One of the best things about eating at a great restaurant is that in addition to eating a well-prepared meal, you sort of become inspired. You go home with the flavors still lingering on your palate and you wonder for days on end how to recreated it in your kitchen. There’s the kabocha squash with leek ravioli with my name on it brewing in the depths of my mind. And I will make it before the season is out, mark my words. Not a day goes by that I haven’t thought about those ravioli with the fried ricotta and pine nuts in brown butter. [At this point, I slide of my office chair and fall to the floor. THUD.]
So where were we? Oh that’s right restaurants, inspiration, recreating the food at home. Of course. Let’s get back to the matter at hand, shall we?
A few weeks ago a friend of mine and I went to check out this relatively new, well-reviewed restaurant in the East Village/Nolita area, whose focus was on Colonial influenced food. While our meal was nothing short of excellent, the highlight of the meal was this cardamom carrot soup we ordered as an appetizer. The carrot soup arrived, garnished with toasted pepitas (swoon), drizzled with cilantro oil (double swoon) and (takes deep breath) topped with a homemade chili marshmallow a little oozy and melty around its perimeter. [THUD] That’s me falling out of my chair again.
Ok, so. The soup. By now, most of you reading this site, know that I possess a love for soup that runs so deep you’d be hard-pressed to find a comparison for it. I know soup is a little bit grandmotherly, like strained peas or oatmeal, but I love it unabashedly. Soup is warmth. Soup is comfort. Soup is a glorious thing that you spoon and taste and feel like you’ve a warm blanket on your lap. And since I so over winter at this point, soup makes me feel one day closer to spring.
What can I say to you about this soup? Well, you must know I love it because I recreated it at home mere weeks after trying it at a restaurant. But I also added a few things – gave it a little bit more mystery and caché if you will, but adding ginger, orange juice and curry. The original soup was heavily focused on cardamom, which I loved, but I wanted a little more depth. I wanted cardamom and that secondary aftertaste you feel with a slight curry flavor. I liked it even better than the original soup and will definitely make it again before the season is out – it is unbelievably comforting and is a cinch to make. You can puree it in a blender, but I must tell you that my new immersion blender is a thing of beauty. That little gadget is SO powerful and easy to use, that you’d want to get this if only because you will be looking at fewer pots to clean afterwards. A sink that has fewer dirty dishes – to me, that’s the ultimate inspiration!
Curried Carrot Ginger Soup with Pepitas, Cilantro Oil and Spicy Homemade Marshmallow
1 tablespoon canola oil
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 tsp ground cardamom
½ tsp cinnamon
2 medium cloves garlic, minced
1 (1 ½ inch) piece ginger, peeled and minced
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 small shallots, finely chopped
2 pound carrots, peeled and sliced into 1/4-inch-thick rounds
2 medium bay leaves
5 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
1 cup orange juice
Juice of ½ lime
Zest of 1 lime
¼ cup heavy cream (optional)
Toasted pepitas (optional)
Cilantro oil (optional)
Homemade spicy marshmallows (optional)
1. Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add curry powder, cardamom, cinnamon and garlic, and toast until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
2. Add ginger, onion, shallots, carrots, bay leaf, broth and orange juice. Increase heat to medium high and bring mixture to a boil, reduce heat to medium low, and simmer until carrots are soft when pierced with a fork, about 20 minutes. Discard bay leaves. Add the lime juice and the zest and taste. Add salt/pepper until flavors are balanced.
3. Working in batches, process soup in a blender until smooth; or using an immersion blender, puree the soup in the pot it’s been cooking in. (Be very careful when blending the hot soup, as steam could blow off the blender lid, or hot soup may splash on you.)
4. If using the blender, pour soup back into the pot and return to the stove over medium heat. Stir in cream (if you like) and adjust seasoning as needed.
5. Serve immediately. Sprinkle a few pepitas over the soup, drizzle with cilantro oil and top with a spicy marshmallow.
To make cilantro oil:
1/3 cup safflower oil, or neutral oil (extra virgin olive oil is too strong and will overpower cilantro)
1 cup coarsely chopped cilantro leaves and stems
¼ tsp salt
Puree cilantro, oil and salt in a blender or food processor until smooth. You may need to stop in the middle and scrape down the sides of the food processor. Drizzle over soup, bread, dress pasta with it. Cilantro oil will keep for a few days refrigerated.