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starting with soup

February 12, 2010
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Old Man Winter paid an unseasonably early visit to DC in December, and wouldn’t you know, liked it so much here he decided to stay for a while.

In case you hadn’t heard, Washington is nestled under a three-foot deep blanket of honest-to-goodness snow. We’ve had the snowiest winter in recorded history here, and it is only February 12th. My friends, this is huge. As you can imagine, snow of this magnitude is slightly disruptive, especially in cities where whispers of 3 inches of the white stuff wreak havoc in the grocery stores and cause life to come to a screeching halt.

Back-to-back blizzards this past week have rendered the majority of the area housebound. I have been to work for all of eight hours since last Friday. I’m getting bored. That’s not to say blizzards don’t have their perks. I love a good weather walloping, and am more than content peering through the window for a bit, marveling over the wind, secretly hoping the power goes out for at least a few hours so that we can huddle by candlelight and swap stories. The reality, however, is that laziness set in, and a penchant for gluttony. Can you blame us? CB and I spent a delightful afternoon yesterday picnicking in front of the tv with leftover bottles of champagne from our engagement party back in October, some good bread, and an oozing buttery round of triple-creme, courtesy of Cowgirl Creamery. I even went as far as licking the cheese straight off the knife, in an emboldened move likely brought on by Audrey Hepburn in Roman Holiday, which is what we were watching at the time.  As it turns out, champagne and Mt. Tam is a brilliant pairing. We also had sweet wedges of nutmeg-laced cake and a bracing, herbal, salty, fabulous pasta for dinner. I sighed and sank into the sofa, feeling heady from the wine and from the wonderful over-consumption.

Today, I woke up craving something a bit……lighter, quieter. Something soothing on the stomach that would nudge me off the couch and out for a walk, not act as a sedative. I came upon a soup recipe languishing in my inbox that had found its way there through a friend of a friend of a friend. An unassuming carrot soup, warmed with ginger and coriander, and brightened with citrus. I shockingly discovered I had (basically) all the ingredients at home already,  cranked up some Dirty Projectors on my laptop, and set to work toute de suite, waggling my spoon and dancing in the kitchen.

This soup may not win any beauty contests, but what it lacks in showy good looks it makes up for in the personality department. Kicky enough to wake me up from my cheese stupor, yet sweet and pleasingly earthy, it was carrots with a slightly saucy attitude. The original recipe called for a healthy blob of yogurt as topping, but as I only had creme fraiche, on it went. The smooth nuttiness rounded out the soup and mellowed the tang a bit. If you try it with yogurt, please let me know your thoughts.

This recipe is adapted from Bon Appetit, who, in turn, adapted it from Molly Stevens. I should have known something this tasty came from the hands of the woman who wrote All About Braising, which is easily one of my most cherished cookbooks.

Indian Spiced Carrot Soup with Ginger

1 teaspoon coriander seeds (I used ground, with no ill effect)
1/2 teaspoon yellow mustard seeds
3 tablespoons peanut oil
1/2 teaspoon curry powder, preferably Madras
1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
2 cups chopped yellow onions
1 1/2 lbs carrots (about 4 cups), peeled and chopped into 1/4″ rounds -please, avoid the bagged baby carrots or gargantuan, woody, dry old carrots. This soup is all about the carrots, so buy the best available!
1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated lime peel
5 cups vegetable broth
1-2 tablespoons fresh lime juice, to taste
up to 1 tablespoon packed dark brown sugar (not called for in the original recipe, but I found my mid-winter carrots not as sweet as I hoped)
creme fraiche or whole milk yogurt for garnish

Grind coriander and mustard seeds in spice mill to fine powder, or bash them up in a mortar and pestle. Heat oil in heavy large pot over medium-high heat. Add ground seeds and curry powder; stir 1 minute. Add ginger; stir 1 minute. Add next 3 ingredients. Sprinkle with salt and pepper; sauté until onions begin to soften, about 3 minutes. Add 5 cups broth; bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer uncovered until carrots are tender, about 30 minutes. Cool slightly. Working in batches, puree in blender until smooth, or use your immersion blender to whir it right in the pot. Return soup to pot. Add more broth by 1/4 cupfuls if too thick. Stir in lime juice and brown sugar, if using; season with salt and pepper, taste, and adjust seasonings if you need to. DO AHEAD: Can be made 1 day ahead. Cool slightly. Chill uncovered until cold, then cover and keep chilled. Rewarm before serving.
Ladle soup into bowls. Garnish with creme fraiche or yogurt and serve.

Hearty servings for 4.

18 Comments leave one →
  1. Daphne permalink
    February 12, 2010 1:29 pm

    You’re voice is a welcome addition to the food blogosphere! Nothing like a great, wonderfully spiced soup to take the winter chill off! We didn’t get as much snow up my way (CT), but the chill is just a real! Unlike the true foodie (like yourself), I DON’T have all those ingredients at my fingertips, but since I CAN get out to the stores, I’ll make up my shopping list and get this one on the stove for the long, cold weekend. Welcome! Keep writing…more pix and more about you!

    • February 12, 2010 1:33 pm

      So glad you came to visit, Daphne! Fortunately, it appears as if DC is beginning to dig out, and I was able to make it to work today. I hope you enjoy the soup! I’m just getting started here, but expect a bit more about me soon. Stay warm!

  2. Vani permalink
    February 12, 2010 6:39 pm

    I love you. And your blog. You are a natural!

    • February 12, 2010 6:42 pm

      You, my dear, are like a big giant hug. So glad you came to say hi on my 1st day.

  3. Katie permalink
    February 12, 2010 7:03 pm

    Wow, Sarah, you are such a good writer! I will def add your blog to my ‘favorites’ list!! I can’t wait for some awesome brussel sprout recipes. Maybe one day you will take a recipe from Beth/Me and we can get a shout out!!!


    • February 12, 2010 7:07 pm

      well hello Katie!

      I really appreciate the kind words about my writing! It’s been so long since I’ve wrote something for myself, but it certainly feels nice to be doing it again. You know I would love some recipes from you & Beth! I see a guest post in the future!

  4. Chrisbo permalink
    February 12, 2010 8:25 pm

    I love to read about your food almost as much as eating. Love the Blog Atwood!

    • February 12, 2010 8:28 pm

      merci beaucoup my dear. looking forward to more winter picnics

  5. Emily permalink
    February 13, 2010 12:30 am

    Oh, I simply love your blog, Sarah!! I sat and reminisced about our wine and cheese nights and baked pasta nights. :) I can’t wait to read more!

    • February 13, 2010 1:17 am

      Em, I am SO happy to see you here! I actually made that baked pasta the other night. I think we should plan a carb-loaded reunion sometime soon, yes??

  6. Amy Black permalink
    February 13, 2010 1:10 pm

    Hi Sarah,

    Bon Appetit!!!
    I love the blog (and I don’t read blogs). I will definitely follow this one, as you know, I share this passion.
    Keep the deliciousness rolling in. I could taste the cheese! On my agenda for today: Boneless leg of lamb waiting to be browned and stewed into Mediterranean spicy flavor explosion…Persian Lovers Cake, Spanakopita apps…mmm. V-day treats– red velvet cupcakes – recipe from Magnolia bakery, NYC.
    See you in the kitchen. (and at Whitegrass next weekend!–we should plan a menu) Love, A

    • February 13, 2010 1:21 pm

      WOW Amy-sounds like your hubby is in for QUITE the meal! I’m very curious about the Persian Lover’s Cake-sounds WONDERFUL! Thanks so so much for stopping by! I plan to add more deliciousness soon! See you soon! xoxo

  7. Nick J permalink
    February 15, 2010 4:58 pm

    The blog is great! Keep up the good work. I’ve laughed out loud a few times (once at picturing your dad bellow).

    A note on dark chocolate and spices (your V-Day post): the next time you go to Paris, you should check out this place called Cacao et Chocolat ( They have “spiced” hot chocolate… essentially really great dark chocolate hot choc with nutmeg, ginger, and other spices. Really a nice treat on a cold day. Perhaps you can make a side trip from Italy.

    • February 15, 2010 5:02 pm

      Thank you, Nick!

      Believe me, I’ve had several chuckles thinking about my dad bellowing, too. It’s certainly stuck with me! The chocolate shop in Paris sounds absolutely wonderful. Sadly, I don’t think I’m going to make it there this summer, but Chris has never been, so we are definitely going to have to arrange a trip sometime soon. There is a place near my dad’s in Santa Fe that has a huge variety of spiced hot chocolates-will have to pop in the next time I visit him :)

  8. February 28, 2010 3:45 pm

    congrats on starting this blog. hope the year, despite all the snow in DC (my family lives there) brings you warmth and luck. best wishes, shayma

  9. March 1, 2010 2:58 pm

    hi, shayma! thanks so much for visiting! i hope your family got through the snow without a hitch. dare i say that in a few weeks it will all melt??

    • March 1, 2010 7:11 pm

      my family is smart :) they spend their winters in Pakistan. i live in toronto and we havent gotten even an inch yet, sorry for having sent it your way!

  10. Nan permalink
    May 11, 2011 2:18 pm

    Hi, I’m late to the party and am starting at the beginning. When you mentioned Molly Stevens and one of my favorite cookbooks, I knew I was hooked. Love, love Molly Stevens and any recipe of hers that I’ve tried. Looks like a lovely site, I’m looking forward to catching up.

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