Monday, May 16, 2011

A cool spring day fix: carrot and cilantro soup

I've never been a fan of carrots. They seem simple, abundant and humdrum. Raw carrots have too much crunch, detracting from any flavor I might enjoy and cooked carrots never really appeal. But this soup is an exception, reminding me of some of carrot's redeeming qualities. They're an aromatic vegetable used to give flavor to stocks, soups and stews. They're good for your health, they're good for scooping up hummus and they're delicious in this soup.

One of the reasons why this soup in particular changed my mind is because it's pureed. The extra step of pureeing and straining the soup adds sophistication with a smooth, silky texture. The act of straining the soup removes ingredients added to impart flavors and never intended to be on the table, ie the carrots. This is a great cooking technique that people often don't take the time to do but that makes a difference and will take your soups to the next level.

The other reason this soup is so good is because it's based on Alice Waters' carrot and cilantro soup from her cookbook Chez Panisse Vegetables. Alice is a pioneer in using organically and locally grown foods. Her recipes are simple, yet perfect with complex flavors arising from just a few ingredients.

Roasted Carrot and Cilantro Soup
adapted from Alice Waters' recipe

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 yellow onion, diced
1 pound of carrots, chopped
3 potatoes, cubed
1.5 litres (6 cups) vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
1/2 bunch cilantro (leaves only)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
salt and pepper to taste

Heat olive oil in a soup pot and add diced onion. Saute and stir occasional until soft and golden.

Peel potatoes and cut into cubes, peel the carrots and cut cross ways a half inch thick . Once the onions are soft, add potatoes and carrots and continue to stew for about 10 minutes.

Next add turmeric, bay leaf and vegetable stock. Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer and let it bubble away until the vegetables are cooked and soft. Take the pot off heat and add in the cilantro leaves.

Puree the soup in a food processor in multiple batches until smooth. Strain through a medium sized sieve.

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