Carrot & Cilantro Soup

SPRING SOUP
Carrot & Cilantro Soup with Chopped Salsa

I am a big fan of soups, and not just in the cold winter months. Sure, a hearty soup and crusty piece of bread is perfect on a chilly evening, but I love the bright and delicious soups that come in spring and summer too. When I have the patience to shell enough peas, I love to puree then with a little cream and mint. In the summer, corn soup is a sweet and fresh celebration of the season.

One of my favorites is carrot soup because it's sweet but easily balanced out with strong spices and a bit of tart yogurt. I usually do a more Indian spin on it, with tumeric and lots of cumin and coriander so that it's slightly spicy and deeply rich. I love those flavors in Fall but by this time of year I'm looking for something fresher and and brighter. I found this carrot soup, so simple but so good. It's the perfect, seasonal way to have my soup and eat it too.

CARROT AND CILATRO SOUP
From Chez Panisse Vegetables by Alice Waters

I love this cookbook, and it's the perfect accompaniment to Art of Simple Food, my most beloved and used recipe index. Chez Panisse Vegetables recipes are just a step more complex, with the same straightforward ingredient list.

1 white onion, sliced
3 tbsp. butter
1 bunch of carrots (about 2lbs.)
2-3 potatoes, about 1/2 lb. (I only had sweet potatoes and it was still delicious!)
1-1.5 qts. stock (chicken is recommended but vegetable stock would be great too - just something light, aka not a mushroom stock)
1 bunch of cilantro
1 small red onion or shallot
1-2 jalapeno peppers (depending on spice - jalapenos vary greatly!)
1 lime

Stew onion in butter over low heat in a heavy bottomed soup pot with the lid on to soften. Peel and chop carrots and potatoes, into large chunks. Once the onions are soft but not at all browned, add the carrots and potatoes, along with a generous amount of soft. Cover and cook for another 10 minutes. Add stock, enough to cover and simmer until the vegetables are cooked through. Remove from heat and add cilantro, leaving one handful for the salsa topping. Carefully puree soup, in either a blender or with an immersion blender. Don't get scalding hot carrot soup all over your counter (and self) like I did.

Strain the soup or pass through a food mill. (I thought this step was fussy, but in the end I'm really glad I did it. Straining the soup gives it a really delicate and velvety texture that is almost luxurious, though a thicker soup would still be completely delicious.) Adjust your seasonings, adding salt or pepper as suits your taste.

Finely dice the red onion and jalapeno pepers then add the lime juice. Let it sit for 5 or 10 minutes, then add the rest of the cilantro leaves, chopped. To serve, bring soup to a simmer, ladle into bowls and top with a scoop of salsa.