starting with soup
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.