Anything this orange, made with root vegetables, should be served on a crisp fall day – rich and hearty with a crusty bread and some good farm-fresh butter (which I evangelize about here). But this carrot-beet soup is light and fresh, tastes as good cold as it does served hot and is perfect for summer.
Arriving home from a trip to the Market with baby carrots and golden beets, I began searching cookbooks for salads and sautés. Stumbling across a recipe for Potage Crécy first made me think of soup. Crécy, it turns out, is not French for orange root vegetables, but refers to a town known, once-upon-a-time, for growing exceptional carrots. However, there is debate about which of two French towns, one in the south and one in the north, each with Crécy in its name, first served up this light summer soup.
Reading through several recipes, I discovered a basic formula of carrots cooked with onions and stock, puréed and flavored with orange. We added the golden beets, sweet but far less earthy than red ones. I grabbed a bottle of Sapore’s Orange Oil off the shelf and we served up three bowls, each seasoned differently. It was a quick bite after adding turmeric but before adding cumin that was our favorite – although curry was a close second. Served warm, it is light and sweet. Once chilled it is herbal and far more carrot-y. Both are delicious.
- 2 tbs butter
- 1 candy sweet onion, or white onion, diced
- 4 cups thinly sliced carrots
- 3 cups diced golden beets
- 1 tbs minced garlic
- 6-8 cups vegetable stock
- 3 tbs Orange Oil*
- 1/2 tsp Turmeric
- 1/3 cup cream
- Sherry vinegar
*If you don’t have Orange Oil, substitute 3 tbs olive oil, and one tablespoon grated orange zest
- Melt butter over medium heat in a 4 quart soup pot. Sauté onions until
- soft and translucent.
- Add carrots and beets. Sauté 7-10 minutes until golden on edges. Add ginger after 5 minutes.
- Add stock and simmer approximately 30 minutes until vegetables can be mashed with a fork.
- Pass soup through the finest blade of a food mill or purée with a blender. Return to pot.
- Stir in Orange Oil and simmer an additional 5 minutes to bring flavors together.
- Remove from heat, let cool slightly, and stir through cream.
- Add turmeric a little at a time so as to not overpower the carrot flavor.
- Season to taste with salt, pepper and sherry vinegar.
- Serve hot or cold.
When the wind is blustery and damp with snow, there are few things more satisfying than a grilled cheese sandwich and a bowl of tomato soup. Whether you keep it simple or gussy it up with roasted tomatoes and fresh herbs, the flavor is deep, rich and satisfying.
When the sun is bright and warm, and you’re dining outdoors, cooled by a light breeze, a rich, hearty tomato soup seems like a slap in the face to one of summer’s most treasured gifts from the garden. The good Lord already took care of packing sweet sugar and tart acidity into those tomatoes. Why do you have to go and play with it?
I wanted a soup – quick cooked to protect the freshness of the tomatoes. Few ingredients so you’re not wasting a perfectly beautiful summer afternoon locked up in the kitchen.
And I found it. A twenty minute soup. A simple bowl of summer.
Fresh Tomato Soup
- 2 tbs olive oil
- 1 large onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 7 large, very ripe tomatoes, chopped
- 4-6 basil stems*
- 1/4 cup Fresh Tomato oil**
- Sherry vinegar
- 6-8 fresh basil leaves, cut in thin strips
*My basil plants needed a break this weekend so I used cilantro. It was a different taste, for sure, but deep and more complex. Equally delicious.
**Another treat from Sapore Olive Oil and Vinegar on Capitol Hill. I have been burning through this stuff this spring, giving April-May tomatoes a July-August flavor. It’s a new pantry staple!
- Sauté onion in olive oil for 5 minutes over medium heat until soft and translucent.
- Add garlic and cook for 1 minute, until fragrant.
- Add tomatoes and basil stems and cook for 10-15 minutes until softened.
- Pass soup through a food mill. If using a food processor, remove basil stems first. The food processor also removes the tomato stems for a smoother texture.
- Return puree to pot, add a quarter cup of Fresh Tomato oil, and simmer an additional 5-10 minutes minutes to bring the flavors together.
- Season to taste with additional Fresh Tomato oil, vinegar, salt and pepper. The vinegar is there to brighten the tomato flavors. If the ones you are using are nice and acidic, you may not need it.
- Garnish with fresh basil and an additional drizzle of tomato oil.
Cream soups always seem institutional, the purview of cans and dining halls. At their best, they are comforting carb and fat bombs, warming us on cold, wet days. But cream soups have never been an expression of the Socratic ideal of their centerpiece, be it broccoli, mushrooms or asparagus.
When I first started working with Alice Waters’ asparagus soup recipe, it was a revelation. Potatoes and onions, not cream or flour, thicken the soup, delivering heartiness without dulling the flavor. The flavor of spring’s fresh asparagus is brought front and center by first simmering the tough ends of the stalks in stock and then cooking the tender ends of the asparagus for as short a time as possible, 5-7 minutes, before running the soup through a food mill or processing it with an immersion blender.
Two pounds of asparagus seems like a lot, but after all, this is asparagus soup and you want that to be the primary flavor. Over time I’ve learned that the soup almost always benefits from a tablespoon or two of rich, farm-fresh butter for richness and a splash of sherry vinegar to brighten the vegetables. Spoil yourself with a dollop of crème fraîche.
Creamy Asparagus Soup
- 2 bunches asparagus, about 2 pounds
- 2 sprigs thyme
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 tbs chopped parsley, reserve stems
- 6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
- 2 tbs olive oil
- 2 medium red potatoes, diced
- 2 leeks, white and light green parts thinly sliced
- Sherry vinegar
- Fresh parsley
- Snap tough ends from asparagus. Add to a 4 qt saucepan with stock, thyme, bay and parsley stems. Simmer for 20 minutes.
- Melt butter in a soup pot over medium-low heat. Simmer potatoes and leeks in butter without browning. Add a little water as needed. Cook until potatoes are soft.
- Strain stock into soup pot and cook for five minutes. Cut asparagus into 2” pieces and add to stock. Remove 10-12 tips after 3 minutes.
- When asparagus is just tender – no more than 5-7 minutes total – pass soup through a food mill* or processor. Stir through parsley.
- Season to taste with salt, pepper, butter and vinegar. Garnish with asparagus tips and fresh parsley.
*If you use a food mill, you will end up with a smoother soup, but some of the fibrous asparagus will be left behind. Add the stock back in a little at a time until you achieve the desired thickness.
Chicken stock is cheap and easy.
Okay. Go ahead. Get the jokes out of your system. I like my coffee black too*. Ready to move on?
Stock is the perfect weekend project. Hit the market in the morning for your ingredients – or pick them up on your way home Friday night. Saturday or Sunday you are going to be home for a few hours: working in the garden, cleaning house, or sitting on the couch watching an America’s Next Top Model marathon while recovering from Friday night happy hour, right? So, dump your ingredients in a pot, set it to a low simmer, and kick your feet up on the couch. Tell everyone not to bother you. You’re cooking.
*I’ll buy you a cup of coffee if you got the joke.
Homemade white chicken stock
“White” here refers to the fact that your ingredients go right into the pot without browning them first.
- 6 lbs chicken parts (see notes)
- 1 large carrot (2″ diameter and 8″ long)
- 2 ribs celery
- 1 large onion (about the size of a baseball)
- 1 leek, white parts only (optional)
- 8-10 black peppercorns
- 2 bay leaves
- 6-8 parsley stems
- 4-6 sprigs thyme
- Cut the chicken into 3 inch pieces. Better yet, have your butcher do it. Place them in an 8 quart stock pot and add water to cover the chicken by 2 inches.
- Meanwhile, roughly chop the vegetables. This is not the time for fine knife skills.
- Bring the pot to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce the heat and hold at a slow simmer – just a few bubbles per second.
- Cook the chicken for 15-20 minutes. Skim off the grey/brown foam that gathers on the surface, and discard.
- Add the rest of the ingredients and continue to simmer for three hours.
- At the end of three hours, remove and discard the solids.
- Strain your stock through a fine mesh sieve lined with cheese cloth or a coffee filter.
- Remove the fat from the stock. the easiest way to do this is to cool the stock to room temperature and cool it in the fridge overnight. The fat will congeal on the surface and is easily removed. If you need the stock right away, let the stock rest for 15-20 minutes. It will float to the surface of your stock. You can remove the liquid fat with a spoon.
- If the stock is too thin, or bland, reduce your stock down to 8 cups over a gentle boil.
- Most grocery stores have their chicken delivered pre-butchered. Buy cheap meat with plenty of bones, like thighs and wings. You could also chop up an entire chicken. If your market or specialty grocery breaks down whole chickens into parts, ask them for chicken backs and have them cut them into 3″ pieces for you. You will pay about $.98 a pound.
- Letting the chicken cook for 20 minutes first makes it easier to skim off the foam. Otherwise you are fighting with the veggies floating on the top of your pot.
- Don’t let the stock boil until the end, after you have removed the solids and the fat. Otherwise your stock will get cloudy
- You can test the level of flavor by putting a little in a small dish and adding a pinch of salt. Taste it. If it tastes to watery, reduce the stock further.