When I was little, carrots were often touted as having the mystical ability to boost one’s vision to near super-human levels*. Now, I’m not sure of the exact origin of this myth, but I could imagine the thought percolating in the mind of a frustrated mom, sick of employing the usual tactics to convince her children to eat their vegetables. Let’s be real, it wasn’t much of a stretch, carrots are an easy sell; combine their cheery orange hue, vibrant crunch, and sweet flavor with the promise of superpowers, and it’s no surprise to see their resounding popularity amongst the lunchbox set and beyond.
*Naturally this myth has some grounding in truth, as one of the nutrients abundant in carrots (beta-carotene) does play a role in vision. A diet with insufficient levels of Vitamin A and/or it’s precursor beta-carotene can result in eye problems, but this really isn’t an issue for the vast majority of people in the developed world, you know, unless you subsist on a diet of chicken nuggets. The danger of consuming too much Vitamin A, or any nutrient really, (supplements are scary stuff; carrots pose little risk unless you’re literally eating bushels of them) is far worse. Bottom line (and the end of my rambling tangent on nutrition): please don’t take supplements unless explicitly directed to do so by your doctor or RD. Then again, why are you taking nutritional advice from someone who practically considers Pixy Stix a food group?
Despite my fear, dismissal and disgust towards most vegetables as a child, I’ve long loved (or at least tolerated) carrots. Though, quite frankly, you would have been hard pressed to find me biting into a cooked one (an early memory of mushy, buttered and bland baby carrots still haunts my dreams) til my late teens at least.
Soup was another matter altogether (seriously, sorry mom). Given that this dishy dish (snicker) combines both aforementioned food fears, I can state with confidence that 8-year-old me would have dismissed it outright; thankfully, I’ve learned from my mistakes. Since the first velvety spoonful crossed my lips, I’ve made this not once but at least three times more, which considering my considerable recipe ADD (and imperative to test out a host of recipes for this blog) is quite remarkable. Andrew “soup is not a meal” Armenante even devours it with relish.
Silly Sprinkles, soup is for people!
I am somewhat of a carrot fiend (it’s a rare occasion when my shopping basket doesn’t include a bunch or three) but had yet to find a carrot soup that I liked. This special little number stands apart from the bland, uninspiring crowd due to a few key additions: miso adds a lovely savory note, and the pickled scallions add much needed acidity and punch. You could skip the quick pickle on the scallions, though I don’t see why you would, as they can pickle while the soup bubbles away on the stove.
Adapted, slightly, from Smitten Kitchen
6 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon kosher salt
1 ½ teaspoons granulated sugar
4-5 scallions, white and tender green parts, sliced thinly
2 tablespoons neutral-flavored oil (grapeseed, canola, etc)
2 pounds carrots, peeled, sliced thinly
2 leeks, cleaned thoroughly, white and light green parts, sliced thinly
4 medium or 6 small garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1 tablespoon finely chopped or grated fresh ginger
5 cups homemade vegetable stock, divided
¼ cup + 1 tablespoon white miso
toasted sesame oil
In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the vinegar, water, salt and sugar til the solids have dissolved. Add the scallions and set aside.
In a large straight-sided skillet (6+ quart capacity) or stockpot, heat the oil over medium high heat. Add the carrots, leeks and garlic and cook stirring occasionally til the leeks have softened and the vegetables have begun to brown. Add 4 cups vegetable broth and the ginger, and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low (or whatever temperature will keep your soup simmering, not boiling) and simmer for about 30 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.
Blend til smooth either using an immersion blender (my preference) or by carefully transferring to a blender in batches. If you prefer a thinner soup, add the remaining cup of vegetable stock. Add the miso, and taste for seasoning; I sometimes add a splash of soy sauce if it needs a bit more salt (you can also just use salt).
Ladle into bowls and lightly drizzle with sesame oil (it’s potent stuff!). Garnish with pickled scallions.
This soup is gluten-free provided you use miso (and soy sauce) that is labeled as such; one brand to try: Eden Organic.
I highly recommend using homemade vegetable stock, as I’ve yet to find a palatable commercially available alternative. This recipe is relatively quick (1 hour!), so as long as you plan ahead it’s not much of a hassle.
In a pinch, ginger juice (I keep it on hand for cocktails) is a good alternative to the grated/minced ginger, it can be substituted 1:1.
You don’t need an immersion blender to make this soup, but it certainly reduces the hassle, and at least for me, the mess. I am quite smitten with mine.
The pickled scallions can be kept in their pickling liquid for as long as you have leftover soup, their flavor will only be enhanced by time.