Monday, April 13, 2009

From Humble Beginnings

"Best" and "soup" are not words that generally go together for me. More like "soup" and "is it still winter?" or "soup" and "again?"--about one billion times more so if "soup" is preceded by the name of any root vegetable. Parsnip bisque? Blech. Carrot puree? Sounds like baby food.

So now you've got the lay of the land here at The C Is For Cocina, soupwise. Ready to hear the ingredient list for what may be one of my new favorite soups--nay, meals--ever?

Carrots. Leeks. Stock. A potato. Butter. Oil. Sage, salt, pepper and sugar.

No lie: That's all it takes to make an incredible soup that will clear out your blood vessels and wake your taste buds up from their winter torpor. Of course, if you're like me, you'll want to gild the lily by stirring in an improvised arugula pesto (approximate recipe at the end), but even if you don't have the makings on hand, I promise this will be one of the most refreshing, revelatory little soups you've ever tasted. And you won't even wish it wasn't winter anymore.

Carrot Soup with Caramelized Carrots, adapted from Cookthink

For the soup:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
6 medium organic carrots, the freshest and smallest you can find peeled if desired, trimmed, and sliced crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick coins (about 3 cups)
3 small to medium leeks, trimmed and thoroughly washed, white and light green parts cut crosswise into 1/2-inch-thick coins (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 baking potato, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch dice (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage leaves
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
6 to 7 cups homemade chicken or vegetable broth

For the caramelized carrot garnish:
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
3 carrots, peeled if desired, trimmed and cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 teaspoon finely shredded (chiffonade) fresh sage leaves, or to taste (I used more)
1 scant tablespoon sugar

To make the soup:

1. In a large Dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed pot, warm the butter and oil over medium heat until the butter is melted.

2. Add the carrots and leeks. Sauté the vegetables for about 10 minutes, or until they have begun to soften.

3. Add the potato, sage, salt and pepper and cook for 5 minutes.

4. Stir in 6 cups of the broth. Bring the soup to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer, partially covered, for 20 to 25 minutes, until all of the vegetables are tender.

5. Remove from the heat and let the soup cool for 10 minutes. Purée the soup in a blender, in batches if necessary, or in the pot using an immersion blender. Return the soup to the pot and reheat on medium-low until heated through.

To make the caramelized carrots:

1. Heat the butter and oil in a medium-size skillet or sauté pan placed over medium heat.

2. When the butter is melted and begins to sizzle, stir in the diced carrots and shredded sage. Raise the heat to medium-high and sauté for 5 minutes, stirring frequently, until the carrots are tender and lightly browned.

3. Sprinkle with the sugar and cook briefly to allow the sugar to caramelize. Season with a little salt and pepper and remove from the heat. To serve, ladle equal portions of soup into six bowls. Garnish each serving with a spoonful of the caramelized carrots and serve immediately.

A Sort of Recipe for Arugula pesto:

Large handful arugula, thick stems removed
A few leaves of sage, to taste, roughly chopped
Two to three cloves garlic, roughly chopped, plus a few garlic chives if you happen to be growing them
About 1/2 cup pine nuts or roughly-chopped walnuts
Salt and pepper to taste
Large pinch red pepper flakes
1/2 to 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Mix the first six ingredients together in the bowl of a food processor. With the blade going, slowly pour oil through the processor's feed tube until the desired consistency is reached. Swirl into individual soup bowls before garnishing with carrots.

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