Friday, September 10, 2010

What's up, Doc?

In the contest between scallion pancakes and a soup tonight, soup won out, chiefly because the last of the baguette was getting irreparably stale and needed to go into croutons. Carrots were two pounds for a dollar (!) on FreshDirect, so I went with a carrot soup.

There are about a thousand ways to do carrot soup. Ingredients started to come to mind: tarragon, rosemary and thyme, balsamic vinegar, harissa, berbere, allspice, apple, honey, cinnamon, citrus, curry, caraway, cumin... hmm, cumin. I settled on a north African-inspired soup that really showed off the carrot and cumin flavors, with very little else to interrupt, and finished it with a little yogurt for creaminess and protein. I also made lemony kale crisps and coriander croutons with waaaaay too much olive oil.

1 lb carrots
1 large onion
About a two-inch knob of ginger
olive and, optionally, sesame oil
1/2 to 1 tbsp honey
1/4 to 1/2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 to 1/2 tsp lemon zest
pepper, salt, cayenne
1 bay leaf

Mince and saute the ginger and onion in a blend of olive and sesame oil; two full tablespoons of sesame oil would be overwhelming, I thought, so I used about a half tablespoon of sesame and a tablespoon and half of olive. When the ginger and onions are almost golden, put in cumin to taste and stir for about 30 seconds or until cumin is toasted and fragrant (you could also toast and grind cumin seeds, I suppose). Add peeled carrots cut into 1-inch lengths, a bay leaf, and about two and a half cups of water or broth. Bring to a boil, then simmer until the carrots are soft, about 20 minutes. Remove the bay leaf (for a more subtle bay flavor, remove it about halfway through the boiling process). Immersion blend the whole shebang until it's very smooth or, if you don't have an immersion blender, puree in a blender or food processor. Stir in the lemon juice, honey, and lemon zest, and add pepper, salt, and cayenne to taste. Heat a little more if necessary. Serve with a dollop of yogurt in the center and a few croutons on top, sprinkled with a little more cumin or cayenne if you like.

To make the coriander croutons, toss cubes of day-old bread with olive oil and ground coriander; I don't bother using salt or pepper, since the soup should take care of that. Broil on the highest rack, shaking the pan in which they're broiling a few times, until brown and crispy.

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