Sunday, February 23, 2014

Carrot Soup with Pumpkinseed Pesto

Remember how I said that I might make soup? Ages ago, yes. Well, I finally made good on that vague commitment. This is the story of Carrot Soup on a cold day.

It's beginning to warm up here in Nova Scotia, but there's still snow on the ground and a sheen of deadly, near-invisible black ice on the sidewalks. This is all enough to justify soup, so here goes.

Onions. As always. Diced and popped into hot olive oil, saut√©ed until translucent. 

At this point, I should add that if you notice any incredibly beautiful wooden soup spoons or spatulas or cutting boards in my photos, they are the woodwork of my dad, whose professional life involves explaining the complexities of Linux and open-source to non-computer whizzes (me, among others), and whose art involves creating beautiful, gorgeous wooden cookware. A small sample of his work can be found here. Shameless advertising, done.

A tablespoon of garlic and a teaspoon of salt follows the now-translucent and starting to brown onions. Swish around until the garlic is fragrant, and then add chopped carrots:

this is about four large carrots' worth, or four heaping cups.

I realize this looks like I bought pre-sliced carrots. This is patently not the case - that's a re-purposed granola container, which I was using for volume-visualization, thank you very much.

These carrots cook for about 10 minutes. They should be beginning to soften around the edges, but shouldn't be fully cooked. Stir occasionally.

After the carrots have been partially cooked, add liquid. I went ahead and put in chicken broth, but you can also preface this by adding a cup of white wine or cider or other liquid, and stirring until it has been mostly absorbed. This adds another layer of flavour to the carrots.

I went a different route, however. This is about three cups of homemade chicken broth, plus one more cup of water.  I also added a tablespoon of chopped thyme, and a teaspoon of lemon zest.

Oh, and how could I forget... two tablespoons of maple syrup as well. 

Cover and simmer until a fork goes through the carrots easily, about 15 more minutes.

Soup by itself is all very well. However, I had some cilantro just on the edge of going bad, and some pumpkin seeds. To me, that looks like pesto. 

Pesto can be made out of absolutely anything green. My mom, pesto-maker extraordinaire, has the components down pat: 
  • seeds or nuts: pine nuts work best, but macadamia nuts, pumpkin and sunflower seeds, and almonds are the best. I always toast this additive, but fresh is fine and probably better for you.
  • something green: seriously, anything. Broccoli, parsely, basil, cilantro, kale... brilliantly flexible.
  • oil: typically olive, but open to veggie, grapeseed, sunflower, and others that don't have a strong, distinctive flavour.
  • seasoning: salt, pepper, cumin, cloves, garlic, whatever. Go wild. I like to keep mine to a minimum to focus on the bright green flavours. 
  • acid: lemon, lime, vinegar... something to brighten and intensify the flavours already present.
This time, my combination was a cup of cilantro, half a cup of olive oil, salt, pepper, a clove of garlic, a squeeze of lemon, and toasted pumpkin seeds.

Throw all of these in a blender or food processor, and blend until smooth, adding more oil as necessary, and tasting for seasoning. 

At this point, once you've stopped cursing at your food pulverizer of choice and the pesto is actually smooth, the soup should be ready. 

Looks lovely. 

I always add lemon juice at the end of a soup to bring out softer flavours, like that thyme. 

I blended my soup, but that's completely up to you. I have an immersion blender, so that makes it pretty easy, but if you don't want to go through the hassle of blending hot soup in batches in a blender, I've been there; I get it. 

Here's the finished product for the night, with the suggested pairing:

I think if any trained chef saw this garnishing job, they'd spit their pinot gris all over the screen. I gotta work on that, but hey, it tasted pretty great! Hope you enjoy!


  1. Looks wonderful - a new recipe! Did you add pesto to the soup before the puree step?

    1. nope, just as a garnish. Though that's an option I haven't tried!