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Friday, May 8, 2009

More Soups--With Carrots This Time

Soups have been made since antiquity, most often by people without cookbooks, measuring cups, or modern markets. Still, many people seem to be intimidated by the thought of preparing a pot of homemade soup, so they continue to reach for an overpriced can of some variety or another when the urge for a warming bowl hits them.

Many years ago, when my children were still very small and our budget was, as usual, very tight, I set a goal of making soup at least once a week. Though I didn't always achieve this, I have had lots of opportunities to discover how easy—and enjoyable—soup making can be.

Do you really need a recipe to make a good soup? No. Are recipes helpful? Yes, especially when you are new to the process or when you are looking for a new idea or two to spark your menus. To help for anyone in either of these categories, here are a few variations of carrot soup that I have made—and written down—over the years.

Carrot Soup I

1 T olive or canola oil
4 to 5 large cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 to 2 c chopped onions
1 to 1 1/2 c chopped celery
2 to 3 c finely diced (or grated) carrots—the more carrots, the brighter the soup will be
3 bouillon cubes or seasoning packets
1 to 2 c shredded cabbage
1 ca rich chicken broth
water
1 to 2 T tomato puree or paste
1 T chopped fresh basil
1 t Italian seasoning
black pepper to taste

  1. Saute the garlic and onions in the oil until browned. Stir in the carrots, celery, and cabbage and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for a few minutes.
  2. Add the broth and about a cup of water along with the other ingredients. Cover and simmer until the vegetables are quite soft.
  3. Add 4 to 6 cups more water, depending on thickness desired, taste for seasoning, and allow to simmer for 20 minutes or more to develop the flavors.

Carrot Soup II
2 c concentrated chicken broth
2 medium to large onions, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 small jalapeno, seeded and chopped (opt)
4 to 6 medium carrots, thinly sliced (or grated)
4 c water
1 c super sweet corn, fresh or frozen
garlic powder, salt, cumin, and Italian seasoning to taste
chopped parsley

  1. Simmer all but parsley until vegetables are very tender, adding a bit more water if too thick.
  2. Puree in blender and serve with parsley sprinkled over the top.
Serve with sour cream if desired. This soup has a beautiful bright color and is great in the fall when fresh corn is available and the nights are cool and just right for soup.

Carrot Soup III
1 lb. carrots, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 medium potato, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
salt, to taste
1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper
3 c. chicken stock
Salt—optional, depending on how much salt is in the stock
1/4 c. yogurt, for garnish (optional)

  1. In a 2-quart saucepan over medium-low heat, place carrots, onion, and potato with enough water to cover. Simmer gently until the vegetables are very soft. (This may also be done in the microwave instead—use less water and start out at about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. The exact length of time will depend on the microwave.)
  2. Purée vegetables in a blender or food processor. Return to saucepan and stir in chicken stock. Taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper as needed. (Be sure to wait to taste until after adding the stock, as there is a wide variation in the saltiness of both purchased and homemade stock!)
  3. Place over medium heat; heat through.
  4. Serve immediately, garnished with a dollop of yogurt. Add a sprig of fresh oregano or dill if desired.

Dairy variation: None of these recipe uses any milk or cream, but all could be made creamier with a can of evaporated milk added near the end of cooking or with the addition of dry milk powder stirred in late in the simmering process.

Vegan variation:  Simply substitute vegetable stock or bouillon cubes and water for the broth in any of the recipes above. 

As you can see, just a basic "carrot soup" can mean all kinds of dishes. The recipe with "super sweet" corn uses ingredients more likely to be less expensive at summer's end when gardeners are harvesting their bounty and the farmers' markets are full of sweet corn and peppers and fresh herbs. The recipe with cabbage is more likely to be a "frugal" choice in the winter (especially after the St. Patrick Day cabbage sales!), as is the potato and carrot choice.

The choice is yours; check out what's in your refrigerator and what's on sale in the stores or farmers market and develop your very own recipe.

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