Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Carrot & Cilantro (or other herb) Soup

Recipe from Healing Foods

Even people who love to cook appreciate a simple recipe that looks bright and tastes deliciously different. This recipe features the combination of carrots and cilantro, without the addition of more complicated flavors. It’s ready in 25 minutes or less, and during 15 of those minutes the carrots cook themselves without need of the cook’s attention. It's healthful, containing plenty of natural skin-friendly Vitamin A. It's a lovely color and looks and tastes like it was more complicated than it is.  What’s not to like? If you just said, “I hate cilantro,” try substituting a fresh herb that you do like, perhaps thyme, oregano, chives, or parsley.

Cilantro Added to Carrots Before Puree
Carrots and Cilantro: Marriage of Opposites
Unlike many foods, carrots increase in nutritional value when cooked. That’s because beta carotene, from which the body makes vitamin A, is more available to the body when the plant’s cell walls are broken down by cooking. Vitamin A is fat-soluble, so is less likely to be removed by cooking than water-soluble vitamins like the vitamin B complex.

I’ve cut this recipe in half or thirds with good results. I reduced the fat in the original recipe from 1 tbsp. to 1 tsp. To be sure the carrots don’t burn, don’t use much less than 1 tsp. fat or oil. You may use butter, olive oil, or a combination, and feel free to increase it to the original amount.

Fast Cilantro Chop: Snip with Scissors
While author Miriam Polunin recommends using stock, water, or other liquid, I’ve also tried instant bouillon and bouillon cubes with good results. Both chicken and vegetarian broths work well. I can’t recommend just using water because broth adds a perfect savory note to the sweetness of the carrots.

You may choose the amount of herbs that you like. I increased the original recipe from 4 tsp. to 2 – 3 tbsp., because my family likes cilantro. If you substitute a strong herb like oregano, I’d add it a teaspoon at a time to get to the optimum amount without overdoing it. You could also opt to try that method with the cilantro.

Miriam Polunin also recommends making this soup with fennel or beets in place of the carrots. As options to cilantro, she suggests lemon thyme, dill, chives, or fennel. Clearly this simple recipe is worth the time it takes for a little experimentation. Let me know if you find another winning combination.

Carrot Cilantro soup
Ready to Eat
Carrot and Cilantro Soup
serves about 6

2 ¼ lbs. carrots
1 tsp. or more butter or olive oil
4 cups water or stock
2 – 3 tbsp. chopped cilantro
a few cilantro leaves for garnish
freshly ground pepper
sea salt
sour cream (optional garnish)

Scrub carrots and cut into 2-inch chunks.

Heat butter or oil in deep saucepan, add carrots and cook over medium high heat for 3 – 5 minutes, stirring up from bottom of pan frequently till all surfaces are coated with oil or butter.

Add stock and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. For thicker soup, leave the lid off until liquid level is slightly below carrots.

Meanwhile, wash and chop cilantro, reserving a few leaves for garnish.

Use an immersion blender to puree the carrots and liquid in the pot. You may use a food processor or blender instead. Puree as much as you like, from slightly chunky to super-smooth.

Add chopped cilantro and blend until cilantro is finely chopped and evenly distributed. For best color, don’t overblend, especially if you’re using a lot of cilantro.

Season to taste with salt and pepper, or let diners add this at the table. Garnish bowls with a few cilantro leaves. Swirl a spoonful of sour cream into each bowl, or let diners choose this option at the table.

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