May 15, 2013

Carrot-Ginger Soup with Lemon

Soup might not seem like an especially fitting spring endeavor, but in Brooklyn now, where it is sunny and 70 degrees one day and moody and cold the next, soup feels right. Especially when it is a bright, light one like this.

It would have never come into being were it not for the carrots at the farmer’s market, an especially young and sprightly looking bunch, unignorable in blightless, look-at-me orange. I grabbed three, not knowing what I would do with them, and hoping their end wouldn’t be boring or worse. Far too many vegetables spend their last days in my crisper drawers, giving up until they’re wan and limp.

I searched “carrots” on my Epicurious app, as I often do in this situation, and this rendering just about fell in my lap. It was my jumping off point. Simple, but still exciting, this soup has a warm, bracing hit of ginger along with a lift of lemon. I love it because it is so healthy (doesn’t it feel enlivening just to look at?), and because it saved me more than once. It was an easy snack one afternoon, plain and unadorned, and a fast hit-the-spot dinner one night, served over farro, and scattered with cilantro and mint. (I bought the herbs on that same farmer’s market run, and miraculously, I have kept them alive in their little pots out on the fire escape.) I dusted it with cayenne pepper, but a spoonful of Greek yogurt would have been a sultry companion, too. Half of the batch stands by at the ready in the freezer, ready to sweep in again at the next hungry moment.

I think this is why I’ve been blogging so little about cooking lately: they aren’t so much recipes I’m working with as they are components thrown together in various pairings. A bunch of sautéed kale appears with brown rice at dinner, then is scrambled with eggs the next morning. Leftover cooked grains go into a frittata, or to bulk up a soup, or get sautéed with herbs and nuts and served alongside roast chicken. When I do manage to get myself in front of the stove, I cook more than I need, and store the rest in the fridge or freezer. If it’s there and ready to use, chances are I will. It’s not a particularly exciting way to eat, and invariably my combinations involve garlic, soy sauce, and brown rice vinegar, but it’s working for me. It feels easy and simple and healthy, and there’s something reassuring about it. Without relying on our cookbooks or recipes, what happens when we just get down to practice of making a meal? As is often the case, we know more than we think.

I really tinkered with the original recipe, which I used more as a flavor profile inspiration.

Carrot-Ginger Soup with Lemon
Serves 4-6

1 tablespoon olive oil
1 chopped onion
1 tablespoon grated ginger
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
1/2 head cauliflower, cut into florets
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon peel
3 cups (or more) water
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add onion and sauté until softened. Add ginger and garlic and sauté another couple of minutes. Add chopped carrots, cauliflower, and tomato paste; sauté 1 minute. Add 3 cups water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover partially and simmer until carrots are very tender, about 20 minutes. Cool slightly.

Puree soup in batches in blender. Return soup to pot. Mix in lemon juice and zest. Season with salt and pepper. Bring soup to a simmer, and thin with additional water if it’s thick.


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  • Alyssa: We just got back from traveling and oh so many meals eaten out that I can’t tell you how happy I was to see my kitchen again. But, as often happens, I feel like I’ve forgotten how to cook my own food!
    This soup and the idea of simple, healthy food made fresh are just the inspiration I need to shake off the dust of my cooking skills and get back to the healthy lifestyle I aspire to. (I’ve also been adding some play back into my life. It sure ups the fun quotient and is helping me in more ways than I can number.)
    Thanks for the inspiration, Sarah!2 years ago

  • Katie @ cakes, tea and dreams: Yum. After reading this post, I ended up eating carrot-ginger soup for lunch – now I want to make my own! Thanks, Sarah.2 years ago

  • Alyssa, There’s something nice about coming home after a trip (especially if you’ve been eating rich and decadent food, as is so often the case!) and eating really simple, wholesome food. And I love what you said about adding play–precisely why I’m taking tap, ha!

    Katie, Hope it hit the spot!2 years ago

  • Liza in Ann Arbor: I like the addition of cauliflower here. I bet it gives the soup a little heft, but not too much. Probably just right for spring.2 years ago

  • In fact it does give it heft! Good call, Liza.2 years ago

  • Ginger: I’m so glad I’m not the only one… this spring has been so mild that I haven’t quite gotten soups out of my system. The other day, I even threw on the crockpot and made a big pot of vegetable chili. I felt crazy, but it really hit the spot. (Also, I think of the crock-pot as a winter tool in my kitchen, but I didn’t have to heat a single pot or oven!)2 years ago

  • Crystal: This soup sounds delicious, Sarah, bracing and bright! I’m right there with you on the “blueprint cooking” as most dinners at my house start with “Sauté onions and garlic in olive oil…” I love all the food resources on the internet and especially all the beautifully photographed blogs but just as there’s been a bit of admission on the part of the blogosphere that homes/lives/wardrobes aren’t always as perfect and shiny as they may be presented in posts, I wish more people would get real about their food as well. I’m just as likely as the next person to ooh and aah over a beautifully crafted chocolate masterpiece crowned in perfect ganache or a spectacular main dish salad with 17 steps but in reality that’s not how you or I or most of the people reading the post cook or eat. Slavishly following a complicated recipe means you can follow instructions but it doesn’t mean you can cook. A cook knows to face that bounty of carrots and make something delicious and satisfying. A cook can look into a bare end-of-the-week refrigerator and whip up an omelet with whatever may be at hand. Here’s to roasted vegetables and hearty grains and quick sautés! I thoroughly enjoy your celebrations of real food in your real life because that’s what’s going on in my kitchen and on my plate and in my life as well. Thanks again for putting poetry into the everyday. Now, I’m off to hunt brown rice vinegar to add to my repertoire!2 years ago

  • Emma: I made this with turnips instead of cauliflower and threw in a bit of spicy sausage I needed to use up. And it turned into a rainy soup weekend just in time. Thanks! :)2 years ago

  • Ananasa: Love this recipe! Perfect for the fall weather. We thank you so much for this one! Home For Handmade2 years ago

  • lyrics songs: Yum. After reading this post, I ended up eating carrot-ginger soup for lunch15 weeks ago

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