Category Soup

Roasted Carrot Soup

This roasted carrot soup won Food52‘s contest for Your Best Carrot Recipe, beating out 217 other entrants. It bested the predictable salads, slaws, and carrot cakes; not to mention some more surprising recipes such as Candied Carrot Balls and Carrot Cake Ice Cream. Perhaps more significantly, it topped more than twenty other carrot soups. It’s that tasty.

Roasting the carrots intensifies their flavor (not to mention their sweetness) and the ginger and thyme, which steep in the broth before it is added to the carrots, bring a subtle complexity to the bowl. This is not a carrot ginger soup. It is a carrot soup with a slight kick.

It is also ridiculously simple. The recipe calls for just seven ingredients: carrots, olive oil, vegetable stock, a sprig of thyme, ginger, onion, and garlic.

It isn’t a meal in a bowl, by any means. I served it with naan and some leftover pizza. The next time I make it, I’ll round out the meal in a less haphazard fashion, and when I do, we’ll hear the The Professor’s grade.

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Rich Garlic Soup with Spinach and Pasta Shells

Last week my dear friend Helen was in town and she came over for dinner.

“What do you want to eat,” I had asked her, in preparation.

“Something that you can write about for your blog, of course,” she responded.

Helen is a vegetarian. She is also British, which means she  grew up eating things like bangers and cottage pie and other euphemisms for … well, let’s not go there. In any case, I’d meant to ask Helen why and when she became a vegetarian but I forgot. I suppose it was because she grew up eating bangers.

In any case, the morning of her visit was cold and wet so I decided to make Martha Rose Shulman’s Rich Garlic Soup with Spinach and Pasta Shells for dinner.

I left the cookbook on the counter, opened to that page, while I started peeling the garlic. The Professor raised an eyebrow when he glanced at the recipe, but I pointed to Shulman’s words and repeated them: “It’s a meal in a bowl.”

“OK,” he replied, still skeptical.

The results were mixed.

For a meatless, creamless soup, the broth really was quite tasty and rich, thanks to the addition of four egg yolks. “It tastes good,” The Professor said. “Though I’d still call it subtle.

Subtle! It has damn near thirty cloves of garlic in it! I thought to myself, and turned my attention to Helen.

But The Professor continued his critique. The soup’s main flaw, to his mind, was the toasted bread, which the recipe calls for putting in the bottom of the bowl, sprinkling with grated Gruyere, and then topping with the hot soup. Inevitably, the bread turns mushy, and The Professor can’t abide mushy.

At the end of the meal, The Professor offered his conclusion: “I guess it’s filling … if you eat enough of it. But a meal in a bowl it is not!”

I think the soup is worth trying again — with the bread simply sliced for dunking into the soup, or cubed for sprinkling on top.

Super Carrot Soup

Last night I served carrot soup, based on a recipe from Power Foods, a book I’ve written about before. (I used vegetable stock rather than chicken stock and 2% milk rather than half-and-half. I also forgot the last-minute sprinkle of cayenne!)

In my experience, many soups that focus on a single vegetable — pea, asparagus, mushroom, etc — can involve pounds of the main ingredient and hours of work yet not deliver even minutes of rich flavor. The result might be too watery, too subtle, or too boring. In short, such soups can be disappointing.

As a soup, this recipe did not disappoint — or didn’t disappoint The Cook, at least. The soup wasn’t too watery, and I thought its vibrant orange color was matched by a concentrated flavor that I attributed to the two cups of carrot juice the recipe calls for.

For his part, The Professor deemed it “not as subtle as your butternut squash soup.” (A soup, I noted, that involves more ingredients and prep time.) “But I thought it smelled more flavorful than it tasted,” he added.

In any case, I had to admit that the soup — yummy as it was — felt more like an appetizer than a main course. To round out the meal, I had served it with a salad and what I called parmesan flat bread (an Iggy’s pizza shell, brushed with olive oil; sprinkled with cheese, salt, and pepper; and heated on the griddle).

“It’s definitely a light meal,” said The Professor. “But you don’t want a heavy meal every night.”

I didn’t ask for a grade this time, but I will try it again on some evening when a light meal would be welcome. And next time I won’t forget the garnish of cayenne, which might just heat the soup into the A range.

Deborah Madison’s Lentil Minestrone

Deborah Madison’s recipe for minestrone soup with lentils was perfect for what turned out to be a cold spring day. Some weeks ago I’d bought some black beluga lentils — “the caviar of beans,” according to the bag — and left them sitting next to my bowls of onions and garlic on my chopping table.  And yesterday, when we were all in the mood for a warming dinner, I flipped through my cookbooks for a lentil soup.

Lentils, because of their small size and thin seed coats, cook faster than most other beans. But because it was a first-time recipe, it took me longer than it should have to get the soup on the table, and by the time I was ready the NBA play-off game that The Professor had planned to watch last night had already begun. Nevertheless … he gave the dish an A- — a rarity for a first attempt!

The Professor liked the flavors. The recipe begins with cooking the onions until they brown and that, combined with a generous amount of garlic, lots of diced carrots and celery and a good handful of bay leaves, parsley branches and sprigs of thyme, gave the broth a richness that is often missing in vegetarian soups.

“It almost tastes like it’s been cooked in a meat stock,” he noted. “I wouldn’t want this soup in the middle of summer,” he added. “But it’s good.”

He also liked the different texture of the pasta, which I’d cooked separately, run under cold water a minute shy of its full cooking time, and and then added to the soup before serving.

“The lentils gave it a nice substance,” he said on the issue of satisfaction, “And it was more interesting than the average lentil soup because of the greens and pasta.”

He paused while I scribbled down his comments, and then added, “Though if there were a few cubes of ham in here, it would be the bomb!”

I ignored the final comment and turned to Ella, who had been trying to get in on the conversation. “The lentils are good with the pasta,” the three-something said seriously. “They would also be good with purple.”

With that said, here’s the recipe:

Lentil Minestrone
Adapted from Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone

Ingredients
2 tablespoons olive oil, plus extra virgin to finish
2 cups onion, finely chopped
2 tablespoons tomato paste (I didn’t have tomato paste on hand so I added a half cup of chopped tomatoes.)
1/4 cup chopped parsley
4 garlic cloves, chopped
3 carrots, diced
1 cup diced celery or celery root
1 cup French green lentils, rinsed ( I used black beluga lentils, which are similar in size)
Aromatics: 2 bay leaves, 8 parsley branches, 6 thyme sprigs
9 cups water or vegetable stock (it will look like too much liquid but add it anyway)
Mushroom soy sauce to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
1 bunch greens—mustard, broccoli rabe, chard, or spinach (I used chard)
2 cups cooked small pasta (I used lumache, which my “Italian mother” calls little snails)
Thin shavings of Parmesan (be generous!)

Instructions
Heat the oil in a wide soup pot with the onion. Saute over high heat, stirring frequently, until lightly browned, about 10 minutes.

Add the tomato paste, parsley, celery, garlic, vegetables, and 2 teaspoons salt and cook 3 minutes more.

Add the lentils, aromatics, and water and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, partially covered, for 30 minutes. Taste for salt and season with pepper. If it needs more depth, add mushroom soy sauce to taste, starting with 1 tablespoon. (The soup may seem bland at this point, but the flavors will come together when the soup is finished.) Remove the aromatics.

Boil the greens in salted water until they’re tender and bright green, then chop them coarsely. (Or, add the chopped greens to the soup while the pasta is cooking.)

Just before serving, add the greens and the pasta to the soup and heat through. Serve with extra virgin olive oil drizzled into each bowl, a generous grind of pepper, and the Parmesan.

Mark Bittman on Easy Soups

I am very late commenting on Mark Bittman’s first column for the The New York Times Magazine. It ran a few Sundays ago and focused on soups. “Creamy, Brothy, Earthy, Hearty” was the title.

I’m a big fan of soups, and already make several similar to those he suggests — a creamy and gingery butternut squash soup; a tomato soup with fresh basil; a black bean soup. I find the challenge is turning a yummy soup into a satisfying meal.

With the tomato soup, for instance, I serve grilled cheese sandwiches or bruschetta (as my “Italian” Mom taught me to call thick cut toast) rubbed with garlic and olive oil, and served with a selection of cheeses.

The butternut squash soup I served with seared scallops until I suddenly and inexplicably turned against the tasty molluscs. Now I’m struggling to find a good complement.

In any case, I’ll post my soup recipes soon. In the meantime, enjoy Mark Bittman’s.