September 2013 Issue
Carrots — A Tale of Two Soups
By Bryan Roof, RD, LDN
Vol. 15 No. 9 P. 106
I’ve had two really great carrot soups in my life. My mother-in-law, Maria, made the first. However, she makes it somewhat reluctantly because, despite her amazing kitchen skills, she actually hates cooking.
Maria is Portuguese, and her recipes follow the rules of the old country. This means they can’t be written down in any precise manner and can be observed only on the sly from a distance because if she knows you’re watching, something always goes gloriously wrong. She has no idea what makes her soup so good.
The second soup was made by the “White Shadow,” a line cook with whom I worked. He was assigned this moniker because he easily was 30 years older than anyone else in the kitchen, with pale skin and a thinning mop of white hair, but more so because he cooked so fast—faster than any one of us by about 30 minutes. He moved like a shadow, smooth and effortless, never breaking a sweat. He whipped up his soup at the restaurant one day, claiming that the key was grating the carrots. I suspected the butter might have helped, too.
Both soups share two things in common: their simplicity and the fact that they actually taste like carrots—harder to accomplish than you may think.
Carrots are relatively high in fiber, so they’re hard to break down (read: make tender enough to purée) without extended cooking, but this extended cooking also can wash out their sweet carroty flavor and diminish their nutritional value. Carrots are rich in vitamin A and beta-carotene and, to a lesser extent, vitamins B, C, and E, as well as minerals such as potassium, manganese, phosphorous, magnesium, zinc, and calcium.
Maria is an impatient cook, so she lets the carrots cook just until tender—the minimum amount of time. The White Shadow grated his carrots on a box grater, which breaks down their fibrous structure, allowing more of their natural juice to make its way into the soup with less cooking.
I’ve borrowed techniques from both soups for the recipe below, but if my mother-in-law asked, I’d be forced to say hers is better.
— Bryan Roof, RD, LDN, is a chef, dietitian, and food writer living in Boston. Follow him on Twitter @bryanroof.
2 T unsalted butter
1 lb carrots, grated on large holes of box grater
2 T fresh ginger, grated
Fine sea salt and black pepper
4 cups water
1. Melt butter in large saucepan over medium-low heat. Add carrots, ginger, and 1 1/4 tsp salt, and cook until carrots are just crisp-tender, about 8 minutes.
2. Add water and bring to a boil. Reduce to a strong simmer, and cook carrot mixture for 7 minutes.
3. Working in batches, purée ingredients in a blender until smooth. Return to the saucepan and season with salt and pepper to taste. Rewarm the soup before serving.
Nutrient Analysis per serving
Calories: 100; Total fat: 6 g; Sat fat: 3.5 g; Trans fat: 0 g; Cholesterol: 15 mg; Sodium: 810 mg; Total carbohydrate: 11 g; Fiber: 3 g; Sugars: 5 g; Protein: 1 g