I had a bag of nice, fresh carrots and a Sunday afternoon. I have made some vegetable soups I really enjoy -- such as vichyssoise and, most recently, the creamy celery soup that has no cream -- but never carrot. So I went online (see the article here, "Finding Recipes Online") and found 25,000 recipes for carrot soup. That's useful.
The way I like to treat online recipes is to use then to draw a consensus. I opened up each interesting recipe link in a separate tab (command-click (Mac) or control-click (Windows) the links). I went to a favorite site (epicurious.com), searched there and sorted by "fork rating." I opened up the most interesting recipes in tabs.
Now I had a dozen or so tabs. I clicked across them, scanning the ingredients for commonalities — that tells me what the cooks like to use with carrots. Potatoes — interesting thought, since that makes the soup not so carroty. Many recipes include ginger, thyme, or curry powder. Cumin — reminds me of a favorite carrot dish I make, so I know cumin and carrots are flavor buddies. Leeks: I happen to have some all cut and trimmed (extras from a lamb braise I made yesterday), so I will definitely include those. Toasted pecans — I make a note to use nuts as a garnish.
I discarded recipes that did not appeal to me today, such as the one with the cream and cheese (too fatty), the one that uses a base of canned cream-of-something soup, and the one that calls for (ack) boullion cubes. Then I review the rest until a mental picture materializes.
Here is my no-recipe soup, followed by the recipe I made today.
No-Recipe Pureed Vegetable Soup
This is a creamy puree-style vegetable soup. You can use root vegetables such as carrots, rutabaga, and potatoes. You can also use squash. One hint, though: Pay attention to color. If you use orange vegetables, avoid green ones because green and orange make gray. Tastes fine but doesn't look so nice.
Melt a couple of tablespoons of butter in a heavy 4-8 qt pot. Add aromatic vegetables like onion, leeks, shallots. Cook to brown lightly and add garlic at the end so it won't brown much (because browned garlic is bitter). Add chicken or vegetable stock and cut up vegetables. Add compatible herbs and flavorful liquids like sherry. Simmer for 30 minutes and puree. Add salt and pepper to taste (you want to barley be able to taste the salt). Serve with a garnish of toasted nuts or curls of cheese or very thin slices of whatever vegetables are in the stock.
Today's Carrot Soup
Melt a couple of tablespoons of butter in a heavy 4-8 qt pot. Add
1/2 c. onion, chopped
1 c. leeks, using only the white and pale portions, chopped into 1-inch pieces
Saute until tender.
5 carrots, peeled and chopped into 1/2 to 1-inch pieces
1 potato, chopped into 1/2 to 1-inch pieces
1/2 c. chopped fennel
1 tbsp. finely grated fresh ginger
1/2 tsp. toasted and ground cumin seeds
2 c. chicken stock
Simmer 30 minutes, puree. Add milk, water, or chicken stock to desired consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste (so you can barely taste the salt).