Is it quite terrible that one of the things I liked best about Boston was the length of the corduroy jacket season? It stretched on seemingly into perpetuity, that in-between temperature season where you can throw a corduroy jacket over your t-shirt or over your wooly sweater and be happy.
I really love wearing my corduroy jacket, you see.
This makes me sound so frivolous, doesn’t it?! It is frivolous. Forgive me, I’m a flake! At least where corduroy is involved. And boots too, but let’s stick with corduroy for the moment. The point is, here I wore my corduroy jacket for perhaps two days, and then the season was over.
It snowed a little bit both days this weekend. In some places, actually, it snowed a lot! I absolutely love snow, and I say bring it on. The temperature is hovering right around freezing, the smell of leaves and an edge of snow are trapped, suspended in the chill, dry air. It smells like I remember Halloween weather always smelling. The ground is coated with crackling leaves, maple, birch, and aspen, and in many ways, this is actually my very favorite kind of weather. I keep being overcome by a delirious happiness when I step outside and feel that air and smell that smell. Except, gosh I’d like to be able to wear my corduroy jacket for a little bit longer.
I’d also like to have cake and eat it too while acquiring grass in a similar shade of green as that on the other side, if it’s not too much trouble, thank you.
The real point, though, because I think I may have a point embedded somewhere in here, oh there it is – the point is that it is now solidly soup weather. Corduroy jacket weather waffles between being chilly enough to crave soup and warm enough to think thoughts of light autumnal salads. Once corduroy jackets have been passed up in favor of heavy water-resistant trenches or even light down jackets, then we have entered soup territory.
I eat a lot of salads for lunch, well tossed bowls of leftovers and greens. And a really hardy overstuffed sandwich may be my all time favorite sort of meal. But, there is something particularly wonderful about a bowl of soup for lunch, especially on days when the sky is steely grey or showers and snowflakes are caught in the air.
Broth-y or creamy, chunky or smooth, sipping steaming soup from a cup or spoon guards against chill as well as any parka or insulated windows can.
And in that vein, this one fits the bill right nicely. It is perhaps not a show-stopper, being too simple, too everyday for that. But who really wants a show-stopper at lunch? (Maybe ladies who lunch, and business men out to impress, and me come Thursday when I’m really hungry, but whatever.) And what this particular soup has to offer, is plush orange body and toasty, earthy flavor.
This soup is a combination of a very basic roasted carrot soup with a Moroccan carrot and citrus soup. Roasting most of the vegetables is a most excellent idea (when is roasting vegetables first not a good idea? Pretty much never. Roasting is a miracle in shades of caramel and Maillard.) as it coaxes out the fullest and most complex elements of the carrots, onion, and garlic. Then, the addition of the juice and zest of an orange perk up the soothing root cellar flavors of the carrots with a little taste of equatorial sun.
The cumin here is critical, in my opinion. Totally clutch. It is a double agent, sporting both earthiness and citrus flair. It doesn’t play favorites between the carrots and the orange juice. Indeed, it takes them both in under its spell and uses them for its own devices. I think for the better.
Turn up the oven and throw in the vegetables, then simmer them briefly with vegetable stock and herbs, and ginger juice for the gentlest heat. Swirl in the orange juice and cumin, blend vigorously, and you’re ready for a light but satisfying lunch, a handwarmer for your innards. If you wish, you can also sprinkle on a bit of crumbled Feta, and maybe some za’atar if you have it hiding in the cupboard. Even if you don’t, the soup will make you feel a little bit better about the fact that it’s too chilly for corduroy.
Roasted Carrot Soup with Citrus and Cumin (serves about 4)
- 2 lbs. carrots, cut into 1/2 – 3/4 inch pieces
- 1 large yellow onion, peeled and sliced in half-inch thick slices
- 4 whole cloves of garlic, peel still on
- 3-4 Tbs. olive oil
- 1 one-inch knob of ginger
- 1 piece of orange peel, about 4 inches long, cut off with a vegetable peeler
- 1 sprig of mint
- 4 cups of vegetable stock
- 1/2 cup orange juice (probably from the self-same orange you acquired the zest from)
- 2 tsp. cumin
- salt and pepper to taste
- crumbled feta and za’atar for serving (if desired)
- Preheat your oven to 425F. On a large rimmed baking sheet, toss the carrot pieces, onion slices, and garlic cloves with olive oil and a sprinkling of salt. Spread them out in a single layer and roast, stirring occasionally, until tender and lightly browned, about 25-30 minutes. Remove from the oven.
- Add another little dash of olive oil to a large soup pot and heat over medium heat until shimmering. Stir in the roasted vegetables plus the piece of orange zest and the mint sprig. Turn the heat to medium-low.
- Using a box grater, grate the ginger. Pick it up and squeeze the juice out of it into the pot with the vegetables, then stir well.
- Add the vegetable stock to the pot and bring to a boil. Turn down to a simmer and simmer for about 10 minutes, until the carrots are extremely soft. Remove from the heat and take out the orange peel and mint sprig.
- Puree the soup in batches in a blender, until smooth. Return to the soup pot over low heat. Stir in the orange juice and cumin plus salt and pepper to taste. Taste again and add more cumin if desired.
- Dish the hot soup out into soup bowls, and if desired sprinkle them with feta and za’atar or sesame seeds or scallions or whatever other topping strike your fancy.