~ A Dream of a Creamy Caraway-Spiced Carrot Soup w/Carrot Coins & Caraway-Seeded Rye Croutons!!! ~
I believe I've loved carrots since the day my mom fed me my first spoonful of Gerber strained carrots -- right out of the jar. Next to onions and celery, the carrot gets used often in my kitchen. I'll eat carrots raw, boiled, sauteed, steamed or roasted. I like them candied, pickled or marinated. I have no ax to grind with folks using canned or frozen carrots as a time saver. I love carrots in soups, stews and braises, I make a great carrot souffle, and, let's not forget carrot cake!
Did you know that besides being a great source of vitamins and minerals they contain more natural sugar than any other vegetable aside from beets? It is definitely their sweetness (which intensifies during any cooking process) that draws me to them. Research has even shown that nutrients like beta-carotene and phenolic acid increase with cooking, but, for me, that is neither here nor there because I'd eat carrots even if they weren't so good for me. I love carrots!
Soups and stews in our house were always served with bread and butter. Rye bread, more specifically caraway-seeded rye, was, hands-down, our family's favorite. We all loved the slightly anise taste of caraway. Eastern Europeans have a fondness for caraway seed much like Italians have an affinity for fennel seed. Caraway is said to be Europe's oldest spice condiment, with the Romans being credited for spreading the seeds around in ancient times.
This "peasant spice" has a bold, aggressive, peppery, earthy flavor that cuts through rich dishes and breathes life into bland ones. When I was growing up, caraway got added to roasted, sauteed or braised vegetable side-dishes like beets, cabbage, carrots and potatoes. It showed up in potato salad, coleslaw and sauerkraut, and, it got added to pork roast and mixed into pork sausage too. Even today, my refrigerator is never without a chunk of caraway-seeded Havarti cheese. Mom never made a "cream of any kind of soup" because dad detested cream soups, but, once I got out on my own, it didn't take me long to come up with this one -- just for me!
The caraway plant is a member of the carrot family!
1 1/2 cups diced yellow or sweet onion
1 1/2 pounds peeled and 1/4"-thick coined carrots + 1 additional cup peeled and coined carrots for garnish (see below)
coarsely-ground sea salt, about 20-25 grinds from a mill
coarsely-ground peppercorn blend, about 40-50 grinds from a mill
1 1/2 teaspoons whole caraway seeds, ground to a powder in an electric spice grinder (Note: this will yield a scant tablespoon of powdered caraway.)
3 cups chicken or vegetable stock, your choice
1/2 cup heavy or whipping cream
1 cup additional 1/4" sliced carrots, mentioned above, for making carrot coin garnish
16 small, thin slices caraway-seeded "party rye" bread, for making crouton garnish
small sprigs fresh parsley, for garnish
~ Step 1. Peel and coin the carrots as directed. In "food speak", "to coin" is a verb meaning to cut a cylindrical object into a coin shape. You need 1 1/2 pounds of carrots to make the soup, plus, 1 additional cup to make the coins for garnish. If you have a kitchen scale, now is the time to get it out and use it to weigh those going into your soup.
~ Step 3. In a 3 1/2-quart chef's pan, melt the butter over low heat. Add the diced onion. Increase heat to medium-high and saute for about 1-2 minutes, until onion is just starting to get soft and translucent.
Note: At this point, the soup needs to cool before it can be processed to a smooth texture. While the soup is cooling, use the time to make the carrot coins and caraway-rye croutons:
~ Step 6. In a 1-quart saucepan, bring 1 cup of water and 1/4 teaspoon of salt to a boil. Add the reserved coined carrots and simmer until just fork tender, about 3 minutes. Do not overcook. Drain into a colander and rinse under cold water to halt the cooking process. Set aside, or:
Wanna have some fun? Use a mini-cookie cutter to cut the coins into fun shapes. My grandmother always said, "waste not, want not". Just toss all of the tasty leftover bits and pieces back into the pan of cooling soup.
Note: How much soup you can puree at once will depend upon the size of your processor. My large-capacity Cuisinart DLC-X PLUS easily handles it all at once.
With motor running, process until thick and smooth, 45-60 seconds.
Garnish each bowl w/a few carrot coins & caraway croutons...
Special Equipment List: cutting board; chef's knife; vegetable peeler; kitchen scale; electric spice grinder or mortar and pestle; 3 1/2-quart chef's pan w/straight, deep sides; large spoon or spatula; 1-quart saucepan; colander; toaster or toaster oven; food processor; soup ladle
Cook's Note: Spring is coming and one of my favorite things to make with another of my favorite veggies, asparagus, is ~ My Asparagus, Smoked Salmon and Havarti Tart ~. Surprise surprise: there are caraway seeds in both the crust and the cheese in this decadent dish. Just click into Categories 2, 9 or 14 to get the recipe!
PS: Today's carrot soup is a great side dish to this flavorful tart!
"We are all in this food world together." ~ Melanie Preschutti
(Recipe, Commentary and Photos courtesy of Melanie's Kitchen/Copyright 2015)