Posted by: ThePseudotarian | November 5, 2010

Alice Waters’ Carrot Soup

I love Alica Waters. Like, love love. When I worked at Books-a-Million for a few months (worst job I’ve ever had), I picked up a cookbook called Chez Panisse Cooking and flipped through it before I got yelled at by my manager. That’s right, people, Books-a-Million employees are not allowed to read. Seems contradictory, right?

Anyway, I picked up Chez Panisse Cooking and fell in love. The recipes sounded so good! And at that time I was eating meat, so I was very attracted to many recipes that featured mammal protein (that’s an appetizing phrase, isn’t it?). Other things caught my eyes as well: Panfried Softshell Crabs with Yellow Pepper Sauce, Mussels steamed with New Zinfandel, Corn Soup with Garlic Butter … Plus, I loved the way the book was written and presented. It’s not just recipes split into tabbed sections, with maybe a sentence or two describing each dish in the most nondescript way possible. Each recipe is a story about a love affair with amazing food. It delves into tradition and anecdote, personal experiences that translate amazingly to the personal recipes that I long to share with all of you! Paul Bertolli (her co-author) and Alice describe New Zinfandel week and discovering wonderful food in the European Countryside. In the appendices, part menus for friends and different ways to make simple ingrediants like clarified butter and even vinegar. I’m serious … Chez Panisse Cooking is a love story.

Even though I didn’t buy the book until many years later, the recipes and name stuck with me: Alice Waters. When I started investigating sustainable cooking, do you know how excited I was to see her name come up as one of many key supporters of sustainable eating and cooking? Very. Well, fast-forward a few years as the young Pseudotarian left the terrible job at Books-a-Million and went back to her old bartending gig at the restaurant that we’ll dub, The Luna (because you’ll be hearing much more about that place, too). Bartending, by the way, is much more fun than standing behind a register, unable to even read, until midnight.

In fact, fast-forward to last night right around 8:15. I’m finishing up a glass of Hogue’s Late Harvest Riesling (freaking delicious) and I want to eat something simple. I want a bold, strong, clear flavor, and I’m tired. I don’t want to do a lot of grunt work, and I just want something warm for my stomach in this rainy Richmond weather. I didn’t want to do anything or go anywhere, and Matt had just gotten home.

Oh, and did I mention I hadn’t gone grocery shopping? In and on top of my fridge: vodka, wine, 5 lbs of carrots, spinach, leftovers, something covered in foil that I’m too scared to open, onions and shelf after shelf of random condiments. And some butter and garlic, of course. What on earth do you cook with that?

I don’t know what you wonderful people would do, but I made Alice Waters’ Carrot Soup. I’d read this recipe in several places online, most recently at Serious Eats (my go-to place for recipes these days – their photograzing pages are SO much fun!) and, like the recipes I saw in Chez Panisse Cooking, it had stuck in my head. If you’re wondering why Matt and I regularly have 5-lb bags of carrots in our fridge, well this is why:


That’s right, our dog eats carrots. This is actually back when she was still kind of a teeny, before she grew in her pretty long coat. You get the idea. Anyway, yea, our dog eats carrots for treats, and I won’t go into the details why on a food blog, but I’ll just tell you that it has something to do with digestion and … smells … Put together the pieces, people.

Anyway, on to more important things. Like …

Alice Waters’ Carrot Soup

First of all, I halved this recipe, since Matt was being feisty and wanted nothing to do with my soup until after I had made it and forced him to take a bit. Then he took a bowl of it for himself  =)

1 1/2 pounds of carrots, sliced (eyeball this if you want)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 onion, sliced
1 sprig of thyme (I used dried, about 1/2 a teaspoon)
3 cups vegetable broth
salt – to taste
sliced chives (optional)

Yes, it really is this simple. Melt the butter over medium heat just until it begins to froth. Toss in your onions and thyme and let them soften over medium-low heat for about 8 -10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the carrots and let them begin to cook for about 5 minutes. This is also where I tossed in an afterthought of garlic, only about half a clove for some added depth, and because garlic is so good for you.

After your 5 minutes or so, pour in the vegetable broth/stock. Good tasting stock is critical in this simple soup. I used my own and encourage you to use your own as well. If you don’t have time, no biggie. Just pick your absolutely favorite brand  =)  Bring the soup to a simmer, add your salt to taste but don’t burn your tongue. I let this simmer for about 15 minutes while covered, and then another 5-10 uncovered to really concentrate the amazing flavor the broth develops.

Next, you can blend it if you want, but I prefer to serve as-is, with nice chunks of carrots floating in the rich, clear broth. The flavor is amazing: simultaneously earthy, sweet and intense. The butter floats to the top and lends the soup a beautiful richness that is so fulfilling. And like I said, even though Matt made a pasta dinner, he also stole a bowl of this since it was so good. Vegans, you could totally go the non-butter route on this too! Sub oil or olive-oil based “butter.’

How amazing is this so-simple, so-good recipe?




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