Ah, soup, how I love thee.
I must be fairly vocal about my love of soup, since I received two different soup cookbooks from two separate people as Christmas gifts today: Total Publishing's 4-Step Soup Recipes, and The Cook's Encylopedia of Soup by Debra Mayhew. No complaints here; I love me some cookbooks. I also received other sweet kitchen-y gifts, including a Joyce Chen bamboo steamer, an Amco Lemon Squeezer, and a Bodum Assam teapot. Lovely! I'm all set to make lemon broccoli with a cup of tea. Ah yes, and my sister also got me some Mario Batali Measuring Prep Bowls. I'm always coveting the cookware and gadgets that FoodNetwork chefs use.
But back to the soup. My sister and I once again made the ever-so-delicious Ginger Carrot Soup that has captured my heart. It's so simple, so quick, and so delicious. I originally found the recipe at FoodNetwork.com, and after making it once, I was hooked! It only takes about 45 minutes total to make, and it's filling enough to make a meal out of (as long as you don't need to chew to feel satiated...). My sister and I offered it as the first-course of our Christmas meal...not that we really had formal courses, but you have to eat the soup while it's hot, right? It was a hit with everyone except my 2-year-old nephew, who refused to touch it ("No soup!"). Oh well...you can't please everyone.
Each time I make the soup, I try a little bit of a variation to see if certain aspects of this simple recipe make a big difference in the flavor. So far, I've deduced that:
1) using chicken broth rather than chicken stock or vegetable broth is preferable. The stock adds a stronger, meaty flavor that overpowers the carrots and ginger, while the vegetable broth leaves some flavor to be desired.
2) white onions complement the sweetness of the carrots more nicely than yellow onions. I'd like to try shallots, since a milder onion might allow the ginger to peek out from the carrots' sweet flavor even more.
3) adding a heavier pinch of salt when sweating the onions, as well as an additional pinch once the broth is added, really makes a difference in the flavor (for the better).
4) two medium-sized white onions are preferable to two large onions. Too much onion upsets the balance of the soup. I think, if you want to measure the onions, 2 or 2 1/2 cups is about right. Any more than that is too much.
I've been thoroughly enjoying my relatively new soup-related toy, which I bought as a self-gift for my birthday back in October: a Hamilton Beach immersion blender. You just can't be a serious soupmaker and not have one! I mean, unless you're into pureeing hot soups in a blender, but honestly, that's a bit messy, not to mention hazardous. My Hamilton Beach blender gets the job done. It has two speeds, but I've only had to use Low so far. It came with a handy storage case that neatly compartmentalizes the three attachments (drink mixer, blender, and wisk), so I'm not digging around in a drawer looking for parts. The only complaint I have is that the blender attachment is a trifle difficult to clean. However, it was a bargain: $20 at Wal*mart (I know, I'm sorry!). It's worth the extra cleaning time when you consider that a KitchenAid blender with similar attachments runs about $80.
My sister and brother both vied for the job of pureeing the soup with the immersion blender. Everyone likes kitchen toys!
I hope everyone had a very Merry Christmas. Eat something delicious!