Two Years Ago: Tomato, Watermelon and Basil Skewers
I knew that The Lawyer and I had gone over to the dark side when all we could talk about last week when we were on vacation (and stuffing ourselves with all manner of deliciousness) was coming home and making a healthy cold vegetable soup for dinner. Say what? I know, that's really sick. It's kind of like every time I go to Las Vegas all I want to do when I get home is exercise and eat vegetables. I guess it's good news that we actually start to crave healthy food while we're consuming the bad stuff, but still.
So why a cold soup in particular? We've been trying to eat more vegetarian meals as part of a healthy diet, for starters. One of my challenges to myself was to find more ways to accomplish that without having a salad every day for the rest of our lives. Living in the Southwest where the temperatures are at or above 100 degrees for most of the summer, I decided to explore the world of cold soups. When I lived in the Midwest cold soups never really appealed to me, but all of a sudden they make more sense. And when you're trying to eat light and healthy or maybe lose a few pounds, soup makes a perfect dinner with some crusty bread on the side, hot or cold.
We all know carrots are really good for you, but what I particularly like about this recipe is that the Indian spices add depth and sharpness to what could otherwise be a pretty sweet flavor profile, and the seeds and radish add a nice crunch. When I first tasted the hot soup there was a definite kick from the cayenne, but when it was cold the heat was much less. My recommendation would be to make it as written and then taste and adjust the heat level to your own liking. If it's too spicy, add a dollop of plain yogurt to tone it down when you serve it. Or if you want more heat, add a little minced jalapeno to the seed topping.
Nobody needs heavy food in the summer. This is a perfect light, delicious and nutritious meal for the hottest summer nights.
Update: we had leftover soup for lunch the next day and experimented with sprinkling it with za'atar spice blend instead of the seeds to give it a smoky Middle Eastern profile rather than Indian spices. Success! I think it would be good with any spice or seed blend of your preference - BBQ, southwestern, Middle Eastern, whatever. Have fun and experiment.
Spiced Carrot Soup (Hot or Cold)
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon chopped ginger
2 teaspoons minced garlic
1 tablespoon turmeric
½ teaspoon toasted and ground coriander
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
2 pounds young carrots, peeled and cut into 1” pieces
1 teaspoon mustard seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 radishes, minced (for garnish)
Cilantro leaves (for garnish)
Lime wedges, for serving
Plain Greek yogurt, for serving (optional)
Put a heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium heat and add 2 tablespoons vegetable oil. When oil is hot, add onions and cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes, or until onions are lightly browned. Add ginger, garlic, turmeric, coriander and cayenne and cook for one minute more, until fragrant. Season generously with salt.
Add carrots and 8 cups water. Raise the heat and bring to a brisk simmer, then put on the lid and turn heat to low. Cook until carrots are tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from stove and let cool slightly.
Note: if you plan to serve the soup cold, you can let it cool partially or completely at this point before pureeing and placing in the refrigerator, covered. Proceed with the remaining directions before serving.
Puree in a blender in batches or use an immersion blender to puree in the pot. Thin with water if necessary; the soup should not be too thick.
Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a small pan over medium heat. When hot, add the mustard seeds and cumin seeds and cook for one minute, until spices are fragrant and beginning to pop. Set aside.
Taste the soup and adjust for salt. Ladle the soup into shallow bowls and garnish with the vegetable oil/seed mixture, minced radishes, cilantro leaves and an optional dollop of yogurt. Serve with lime wedges for squeezing at the table.