Carrot Soup

We had an especially long growing season in Minnesota in 2015, but it was the end of October and I still had not cleared out the carrot patch I'd watered but otherwise ignored in our garden most of the summer and fall. I ended up filling a gallon-sized bag to overflowing with carrots that mostly resembled those "fun size" ones at the grocery store. But they tasted fantastic! (mental note to perhaps thin the carrots out in June next year...) It was too much volume to keep in the fridge, so I had to cook them down into something I could keep in the chest freezer.

I read several different carrot soup recipes, and played around with them to get the Asian flavor I was looking for, while using up what else I had on hand:

Ingredients:

  • 3 cups chopped carrots
  • 1 stalk celery, cleaned and chopped
  • 1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 teaspoons five-spice powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 tablespoon ginger paste
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 1/3 cup peanut butter
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice

Preparation:

Set a stock pot on medium heat and add the vegetable broth, peanut butter, and lemon juice. Let that warm up while you prepare your vegetables.

In a medium saucepan, saute the garlic and ginger paste in 2 tablespoons of butter for 2 minutes, then add the celery, red pepper, and onion, cooking for another 3 minutes until the onions are translucent. Add the carrots and the remaining tablespoon of butter and let that cook, stirring well, until the carrots are spatula-tender.

Combine the vegetables with the broth, and add the five-spice and pepper. Bring this to a boil and let simmer for 20 minutes, then take off the heat.

If you have an immersion blender, stick that in the pot and go; otherwise carefully pour small batches into your countertop blender - this is a thick liquid that keeps its heat; take care to not get scalded.

I served some for dinner right away with rice and chicken, and put the rest in freezer bags.

The soup works very well as a side sauce for meat and rice; on its own I would add red pepper and chopped sausage. Lots of vitamins in here; I'm looking forward to eating this through the cold winter to come!

Lemongrass-Coconut Chicken Soup

I was inspired to construct this after reading through Ming Tsai's excellent "Simply Ming One-Pot Meals" and a productive trip through the St. Paul Farmers' Market on a summer morning.

We had reached the point in Minnesotan Summertime where all the vegetables were in-season and inexpensive; I'd returned with an overflowing bag and not enough refrigerator space: time to get cooking.

Ingredients:

  • 2 large carrots, peeled and shredded
  • 4 stalks of celery, washed and sliced
  • 2 medium white onions, thin-sliced
  • 1 Anaheim pepper, seeded and diced
  • 1 large leek, trimmed on both ends, washed, and sliced in 1/8-inch coins
  • Fresh ginger, sliced in 1/4-inch medallions - about 4 medallions
  • 3 stalks of lemongrass, trimmed to the light parts, crushed / scored
  • 1 tablespoon cooking oil
  • 2 large chicken breasts, thin-sliced
  • 3 tablespoons fish sauce
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 1/4 cup coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup lemon juice
  • 8 large Thai basil leaves, sliced

Preparation:

In a stock pot, set your chicken stock and fish sauce on medium heat to get warmed up while you handle the other ingredients.

Saute the lemongrass and ginger in the oil in a medium saucepan for about 4 minutes; swap those out and add your vegetables to saute for about 5 minutes until the onions are translucent. Add the cooked vegetables to your stock pot, then cook the chicken in your saucepan. Once it has just turned white on the outside, add the chicken to the stock pot.

Increase the heat so that the mixture comes to a simmer, and cook for about 5 minutes.

Add the lemon juice and coconut milk, stir and let cook for another 2 minutes. Add the basil and serve.

A simple bowl of steamed rice on the side is a light and aromatic complement. This is a good summertime soup, but also great for "I have a mid-winter cold" situations.

Thai-inspired Pumpkin Soup - from the garden!

This summer our family expanded our backyard garden plot and grew a pair of pumpkin bushes, ending up with seven very nice pie-pumpkins (as opposed to jack-o-lantern pumpkins, whose flesh is not so good for cooking). (In fact, there were three other pumpkins we grew that weren't ripe enough when frost came that did get turned into jack-o-lanterns!)

Fate of the three that didn't ripen in time

Fate of the three that didn't ripen in time...

Fire Dragon Pumpkin!

Fire Dragon Pumpkin!

With far more pumpkin available than we could turn into baked goods in time for Halloween and Thanksgiving, we pureed most of the harvest, bagged it into quart-size Ziplocs, and froze it for future use.  Today, I decided, would be the future.

The recipes I had taken notes from were Thai squash-based soups, but I thought they would work just as well with fresh pumpkin. So here's what I made:



Thai-inspired Pumpkin Soup

Ingredients:

  • Pureed flesh from a 2-3 pound pumpkin -- you do not want the canned pumpkin that has already been spiced & sweetened for use in baking; it needs to be as fresh as you can get (or frozen in my case). Squash will work fine too - I have seen frozen Butternut cubes at the grocery store, for instance, that you could puree in a blender.
  • One small yellow onion, chopped
  • Two medium carrots, julienned
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic cloves
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2-1/2 cups chicken stock
  • 2 small cans coconut milk (they're about 165 mL per can; the larger-size can may be too much for this recipe) - your local Asian supermarket will definitely have this in stock
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce - again, see your Asian grocer
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • Pinch of nutmeg

Preparation:

  • In a slow-cooker or stock pot, start the pumpkin going with the chicken stock, olive oil, fish sauce, and soy sauce.
  • Saute the garlic and onions, then add to the pumpkin-and-liquid mixture.
  • Let this combination simmer until the pumpkin has thoroughly dissolved into the stock.
  • Add the carrots, plus the dry spices, and finally the coconut milk.

The pumpkin is still a bit frozen here - took about 30 minutes to dissolve into the chicken stock

The pumpkin is still a bit frozen here - took about 30 minutes to dissolve into the chicken stock.

After adding the coconut milk, the texture changes from watery to creamy, and the color from yellowish to a nutty golden brown

After adding the coconut milk, the texture changes from watery to creamy, and the color from yellowish to a nutty golden brown.

In my slow-cooker, I switched the knob to medium heat and let it be happy and bubbly for a good two hours; there was no scalding in my ceramic pot. In a metal pot, you'll want to watch for burning.  As the ingredients are already cooked, all the soup needs to be is hot.

When serving, you could add toppings to taste like:

  • Cilantro
  • Thai basil
  • Green onion
  • Peanuts or cashews
  • Toasted coconut
  • Lime juice
  • Sriracha sauce


Here, I added cilantro, cashews, and a few leaves of basil:

Creamy, warm,  and not spicy at all. More filling than you would think at first look!   

Creamy, warm, and not spicy at all. More filling than you would think at first look! 

This soup pairs well with grilled meat and steamed rice, and would actually be nice for breakfast alongside a toasted bagel, now that I think about it!