I could sense the feigned excitement in Papi’s voice when I called him to relay tonight’s dinner menu: soup and sandwiches. He tends to think of this combination as a frilly one that suffices for luncheon with the ladies, but is far too insubstantial for his most important meal of the day. Needless to say, I think he was quite surprised when he arrived home from work this evening to find my boyfriend, Scott, and me busy in the kitchen, slathering homemade pesto on thick ciabatta bread and stirring a simmering pot of aromatic carrot soup.
I was more than happy to have Scott join me in the kitchen tonight. Though he enjoys eating far more than cooking, he does have a few signature dishes up his sleeve. My favorite is his pesto, an off-the-cuff, harmonious blend of basil, pine nuts, garlic, cheese, salt, pepper, and a squeeze of lemon. We made it the base of paninis that were filled with mozzarella, prosciutto, caramelized onions, and roasted eggplant, zucchini, squash, and peppers. They were quite messy, but totally delicious. The sweet warmth of the veggies and the saltiness of the ham and cheese were widely awakened by the brightness of the fresh pesto. I could see Papi’s soup-and-sandwich skepticism waning as he raved about the winning combo of flavors.
The soup was a light, yet comforting, combination of carrots, apples, and sweet onion that were spiced with fresh ginger and curry powder. It was a cinch to make, but resulted in a very complex set of flavors that was heightened by the addition of fresh lime juice and cilantro. Coincidentally, Papi had carrot soup from the cafeteria at work today, but declared that this one was worlds better. I think it’s safe to say that dinner was a success, not only in its appetite appeal, but in its ability to convert Papi into a soup-and-sandwich believer.
Backtracking a bit, I made a delicious and somewhat healthy loaf of carrot bread this weekend. It’s a variation on my usual quickbread base, with slightly less oil and flour and some soymilk for moisture. I added crystallized ginger, which I enjoyed, but others found to be overpowering. Next time I think I’ll replace it with chopped walnuts. This bread is great for breakfast, snack, or dessert, and would be good topped a-la-carrot cake with some whipped cream cheese (almost like frosting, just a tad less caloric).
The recipes for the soup and the bread are after the jump. Enjoy!
Curry Ginger Carrot Soup
2 tbsp olive oil
1 small yellow onion, diced
1 large Granny Smith apple, diced
3-inch piece of ginger root, peeled and minced
1 ½ lbs carrots, peeled and sliced
1-1 ½ tbsp curry powder, depending on your taste
Pinch of red pepper flake
1 tsp kosher salt
½ tsp black pepper
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1-2 cups of water
Drizzle of honey (optional)
Heat oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add onion, apple, and ginger and sauté until softened, about 3 minutes. Add carrots, curry powder, red pepper flake, salt, and pepper and sauté an additional 3 minutes until carrots begin to soften slightly. Add chicken broth and bring mixture to a boil. Place lid on pot and continue boiling until the carrots are very soft, about 15 minutes. Once this point is reached, use an immersion blender to puree the soup (or allow soup to cool slightly and puree in batches in a blender). Add additional water to reach desired consistency. Add salt and pepper to taste, and a drizzle of honey, if desired, for extra sweetness.
Serve soup with cilantro, lime, and sour cream or Greek yogurt. Makes 8 servings.
1/3 cup vegetable oil
½ cup sugar
½ cup brown sugar
1 cup cooked mashed carrots
¼ cup sweetened flaked coconut
1 ½ cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
½ tsp baking soda
1 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp allspice
¼ cup soymilk (I used vanilla flavored)
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup raisins (I mixed golden and black)*
½ cup chopped walnuts, optional
¼ cup crystallized ginger, optional
Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a 9×5 loaf pan. In a large bowl mix oil and sugars until well combined. Add the eggs and mix well. Add the carrots and coconut. Measure flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and allspice into the bowl and stir it into the liquid ingredients until just combined. Add the soymilk, vanilla, fruits, and nuts and stir to incorporate. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake for 40 minutes, until a toothpick comes out with small crumbs adhering to it. Allow to cool on a rack in the pan for 30 minutes. Remove from pan and allow bread to finish cooling on the rack.
*I like to soak the raisins in a cup of very hot water for about 10 minutes so that they are moist and plump.