Soups are simple. Actually…soups can get very complicated…but most of the time it is unnecessary. Soups are a peasant food…made with leftovers and bones and carcasses and bits and pieces. Soups are what you make when you have a few things and you cook them up in a pot of water and add whatever aromatics you might have around. Lastly, soups are perfect for fall…even California fall.
We had an abundance of carrots. I suggested a Carrot Ginger soup…and W’s reaction was “…nothing sounds grosser”. Ummm, really…? Because it is actually quite a classic combination. Carrots themselves are sweet and can end up a little like thin, bland baby food if not processed correctly…but okay…no carrot ginger! Just carrot soup!
Start with carrots. Lots of them. Slice into 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick diagonal slices. No points for prettiness…it will all be puréed in the end.
I start almost all of my soups with a basic mirepoix of the holy trinity – onions, celery and carrots. Since it is carrot soup…I just upped the carrot percentage. Of course garlic is great as well. Heat a large pot, add some olive oil and a little butter and throw everybody in the pool. I start with the heat on high to jumpstart the veggies and sauté for a few minutes until they are coated and beginning to warm. Season with salt and pepper and any other herbs you would like to add. Once the fragrance of all the wonderful things in the pot is wafting through the kitchen…then it is time to add stock, broth or water. I put just enough to barely cover the vegetables. Put the lid on and let cook for at least 15-20 minutes so the carrots are tender.
Check the vegetables for doneness, and now it is time to purée. One of the most useful small appliances I have in my kitchen is my hand-blender. It’s affordable (models ranging in price from $15.00 to $60.00), saves on dishes (you don’t have to transfer the hot veggies in batches into a blender and then back to the pot), small and compact (perfect for apartments and small kitchens), and is easy to clean.
Use your hand-blender or your counter-top blender (purée in batches), to blend the soup. At this point you might need to add additional broth or water to get the soup to the proper thickness. Make sure to correct for seasoning as well. I typically add a touch of cream or half and half…but if you plan on freezing any of the soup, set that portion aside – the cream won’t freeze well, and you’ll be better off adding it to the soup once you’ve re-warmed it.
A lot of the fun you can have with soups is what you put in them or on them once they’re in your bowl. Everything from seared scallops, fried herbs, sliced sausages, crumbled bacon, a splash of vinegar or cream, a drizzle of olive oil or a sprinkle of cheese. We went for simplicity…with a touch of cream, a single leaf of parsley and a few drops of really good Arbequina olive oil.
Serve immediately. Soups make great leftovers as well…sometimes even better the second day. Enjoy!