Friday, December 17, 2010

Roasted Carrot Soup

Last week I had a sudden, intensely strong craving for borscht. I am not, in general, a huge beet fan, but I absolutely love a bowl of borscht. The earthiness of the beets mixes with the mild sweetness of the carrots and cooks up into a kind of buttery tasting soup that still manages to seem very...clean, for lack of a better word. Admittedly, the soup's vibrant redness and capacity for staining things makes it a bit dangerous. If you have to spill some soup on your favorite pajamas (doesn't everyone eat dinner in pajamas?), you don't want that soup to be borscht. All the same, though, that level of danger makes eating it just a little bit more special.

After that lovely stuff was all gone, though, we I wanted to go with something a bit safer. What's safer than carrots? I realize that the world is littered with carrot soup recipes, many of which lean heavily on a variety of fat sources to thicken and enrich them. Since I am personally not a fan of soups with a really heavy mouth-feel, I opted to use just a bit of cashews to give it that slight, cream-based feeling. My other main contribution is roasting the carrots instead of just cooking them in the broth or with the onions. I've been a bit single-minded about roasting recently. Seriously, there aren't many things I can be talked out of drizzling with a bit of olive oil and baking in the oven. Also, the garlic roasts along with the carrots, and very few things in this world are more delicious than roasted garlic. Or it may just be that there are very few things in the world about which I will resist the temptation to speak in hyperbole.

All joking aside, this is the time of year to make root vegetable soups. Right now the squashes, beets, and carrots are bursting from the produce shelves in all their winter abundance (which, incidentally, also means that they're at their cheapest), but don't be lulled into complacency. The season will be over sooner than you think.

Roasted Carrot Soup

1/3 c raw cashews, soaked for three or four hours
5-6 medium-sized carrots, thickly sliced
4 cloves garlic, sliced or chopped
sea salt
1 small sweet onion
1/2 t turmeric
1 T rubbed powdered sage
3 cubes veggie broth
6 c water
1 mandarin orange

Preheat oven to 375. On a baking sheet, toss carrots and garlic with a little olive oil. Sprinkle with salt. Roast for 30 minutes or until tender, stirring at least once. While the carrots are roasting, heat a little more oil in a large pot. Add onions and cook until translucent. Add turmeric and sage and cook 3 minutes more. Add 3 cubes of broth and 6 cups of water (or just 6 cups of veggie broth. You can figure that out right?) and reduce heat to low. When the carrots are tendered and starting to look a bit caramelized, remove from oven. Process carrots, garlic, cashews, and about a cup of the broth/onion mixture until smooth. Add more broth as necessary. Return the soup to the pot and cook on low for 10-15 minutes to let the flavors mingle. Squeeze the juice from the orange into the soup, stir briefly, and serve topped with roasted pepitas. Some of the onion chunks will still be in the soup, but we like it that way.

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