Being suddenly back in the north, land of winter, after four years in California swimming in November and gaping astonishedly at all the people wearing parkas when it got to be 60F in October, has meant we get to jump headfirst into real winter food. That clearly means soup.
I don't know; I feel a lot more conflicted about the food transition than I expected. I mean, when we got to CA we were not really impressed by the food, especially after everyone had been hyping it up for years. We were kind of shocked by the availability of good produce really early and late in the year, but it didn't seem then like it affected our eating habits all that much, right? We only ate fresh green beans consistently all winter, and that's not too weird. (Yes it is.) Then there were things like "figs begging to be picked, taken home, and loved on the tree behind the empty house down the street." I really, really liked the fruit, but did not expect to also find it in NYC.
So when we have fairly awful produce at the easily accessible stores, I shouldn't be surprised. It's winter in a big city; I should know food will take more effort. I do know, but that knowledge is hard to apply in my actual life. It's especially hard to apply it enough to make the effort to get out to the food co-op or the farmer's market, where there will be good, seasonal, local produce that I can cook appropriately according to the season.
I really miss the concept of garden. Have to get some seeds and containers and start the tomatoes for the fire escape. Have to ask the landlord about potential roof access. Can I get away with some bush beans? Can I start a serious freezer stock of summer produce? I bet I can do it from the farmer's market peak produce if nothing else. Hmm.
Anyway: soup. This one is carrot cumin.
Soup is always really easy, but takes a while on the simmer. It's definitely a good project for long lazy weekend afternoon, during which you can do all the little things that crop up around the house while the pot is on the stove. Or you can play video games and read books. Whichever.
Carrot cumin soup
garlic if you want it
some green herb: oregano, parsley, thyme
lots of carrot
sweet potato to bulk it up
veg broth or water
Get out a big, deep soup pot and warm a little olive oil in it. Peel and dice an onion; smash, peel, and mince a few cloves of garlic if you want them. Tip your minced bits into the olive oil. Season with a lot of cumin and whatever else sounds adequately delicious. I wanted a pretty simple soup, so I just added a little oregano to give it something green in the background. You could definitely go wild in the brown mustard seed/turmeric/coriander direction if you wanted, though.
Stir up the business and let it soften over medium-low heat. In the meantime, peel a big carrot or two and a little sweet potato. Make sure to keep the carrot dominant so this will actually be "carrot soup"; the sweet potato is here for texture and to bulk the body of the soup, while still keeping it as orange and sweet as carrot.
Toss the carrot and sweet potato peel, along with any other bits of vegetables you have lying around, into a pot of water over high heat; i.e. make broth. You can also use frozen broth if you have any lying around. It's all good; I just like to use all the trash for extra carrot and sweet potato deliciousness.
Chop the carrot and sweet potato into small dice and add them to the softened onion mix. Mix it up and let it all cook together while your broth develops. After five or ten minutes, start scooping out ladles of broth and adding them to the main soup pan. Get enough liquid in to cover the vegetables by a couple inches, making up the difference with water if necessary.
Bring the pot to a boil, turn the heat down, cover, and simmer until the carrot and potato are cooked through. This will take at least half an hour, and probably more. Salt and pepper, correct any other spices, and give it another five minutes to meld adequately.
Now take the pan off the heat and attack it with your immersion blender. You could use an actual blender or food processor instead, or leave the soup unpuréed if you like broths with lots of chunks.
You are done. Put your soup in bowls and eat it.
Things to have with said soup:
- lots of hot toast or warm pita bread with hummus/garlic white beans/etc.
- sauteed greens to float on top, or to put in the bottom of the bowl and serve the soup over.
- or garlic white beans or garbanzos and maybe some roasted pepper over a big salad.
- lots of croutons as garnish.
- popcorn as garnish. I've been thinking about this idea and not doing it for far too long.