't wait to test it out!

Julie, I remember years ago that some company was selling chrome "eggs", for just this purpose. It seemed silly to buy one when the kitchen faucet was close at hand!

Sounds fabulous...I can bet I would be the one eating most of it in the house, and that is perfectly fine by me!!

Tartelette, just don't tell your family that it's parsnips. I'll bet they would like it, too.

I've never tried parsnips...do they taste like potatoes or turnips?

Nabeela, such a good question -- to me, they taste like a cross between a carrot and a sweet potato, without the orange color, of course. And they are a bit nutty.

I love parsnips Lydia and the addition of pears is inspired. I'm going to make this in the next fews days, it sounds too amazing to miss and I'll feel super healthy too!

You had me at "...with a grilled cheese and tomato sandwich..." How could I say no?? This sounds sooo good.

Laura, I do hope you'll love this soup.

Dana, it is good, and everything tastes better with a grilled cheese sandwich next to it!

Brit's have the same problem. On our British TV channel we get 'Lor and oda' (Law and Order)
I use the big knife method - effective and relieves aggression!

Katie, I'm giggling! I'm partial to the big knife method, too -- love that feeling of power!

This goes on my list. I am a nut for parsnips and especially in soup! Thanks!

Christine, my love for parsnips increases every Fall. I'm still finding ways to use them!

I have just recently tried parsnip and pear soup and it was absolutely delicious.

Does any one like dal soup from an indian resturant? I am trying to make the perfect soup but so far have I not found the perfect recipe.

Beryl, you can find lots of soup recipes on my other food blog, www.soupchick.com, including various types of lentil and bean soups. Hope you find one you like.

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