A few weeks ago, I got a text from a friend asking what I had been cooking over break. I immediately sent him a picture of this carrot-ginger soup, and got a recipe request in response along with the accusation that I had “staged” the photo. True, I did set up this picture on the floor of our kitchen near a full-length window, but nothing about this soup is fake–the flavor of carrots is as prominent as the orange color suggests, and the texture is perfectly silky without any milk or cream to deaden the spice from the ginger.
What makes this recipe so revolutionary is the addition of just one simple pantry ingredient. Cooks’ Illustrated came up with the recipe of course, seeing as the test cooks there remained unparalleled in their use of kitchen chemistry in recipes for the home cook’s advantage. Just half a teaspoon of baking soda added to the simmering carrots raises the pH of the soup enough to break down the cell walls of the carrots in record time. It’s the same trick that I use to make stir-free polenta, tender braised green beans, and nutty broccoli pesto. Twenty minutes later, the carrots get pureed into an unbelievably silky soup that is quickly brightened up with a splash of cider vinegar, which is added at the end of cooking to keep the pH in the basic range. The short cooking time has advantages beyond just saving time, too; having the soup simmer for less than half an hour prevents the flavor and heat from the ginger from fading into the background. No fussy straining or special techniques are needed, just sauté some aromatics in butter with ginger before adding the rest of the ingredients, then blend the soup quickly and serve, preferably with a grilled cheese sandwich made with good bread and sharp cheddar.
I made this when I was in the always-temperate Palo Alto, but I would love a bowl of this to combat the twenty degree weather in Massachusetts. No matter the weather outside your house, this soup is a simple, healthful meal that everyone will love.
Adapted from Cooks’ Illustrated
2 tablespoons unsalted butter (If you need to make the soup vegan, use canola oil or another similarly neutral cooking oil, such as grapeseed.)
2 onions, diced fine
1 ½ tablespoons grated fresh ginger (store your ginger in the freezer to make it easy to grate)
2 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
Salt and pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
2 pounds carrots, peeled and sliced ¼ inch thick
5 ½ cups water, divided
2 sprigs fresh thyme
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
- Melt the butter in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions, fresh ginger, garlic, two teaspoons table salt, and sugar. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are softened but not browned, 5 to 7 minutes.
- Increase the heat to high, and add the carrots, 4 ¾ cups water, thyme sprigs, and baking soda. Bring to a simmer, then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, covered until carrots are very tender, 20-25 minutes.
- Discard thyme sprigs. Puree the soup in a blender in two batches until smooth, 1-2 minutes. Return soup to a clean pot and stir in remaining ¾ cup water and vinegar. Return to simmer over medium heat, then serve. Soup can be refrigerated for up to 4 days.