We had a fun eating experience tonight: First time ever to try a new vegetable, one I had read of before but never found in the market.

Parsley root (persille de grandes racines, to the French) is a root vegetable that looks like baby parsnips, attached to a bundle of leaves that look like (and apparently ARE) Italian flat-leaf parsley. The pale-tan roots are small (2 or 3 inches in length and maybe 1/2 inch or less at the shoulder), muddy, and a little finicky to scrub and peel, but they're a surprisingly tasty root vegetable, with a crisp texture and an intriguing taste that's best described as a very intense parsley taste.

I got a bunch ($2.99) and, unable to find a single recipe in my entire cookbook collection, did a seat-of-the-pants variation on an Italian (Marcella Hazan) recipe for a Jerusalem artichoke soup.

Here's how it went -- if you can't find parsley root, you could probably do something similar, and good, with parsnips, Jerusalem artichokes, or even turnips.

Scrub and peel the root portion of one bunch parsley root, and slice them into thin rounds; wash and chop the green leafy portion and set aside.

Chop half of a medium onion fine and sautee it in 1 tablespoon olive oil in a heavy saucepan until it's golden; add the sliced parsley root and stir briefly. Add 3 cups chicken broth, 1/3 cup Arborio rice, and the chopped parsley leaves. Bring to the boil, then reduce heat to a simmer, cover, and cook over very low heat for about 30 minutes, until the parsley root and rice are well cooked and the rice has absorbed most of the stock. Salt and pepper to taste, and serve.

The parsley and parsley root flavors are so intense that this dish seems startlingly rich even though it's low-fat and low-calorie. Definitely a winner. We served it as the starch and vegetable dish alongside a simple sea bass steak baked Italian-style with olive oil, lemon, white wine, garlic and more chopped parsley ...

A Sancerre (dry Loire Sauvignon Blanc) made an outstanding match with the soup and the fish.