Tuesday, October 23, 2012

The Comfort of Carrots

A guest blog by Cyn

Seventy nine cents a pound ($.79) is the cost for a pound of fresh organic carrots at my local supermercado.  Granted, you have to buy a 5# bag to earn that cost, but a pound in plastic is still only $.89.  You can't buy a soda or a decent candy bar for $.89, never mind the eventual cost to your health for going there.  But oh, the places you can go with carrots!

They may be my favorite veg.  You can dress them up or dress them down, make them sweet, savory, spicy - or all three at the same time.  Recently I renewed my vows to carrots when my foodie and gardening BFF Judy forwarded a soup recipe from Eating Well to me.  Judy, like me, loves great food, prepared thoughtfully and simply, with a nod to the season and the best ingredients you can afford.  The soup is simple.  And it is fabulous as is, but thinking of the permutations available staggers me - because the carrot is such a team player.  It boosts and amplifies the flavors of whatever you add to it.  Ginger becomes a little spicier, grilled shrimp speak of skewers and campfires on the Outer Banks, apples sing with carrots, and the song is Yankee Doodle.  I've never met a person who hates carrots, have you?

Unlike a lot of vegetables available in our supermarkets, your carrots are probably grown right here in the good ole US of A.  We're tied with Russia for production at 7%, but the real production is in China, they grow 34%.  Of course, they have a couple more mouths to feed.  Carrots are finicky about where and how the grow, and are susceptible to quite a few pests and diseases.  They like a nice loose sandy soil, with a good amount of available nutrition, and a regular shower.  Not too hot, not too cold.  My first attempt at growing carrots turned out some pretty interesting forked and knotted roots.  Turns out I was lazy and didn't make sure all the lumps and bumps were worked out of the soil.  Since then, I've only planted carrots in newly purchased bags of ProMix soil in a raised bed, making sure to work in a little screened compost before planting seeds.

They are several types of carrots available to grow, and many many more varieties.  Check with your local extension agent to find out what grows best where you are.  Here in Virginia, where our soil can be better described as clay, finger or short types are recommended.  There are some darling little chubbiteenas of the carrot world out there, like Thumbelina ----> which are perfectly suited to sitting in the top four inches or so of your soil, saving your back a little aching.  Might I add that carrots have stunning above ground foliage that looks like ferns.  Nothing wrong with adding a little clump to your beds of annuals!  Or how about adding a pot o'carrots to your back deck?

Carrots also come in colors.  Cosmic Red and Cosmic Purple are two of the varieties that are available at my market occasionally, but I typically have better luck finding them at my farmer's market.  When buying carrots 'loose', be sure to look for vibrant green healthy foliage.  If the leaves are gone, your carrots have probably been sitting around for awhile.  



Back to the food portion of our show, the soup recipe.  My changes this first time making was to omit the green herbage and add ground coriander instead.  I was too lazy to walk outside and gather ye herbs while ye may.  I also upped the carrots to 2# and used all stock in a lesser amount for a thicker soup.  And of course, my VitaMix was involved in the final process insuring the orange velvet love.  I can see this soup in so many ways, with the addition of apples or sweet potatoes, butternut squash or pumpkin.  Creme fraiche or greek yogurt finish? My fave herbs to use with carrots are tarragon, chervil and coriander, not necessarily all at once.  For a Halloween treat, how about a simultaneous pour of black bean next to the carrot, wouldn't that be gorgeous!  A big fat dollop of spicy cornbread dressing in the center of the bowl would do it for me.  I could go on and on, but here's that wonderful recipe:

Carrot Soup

http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/carrot_soup.html
From EatingWell:  EatingWell on a Budget (2010), March/April 2011This easy carrot soup is a great way to use up a bag of carrots that were forgotten in your produce drawer.
8 servings, about 1 cup each Active Time: 40 minutes | Total Time: 50 minutes

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme or parsley
  • 5 cups chopped carrots
  • 2 cups water
  • 4 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth, “no-chicken” broth (see Note) or vegetable broth
  • 1/2 cup half-and-half (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste

Preparation

  1. Heat butter and oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat until the butter melts. Add onion and celery; cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 4 to 6 minutes. Add garlic and thyme (or parsley); cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 10 seconds.
  2. Stir in carrots. Add water and broth; bring to a lively simmer over high heat. Reduce heat to maintain a lively simmer and cook until very tender, about 25 minutes.
  3. Puree the soup in batches in a blender until smooth. (Use caution when pureeing hot liquids.) Stir in half-and-half (if using), salt and pepper.

Nutrition

Per serving : 77 Calories; 3 g Fat; 1 g Sat; 2 g Mono; 4 mg Cholesterol; 10 g Carbohydrates; 3 g Protein; 3 g Fiber; 484 mg Sodium; 397 mg Potassium
1/2 Carbohydrate Serving
Exchanges: 1 vegetable, 1 fat

Tips & Notes

  • Make Ahead Tip: Cover and refrigerate for up to 4 days or freeze for up to 3 months.
  • Note: Chicken-flavored broth, a vegetarian broth despite its name, is preferable to vegetable broth in some recipes for its hearty, rich flavor. Sometimes called “no-chicken” broth, it can be found with the soups in the natural-foods section of most supermarkets.

And my proof of production:


I highly recommend using Better than Boullion's No Chicken broth, and if you want to get all vegan about it, use all EVOO and finish with a little coconut milk, unsweetened of course.  Leaving a little carrot in the pot before blitzing adds a nice little bit of texture as well - just smush a bit with your stirring spoon.

Rant on::: One last note, for heaven's sake, don't buy 'baby' carrots in a bag.  Put on your big girl panties and buy a big boy carrot and peel it.  Takes 30 seconds for a remedial peeler, and will be far less processed that your whittled down bred for higher sugar content carrot reject treated with chlorine to kill the bad bugs.  Doritos may be a better choice than a 'baby' carrot in a bag.  :::Rant off.




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