Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Creamy Carrot Soup

Other than perhaps my family’s chocolate chip cookies, this is the recipe that I have made the very most in my life. This is one of my favorite soups. And yet, I have struggled to find the words to present it to you properly. This soup is kind of like a favorite T-shirt – a little old-fashioned, maybe, but super comforting and reliable. It’s the soup I go to the most, and unlike my favorite T-shirt, it will never wear out.

One of the great things about this soup is its versatility. I have made it with carrots, cauliflower, broccoli, and even asparagus; and they’re all delicious. You can tweak the seasonings as you like, too. Not into curry powder? Skip it! In the mood for sage? Throw it in! Just follow your nose/palate. I love this carrot and curry powder combination the most. I love how it's brightly colored, deliciously aromatic, and creamy without being heavy. My mom often made a cauliflower version of this soup, which is also great. It was one of the ways she could get all of us to enjoy vegetables when we were growing up (even if we did call it “gruel,” dramatically pretending we were orphans from the beginning of the Oliver Twist musical). It comes together in 20 minutes, it’s warm and nourishing, and it’s perfect with a slab of fresh bread. It’s just the kind of thing I want to eat practically all the time. And I do.

Speaking of fresh bread... I am in love with this honey oat quick bread, and I will share the recipe soon.

Fun Fact: Are carrots really good for your eyes? Yes, though maybe not in the way you think. Eating carrots won’t stop you from needing corrective lenses if you’re headed down that path. However, beta-carotene is used in the body to make vitamin A, which is helpful for vision in two ways. 1) Vitamin A forms part of a molecule made in your retinas that allows you to see in the dark. If you’re vitamin A deficient, it takes longer for you to be able to see after walking into an unlit room. 2) Vitamin A is also essential for forming skin and mucous membranes, including, notably, the membranes covering your eyes. A lack of vitamin A will cause the lining of your eye to dry out and cloud over, eventually leading to blindness. So eat carrots, friends. (Or any other bright orange or leafy green produce.)

Creamy Carrot Soup

adapted from the New Cook Book by Better Homes and Gardens (1981 ed.)

1½ cups chicken or vegetable broth (or 1 teaspoon chicken soup base + 1½ cups water)

½ - ¾ cup chopped onion

2 cups, slightly heaped, chopped carrots*

½ - 1 teaspoon curry powder

½ - 1 teaspoon dried basil

2 tablespoons butter

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

¼ teaspoon salt

freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1 cup milk

Place the broth, onion, carrots, curry powder, and basil in a medium pot. Heat to a boil, then reduce heat, cover, and simmer until the carrots are tender when pierced with a fork. This will take about 10 minutes, but it will vary based on how small the carrots are chopped.

While the vegetables are simmering**, melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat, and then add the flour, whisking to incorporate. Continue to cook, whisking constantly, for a minute or so to remove the raw, starchy flavor of the flour. Pour the milk in slowly, continuing to whisk, and halting the flow to whisk out any lumps that may form. Cook over medium heat, whisking or stirring constantly, until mixture has thickened and coats your utensil. (I usually bring mine to a full boil to get it to thicken.) Remove from heat, and set aside.

Puree the vegetable and broth mixture with a blender, immersion blender, or food processor until it reaches the point on the chunky – smooth spectrum that you prefer. Stir in the reserved white sauce, and serve.

*Err on the side of too many vegetables because you can always add more broth to thin it out.

**If you’re not confident that you can finish the white sauce while the vegetables are cooking, you can save this step for after they are done.


Broccoli Variation: replace the carrots with chopped broccoli, replace the dried basil with ½ teaspoon dried thyme, and add ¼ teaspoon garlic powder. Use or nix the curry powder.

Cauliflower Variation: replace the carrots with chopped cauliflower florets, and omit the basil. Or leave it in! Follow your taste buds.

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