Museum cafés are the last place I’d expect to find great food. I always thought of these institutions as overpriced mediocre girly food: bland salads, rubbery chicken breasts, overcooked salmon, and anything with pesto. Girls, before you get offended, let me tell you that I hold mediocre guy food, like under-seasoned, overcooked burgers, in contempt just as much. But stereotypes can be deceiving and I have recently found out that one of the best sit down lunches in Boston is, to my great shock, in Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. No, I didn’t go to the museum just for lunch. Shallow person that I am, I actually think it’s one of the most beautiful places in Boston. But until my fellow chowhounds have pointed me in the direction of the museum café, it never occurred to me to eat there.
All my stereotypes were blown away after my first meal at ISGM café. The whole meal was absolutely lovely -- no rubber chicken here -- but the dish that stood out the most was the parsnip soup with smoked scallops. Since the café menu changes quite often, you might not encounter this soup there for a while now, but recreating it at home couldn’t be easier. You can find smoked scallops in Whole Foods and in well-stocked fish markets. These smoky little nuggets go incredibly well with sweet and creamy parsnip soup. The surreptitious leftover of radishes that I had in my fridge provided a perfect garnish that gave the soup some crunch and gentle spice.
Parsnip Soup with Smoked Scallops and Radishes
1 recipe parsnip soup
6 oz jar of smoked scallops
6 medium radishes cut into fine julienne
1/4 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp finely chopped chives
Salt and pepper
Olive oil for garnish
- After pureeing the soup, set it over low heat to keep warm.
- Cut each scallop in half and add scallops to the soup for 1 minute before serving.
- In a small bowl, combine radishes, lemon juice, half of chives, and salt and pepper to taste. Mix well.
- Pour the soup into 4 bowls, sprinkle with remaining chives, drizzle with olive oil (about 1/2 tsp per bowl), and top with radishes.