Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Cream of Carrot Soup

Today is the first day of my fall semester, which means I'll be meeting a whole new crop of students; this is an exciting proposition, but also a time-consuming one. That being the case, posting every day isn't a reasonable goal for me this MoFo; right now I'm shooting for every other day, and we'll see how that goes. S'alright? S'okay!

Now that we've got that cleared up, here comes my second post, and I'm happy to say that it's a good one. The Vegetarian Epicure (volumes one and two) were the first cookbooks I owned, and very seminal they were to my developing sense of myself as a cook. Between the ages of about 16 and 22, I built up a repertoire of tried and true standbys, many if not most of which I hope to get to during this project. (I'm reasonably confident that  Pizza Rustica will make an appearance, and if I can pull off a veganization of the legendarily time-consuming Wild Mushroom Crepe Cake, I'll be a very happy woman, albeit one with a very messy kitchen. Watch this space!)

Today's offering, however, was a new one for me, and I'm glad I gave it a try; this creamy, bright orange soup turned out to be just the thing for an unexpectedly cool late summer night. It was also surprisingly filling and substantial, despite omitting the - wait for it - entire stick of butter called for in Anna Thomas' prototype. I also substituted sweet potatoes for white, let coconut milk stand in for the 1.5 cups of cream with which the original strove to coat our arteries, increased the overall seasonings, added some dill for a "green" note, and used sherry rather than brandy to finish because that's what was in the house. The end result was much better than I'd expected: like a rich, complex bisque. In fact, it was deemed good enough to be put into regular rotation, and you can't say fairer than that!

Cream of Carrot Soup 
~ 2 tbsp. Earth Balance (or other vegan margarine), divided
~ 1 large yellow onion, diced
~ 3 cups peeled, chopped carrots (about 6-8 large carrots)
~ 2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
~ 4-5 cloves garlic, minced
~ 2 tsp. dill
~ 1 tsp. each: salt, smoked paprika
~ 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper (more to taste)
~ A few generous grinds of black pepper
~ 5 tbsp. Better than Bouillon "no chicken" stock dissolved in 1 cup boiling water
~ 1 14 oz. can coconut milk (1.5 cups)
~ 3 tbsp. flour
~ 3.5 cups plain, unsweetened soy milk
~ 1/4 cup sherry
~ Chopped fresh parsley for garnish (optional)

~ In a large, deep pot, melt 1 tbsp. of the margarine over medium high heat and sauté the onions until golden, about 5-7 minutes.
~ Add the diced carrots, sweet potatoes, garlic, and seasonings; cook another few minutes until the garlic is fragrant.
~ Add the bouillon/water mixture, stir to combine, cover the pot, and bring just to a boil/steam. Continue cooking for another 10 minutes, until the vegetables are softened. (Add a little more water as necessary if things start to stick).
~ Remove from heat, add the coconut cream, and puree with an immersion blender (or in a food processor). Set aside.
~ In a large saucepan, melt the remaining 1 tbsp. of margarine over low heat and add the flour. Cook for about a minute, stirring constantly, and gradually whisk in the soy milk. Cook the mixture for a few minutes, stirring often, until it is thickened.
~ Add the white sauce to the vegetable/coconut cream puree and mix well. Stir in the sherry and continue cooking over a low flame for another 5 minutes or so, being careful not to let the soup boil.
~ Taste for seasonings and serve hot, sprinkled with fresh parsley. Crusty bread and/or herbed croutons (below) make a nice accompaniment.

Herbed Croutons (from The Vegetarian Epicure, published 1/1/1972)
~ 8 slices bread (a little stale is fine)
~ 1/4 cup softened margarine
~ 1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
~ 1/2 tsp. salt
~ 1 tsp. each: thyme, marjoram
~ A few grinds of black pepper

~ Preheat the oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit.
~ In a small bowl, combine the margarine, garlic, salt, thyme, marjoram, and pepper.
~ Spread the mixture evenly on both sides of the bread and slice into cubes. Arrange on a cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for 10-15 minutes, tossing around occasionally.
~ Remove from the oven, allow to cool a few minutes, and sprinkle into the soup after it's been ladled into bowls.