I wouldn’t normally share a recipe here for something as ordinary as carrot soup. But the Saturday evening on which it simmered away on my stove was so rare and enjoyable that I feel moved to share it.
Simply put, I was alone. Not out and about or doing errands or training, but alone. In my own home. With two solid social weeks behind me, I found myself craving solitude, soup, and what I call kitchen OCD. As the husband headed out to make homemade sausage for Sunday night’s sausage feast with friends, I allowed the evening to enfold with possibility. I know it sounds ridiculous, but when your partner works from home, moments alone are few and far between.
The first order of business? Start making a dent in the two five-pound bags of carrots we somehow ended up with. I found a recipe from Simply Recipes (can’t go wrong with Elise!), and one from Vitamix that I’d made once before (and found a little too heavy on the bitter orange zest). I didn’t want cardamom or coconut or any fancy ingredients—just a simple and smooth carrot soup.
With a Radio Lab podcast playing in the background, I got to chopping and sweating my onions, carrots, and fresh ginger. I’ve been making my way through my new cooking technique book, where I had coincidently just read about this important technique: “Sweating means to gently heat the onion (or any vegetable) in a small amount of oil or butter without browning it. As the onion loses water, its flavors begin to concentrate, and the heat transforms the sugars into increasingly complex and delicious compounds.” I used to think browning was always better; thanks to my 2014 resolutions, my technique repertoire has already expanded.
After simmering the vegetables in some leftover duck broth and blending to a velvety texture in my trusty Vitamix, I moved on to the cupboards. If there’s anyone else in the world who gets as much satisfaction from emptying dry goods from an ugly package into a mason jar where the remnants just happen to fit perfectly, I want to meet them. It’s one of my simplest pleasures. I also found a second use for my new wine glass pen.
I sat down to a bowl of soup and a guilty pleasure movie that shall remain nameless. And as I ate it again today, a horrible, but appropriate analogy sprung to mind: carrot soup is like my Ironman training right now: Healthy, consistent, and without too much excitement, but providing a strong base on which to build a goal. Or an evening spent alone.
Carrot Ginger Soup
Prep time: 15 minutes. Cook time: 25 minutes
3 Tbsp unsalted butter
1 1/2 pounds carrots (6-7 large carrots), peeled and sliced thin (I buy organic and never peel, just wash)
2 cups chopped white or yellow onion (I didn’t measure, just used one medium)
2 teaspoons minced ginger
2 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 cups water (if you have a really good, light homemade stock I’d use 4 cups here instead of 2 and 2 water)
3 large strips of zest from a Navel orange
chopped chives, parsley, dill or fennel for garnish (if you do that sort of thing)
- Melt the butter in a soup pot over medium heat and cook the onions and carrot, stirring occasionally, until the onions soften, about 5 to 8 minutes. Do not let the onions or carrots brown. (She knows her sweating, too!) Sprinkle a teaspoon of salt over the carrots and onions as they cook.
- Add the stock, water, ginger, and the strips of orange zest. Bring to a simmer, cover, and cook until the carrots soften, about 20 minutes.
- Remove the strips of orange zest and discard. (The Vitamix recipe has you puree a piece of zest right into the soup, which I found too bitter. I did, however, blend half of the orange flesh itself right into the soup.)
- Working in batches, pour the soup into a blender and purée until completely smooth. Only fill the blender bowl a third full with the hot liquid and keep one hand pressing down on the cap of the blender to keep it from popping off. Add more salt to taste.(You will need more salt if you are using homemade unsalted stock or unsalted butter.) Garnish with chopped chives, parsley, or fennel fronds.