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From the Experimental Kitchen: Creamy Carrot Soup with a Side of Baby Chard

Vegetables are amazing. I mean, there’s kohlrabi, which looks like nothing quite so much as a purple and green UFO camouflaged with a few leaves in order to lurk in your home gardens and probe the tomatoes and eggplant undetected. There are lumpy and bumpy and spiny cucumbers, amazing zebra-striped tomatoes, tenacious snap peas, and, of course, the artichoke. The artichoke is a testament to human ingenuity, as I am still baffled as to how anyone ever figured out that the artichoke bud was edible. In addition to all the oddball shirttail relations of Veggieland, however, there are the gorgeous cousins, like these sunset-hued, violet-red carrots.

We took home a bunch each of the last two weeks from our CSA, which meant that it was definitely time for carrots for dinner at our house. My first inclination was to roast them with some of my wonderful WildTree lemon-infused grapeseed oil, salt, and maybe a bit of dill, but it turns out that the little dill babies the neighbor gave us last week are still a ways away from being bulked up enough to provide dinner. I decided to roast the carrots anyway, though with an alternate ultimate goal: a delicious, creamy carrot soup. I had been wanting to experiment more with vegan versions of creamy soups, and the carrots seemed to be just the ticket. I had made some cashew milk (just like my almond milk, but with cashews) the day before, and I still had all the thick, creamy cashew pulp in the fridge. Perfect, I thought. (Actually, it was more like, “Eh, what the hey,” but that’s sort of how I roll in ye olde kitchen.)  Carrots and cashews seemed like a wonderful combination.

It turns out that they are.  The soup turned out beautifully, and we will absolutely make it again. Better still, however, was pairing this soup with an improvised recipe for satuéed baby Swiss chard.  Sometimes in the Experimental Kitchen, we hit paydirt.  Today was definitely one of those days.  I usually don’t post recipes together, but these two are so delightfully complementary that I henceforth decree that they must live happily ever after in each other’s company.  Besides, I suppose I don’t really have a recipe for the greens, so does it really count?

Make this soup with these greens sometime soon.  Your heart will sing and your tummy will thank you, and you and the beautiful carrots and the delicious greens will all live happily ever after.

Creamy Carrot Soup

This soup was made with what we had on hand, but since the recipe doesn’t use much in the way of exact amounts, you can make as much or as little as you like!  A regular-sized bunch of carrots makes enough for about 2-4 people, depending on appetite.

Ingredients:

two bunches of carrots (I used the beautiful carrots pictured above, but any carrots will do), scrubbed and dried

one medium onion, peeled and coarsely chopped

one small-medium sweet potato, scrubbed and cubed in pretty small chunks (1/2″ by 1/2″)

1/2 c cashew cream (see explanation in the post above)

cashew milk or water

grapeseed oil or other mild-flavored high heat cooking oil

lemon infused grapeseed oil, or the zest of one lemon

1 tsp white wine vinegar mixed with 2 tsp agave nectar

vanilla extract

1/4-1/2 lemon

touch of pumpkin pie spice

1 tsp turmeric

touch of ginger

salt

Preheat the oven to 350.  Lay your carrots in a single layer in a roasting pan.  (I left mine whole, but they were fairly slender.  If you have bulkier carrots, you may want to cut them into 2″ chunks to facilitate the roasting.) In a small bowl, whisk together a small splash of vanilla extract with 1 tsp each of the grapeseed oil and the lemon-infused oil (or the vanilla extract, two tsp plain grapeseed oil, and the lemon zest).  Drizzle the oil over the carrots, sprinkle liberally with salt, and toss them well to combine.  Place in the oven to roast until tender and beginning to caramelize.  (Depending on the size of your carrots, this could take anywhere from 15 minutes to 45.  Keep an eye on them.)

Meanwhile, in a large soup pot or Dutch oven, add a splash of grapeseed oil and cook the onion and sweet potato over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion begins to caramelize.  Add the vinegar/agave nectar mix at this point and stir well, scraping up all the little yummy caramelized bits from the bottom of the pan.  Toss in the roasted carrots, and add just enough water to reach just below the level of the veggies.  Raise the heat to medium and let it simmer until the sweet potatoes, carrots, onions, et al are tender.

Pour the mixture into a blender, add the cashew cream, and purée, adding cashew milk or more water to thin to the desired consistency.  (Also known as the consistency at which your blender doesn’t have a coronary.)  Pour the soup back into the pot and return to the stove over low heat.

Add the tsp turmeric, a sprinkle of pumpkin pie spice and a sprinkle of ginger.  Squeeze 1/4-1/2 lemon, to taste, into the mixture, and adjust the salt and other spices as you see fit.  Yum!

True confessions: In the picture, you can see that I tried to do something uncharacteristically fancy—I tried to make a flavorful clove oil for garnish, thereby making my bowl of soup look a bit like a modern art piece.  The verdict: garnish, it was; flavorful, it was not.  Not especially. I think I need to actually read up on that before trying it again.  (What can I say?  This is an experimental kitchen, after all.)  However, if you want a garnish for your soup, consider a tiny sprinkle of cloves or a couple whole cloves for decoration.  Of course, if you are a master of crafting exquisite clove oils, knock yourself out.  Just remember to post here in the comments about how you did it.

And finally, for the greens…

Now, usually I make few distinctions between greens: if you can do it with kale, try it with mustard greens, mizuna, or rainbow chard!  However, while I’m not trying to cramp your creative vibe, I will warn you that I don’t think this dish would be the same with a fierce and bullish green.  You need something mild.  Something lovely and tender and green.  You need baby Swiss chard.

To make it, I just pounded some fenugreek seeds in a mortar and pestle until bruised, then tossed them in a cast iron skillet with some grapeseed oil.  After they’d roasted for a bit, I added a pile of chopped baby chard, a sprinkle of salt, and sautéed until wilting.  Then, I added a heaping spoonful of tahini (roasted sesame seed paste, available in health food stores and Mediterranean/Middle Eastern grocers) and about four chopped Black Sphinx dates.  The sweetness of the dates with the slightly bitter tahini set off the greens and was just fantastic with the creamy, delicately spiced carrot soup.  Try it out, especially if you live somewhere where it’s still snowy and cold out.  It’s like sunshine in a bowl. Carrot soup does a body good.

Guten Apetit!

5 comments

5 Comments so far

  1. Kathleen April 3rd, 2009 11:21 am

    I’m not a fan of carrots but this soup sounds really delicious. I just may give it a try. We love chard around here. Tonight we are having quiche with chard, leeks, parmesan cheese and bacon from a local ranch. I’m hungry already.

  2. Mangochild April 4th, 2009 3:31 am

    I laughed when I read “The artichoke is a testament to human ingenuity, as I am still baffled as to how anyone ever figured out that the artichoke bud was edible.” because I have often thought the same thing, and the same about rutabagas, batatas, and taro :-D How on earth did people decide that these hard, brown, stone-looking things would be good to put in the mouth? But I’m glad they did, lol.
    Your recipe for greens sounds really good. I’ve made greens with fenugreek often, but never thought of adding the dates/sesame. Once the greens start coming in here, it’ll be on the menu.

  3. Kimmus April 7th, 2009 11:38 am

    You never cease to amaze me! What gorgeous carrots and a gorgeous soup! And I don’t think I have ever used fenugreek before in cooking…I will have to look for that in the store. Yum!

  4. [...] is why, today, I’d like to introduce you all to the man responsible for my beautiful sunset-colored carrots.  Everyone, meet Farmer [...]

  5. [...] was all delicious, but I confess that I really fell hopelessly in love with the carrots. These are the carrots I had wanted to make a couple weeks ago but had to forego due to my undersized dill plants. However, it’s been in the 80s and 90s [...]

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