Carrot-Ginger Soup

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.

Carrot-Ginger Soup

Serves 6

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

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Click here for a printable version of this recipe!


Sesame Miso Dressing

This Sesame Miso Dressing may not be all that exciting to look at, but what it lacks in aesthetics it more than makes up in flavor. This dressing—a delicious blend of tahini, miso paste, honey, sesame oil, and lemon juice—is a new condiment that I know I will use often this summer. Like most Japanese inspired dishes, it’s complex without being overly spicy, and the potent miso paste is tempered by a drizzle of honey and the roasted tahini and sesame oil. It can be thrown together in the time it takes to grate some ginger and garlic and whisk together a few ingredients—no cooking required. I’ve tried it on rice noodles with seared tofu with delicious results, and I know that it would be excellent on some grilled eggplant or used as a salad dressing for hearty vegetable salad.

For those of you that have a jar of tahini in the fridge that persists even after a few batches of hummus, or need a new way to dress up healthful entrees and sides, give this dressing a try—you won’t be disappointed.

Sesame Miso Dressing

Adapted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook

Makes about 2/3 cup

2 tablespoons white miso

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

1 garlic clove, finely minced or pressed through a garlic press

2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil

2 tablespoons tahini

Juice of 1 lemon

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon water

  1. Mix all the ingredients in a small bowl and whisk well until smooth. Pour on noodles, rice, tofu, salads, or grilled vegetables.

Click here for a printable version of this recipe!

Avocado Noodles with Edamame

I have a long and complicated history with avocados. Up until age 15, I refused to eat them and avoided them religiously in any application. Guacamole and avocado salad were my sworn enemies, probably due to the fact that I announced my dislike of avocados before preschool and stuck to my guns out of stubbornness rather than true aversion. Then, the summer before sophomore year—in a state of five hours of water polo induced delirium—I tried a bite of avocado. I tried it alone of course, because nothing could be worse than having someone say “I told you you’d like it,” after more than a decade of insisting that I didn’t care for avocados. Obviously, I liked what I tasted, otherwise I wouldn’t be putting avocados on top of black beans, homemade bread, or rice noodles. The mildly creamy texture of an avocado pairs well with spicy or smoky foods, and when perfectly ripe, they have a slight nuttiness reminiscent of toasted walnuts.

In this dish, ripe avocados are pureed with soy sauce, aromatics, and lime juice to make a sauce that ties together a bowl of rice noodles, edamame, and long ribbons of cucumber into a satisfying meal. In under ten minutes, you can have a complete meal full of healthful fats and nutrients like magnesium, B vitamins, and vitamin E. My only regret is not trying avocados earlier. Mom, you were right all along.

Avocado Noodles with Edamame

Serves 4

8 oz. rice vermicelli

2 ripe avocados, halved and pitted, flesh scooped out of peel

1 medium garlic clove, minced

1 teaspoon grated fresh ginger

1 tablespoon sweet chili sauce

1/2 teaspoon sriracha or sambal oelek

2 tablespoons reduced sodium soy sauce

Juice of 1 lime

1/2 cup shelled edamame, warmed

1 English or American cucumber, peeled into long ribbons with a vegetable peeler (about 2 cups of ribbons, do not peel the seed bed)

  1. Bring a tea kettle of water to a boil and place the rice noodles in a large, heatproof bowl. Pour the boiling water over the noodles so that they are completely covered and let sit for 10 minutes. Drain and return to the bowl, then set aside.
  2. While the noodles are soaking, place the avocados, garlic, ginger, chili sauce, sriracha, soy sauce, and lime juice in the bowl of a food processor. Process for 1-2 minutes, until completely smooth. Transfer the avocado sauce to the bowl with the rice noodles and add the edamame and cucumber ribbons. Toss well to combine and divide into serving bowls, then serve immediately.

Click here for a printable version of this recipe!

Ginger Cookies

Welcome Back to Cookie Monday! Enjoy this week’s installment:

The week before Christmas is a big week on a few levels. It’s finals week for me, which means that right now I’m about to be buried under every calculus test I’ve taken and two inches worth of microeconomics notecards. If someone asks me why the ground is slippery, I’ll probably say that it’s because there’s a low coefficient of friction as well as a small normal force, because I’ve been studying everything I know about mechanics in preparation for Thursday morning.

This week is also one of the last weeks before college applications are due, which means that I have become an expert at distilling any topic under the sun into a 250 word essay that in one way or another will find its way to an admissions committee. I have been doing my part to increase the Christmas bonuses of the higher level management personnel at the Common Application—one of their kid’s Christmas gifts will probably be financed by one of the three applications I sent in yesterday.

And yet, despite being caught in the midst of scantrons, paperwork, and personal statements, this week really is one of the most wonderful times of the year. Our tree is now decorated and the Christmas playlist is on repeat (albeit with a few Weird Al songs that mysteriously starting playing after “I Saw Three Ships”). It’s time to wrap presents and go to holiday parties with the entire neighborhood. When the sun sets early in the evening, there’s nothing better than staying in a cozy warm house and watching Love Actually while eating a few Christmas treats. This holiday comes but once a year, so I’m doing my best to savor it—starting with a chewy ginger cookie full of fresh ginger and molasses that tastes like all of Christmas wrapped up into one spicy, flavorful bite.

Ginger Cookies

Recipe from Ellin Klor

Makes about 3 dozen cookies

2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour

¼ teaspoon table salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

2 teaspoons dried ginger

2 teaspoons baking soda

16 tablespoons (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened

½ cup brown sugar

½ cup granulated sugar

1 egg

1/3 cup molasses (mild, not blackstrap)

2 teaspoons grated fresh ginger

1 teaspoon vanilla

½ granulated sugar, for coating the cookies

  1. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, salt, cinnamon, dried ginger, and baking soda and set aside. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the butter, brown sugar, and granulated sugar for 2-3 minutes until light and fluffy. Add the egg, molasses, ginger, and vanilla, and beat until well combined. Add the dry ingredients and mix on low speed until just combined. Scrape down the bowl to ensure all of the flour is incorporated, then chill for 30 minutes in the fridge.
  2. While the dough chills, preheat the oven to 325F, line two baking sheets with parchment paper, and place the remaining granulated sugar for coating in a shallow bowl.
  3. Once the dough has chilled, roll heaping tablespoons of the dough into balls, then roll in the sugar. Place 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets, then bake for 11-13 minutes, until the cookies have spread and moist fissures have formed. Let cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Click here for a printable version of this recipe!

Pumpkin Gingerbread Cake with Dulce de Leche Frosting

It’s finally October, which means that I can bake and cook fall recipes to my heart’s content. First on my list is anything pumpkin related. I always make dozens of pumpkin muffins and many loaves of pumpkin bread, and I wanted to try something new. After a little brainstorming, I came up with the idea for a pumpkin gingerbread, full of spicy ginger and molasses, to pair with a rich Dulce de leche frosting.

The pumpkin complements the traditional gingerbread spices of ginger, cinnamon, and pepper, while contributing to a tender texture. Gingerbread is traditionally a very delicate cake, so in order to provide lift and structure, a lot of chemistry must be utilized in this recipe—among other things, this makes me appreciate my Honors Chemistry class. This cake involves a lot of acidic ingredients—pumpkin, molasses, and brown sugar—which can prevent a cake from rising properly. To avoid this, I neutralized the acidic ingredients with a base, baking soda, early on in the recipe rather than using the typical method of adding the baking soda with the dry ingredients. For a foolproof way to avoid a sunken gingerbread, there must be a significant amount of gluten development to provide structural support to the cake. A simple way to do this is to vigorously beat the cake batter, which sounds counterintuitive to a seasoned baker, but actually works wonders when baking a tall layer cake that must hold its own against buttercream and car transport.

A simple Swiss buttercream full of a deeply caramelized Dulce de leche makes this layer cake the perfect accompaniment to a fall birthday or special event. It was thoroughly enjoyed as a dessert for our homecoming dance dinner. After all, what more do you need once you have dinner, friends, cake, and a dance?

Pumpkin Gingerbread Cake with Dulce de Leche Frosting

Makes 1, 9 inch layer cake, serving 16-20

1, 15 oz. can pumpkin puree

3 cups all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons dried ginger

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon pepper

¾ cup mild molasses

2/3 cup dark brown sugar

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon baking soda

2 eggs

½ cup vegetable oil

½ cup milk (whole or low-fat, not skim)

Dulce de Leche frosting (recipe follows)

Powdered sugar and a pinch of cinnamon, to serve

  1. In a small skillet over medium heat, cook the pumpkin for 10-12 minutes until thickened and fragrant, stirring frequently. It is done when the color has deepened slightly and the kitchen smells like pumpkin pie. Transfer to a bowl and set aside to cool.
  2. While the pumpkin cooks, preheat the oven to 350F and grease and flour 2, 9 inch cake pans. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, ginger, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, and pepper.
  3. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, combine the molasses, brown sugar, granulated sugar, and baking soda together at medium speed. Add the eggs, vegetable oil, milk, and cooled pumpkin and beat at medium speed until well combined, 1-2 minutes. Add half of the flour mixture and beat on medium high for 30-45 seconds. Scrape down the bowl and add the remainder of the flour and beat at medium-high speed for 1 minute, until well combined. Remove bowl from the mixer and stir and few times with a rubber spatula to ensure that all the flour is incorporated.
  4. Divide the batter between the prepared pans. If you have a kitchen scale, each cake pan will have about 1 ½ pounds of batter in it. Bake the cakes side by side on the middle rack of the oven until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean and the cakes spring back with lightly touched, 25-35 minutes. Do not open the oven until at least 25 of baking time has passed. Once the cakes are finished, remove them from the oven and let cool on wire racks for at least 3 hours before frosting. Cake will keep overnight, covered, before frosting.
  5. To frost the cake, line the edges of the serving platter with parchment strips, then place one of the cake layers on the platter. Spread ¾ cup of the frosting into an even layer on top of the bottom layer, then top with the second layer. Spread the remaining frosting on the top and sides of the cake. Combine the powdered sugar and the cinnamon in a sifter and use it to dust the top of the cake. Remove the strips of parchment from the edges of the cake, and serve.

Note: The frosting for the cake should be kept refrigerated, so once the cake has been frosted, store it in the refrigerator until serving time.

Dulce de Leche Frosting

Makes enough to frost 1 layer cake

3 egg whites

¾ cup granulated sugar

Pinch table salt

12 tablespoons (1 ½ sticks) unsalted butter, softened and cut into 12 pieces

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup Dulce de leche

  1. Set a saucepan with 3-4 cups of water in it over medium heat and bring to a simmer. In the bowl of a standing mixer, whisk together the egg whites, sugar, and salt. Set the bowl over the simmering water and whisk constantly until foamy and voluminous. The mixture should be 150F. This will take about 3 minutes.
  2. Transfer the bowl to the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whisk on medium speed until cooled slightly, 1-2 minutes.
  3. With the mixer on medium, add the butter 1 piece at a time, whisking after every addition.
  4. Turn the mixer off, add the vanilla and Dulce de leche. Turn the speed to medium high and beat until smooth and fluffy, 2-3 minutes.

Click here for a printable version of this recipe!

Indian Vegetable Curry

As someone who cooks and reads for pleasure, it’s not uncommon for a book to inspire a meal or recipe. Anything written by Jumpa Lahiri is no exception. I recently finished her collection of short stories, Unaccustomed Earth, and and enjoyed it just as much, if not more, than The Namesake and Interpreter of Maladies. Her writing is formulaic to a certain degree; her works often involve Bengali immigrants in the Cambridge area adjusting to life in America while dealing with loss or heartache. The stories are predictable, but the characterization and attention to detail is what draws me in every time. What I find incredible is her focus on food—what role it plays in the family dynamic as well as the long hours the women spend preparing and serving the food. The food shows a subtle transition to a Western lifestyle, a theme seen in all of her works, whether it’s the parents switching to coffee in the mornings, or the children ordering a pizza when the parents are out.

Without fail, reading one of Lahiri’s books sends me straight to the spice cabinet, ready to make a pot of daal or one of my favorite curries. Admittedly, this is not a curry that would impress any of the characters in her books—the curry powder is a pre-mixed commercial blend, and it’s ready in under an hour—but the complexity of flavors and textures makes this one of my favorite meals. I always toast my spices twice to heighten the flavor: once in a dry pan and then with the cauliflower and aromatics. Combined with the fragrant garlic, ginger, and serranos, the spices transform ordinary cauliflower, potatoes, chickpeas, tomatoes, and peas into a nutritious meal when served alongside some rice and whole-wheat naan.

Indian Vegetable Curry

Serves 4-6

14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes or 2 cups chopped fresh tomatoes

2 tablespoons sweet or mild curry powder

1 ½ teaspoons garam masala

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 onion, finely diced

12 oz. red potatoes, cut into a ½ inch dice

3 garlic cloves, minced

1 serrano chili, minced (seeds and ribs removed if you’re sensitive to heat)

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

1 tablespoon tomato paste

½ head cauliflower (about 1 ½ lbs.), cored and cut into 1 inch florets

1, 15 oz. can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 teaspoon table salt

1 ¼ cups water

1 ½ cups green peas, fresh or frozen

  1. If using canned tomatoes, transfer them to the bowl of a food processor and pulse 5-6 times until finely chopped, then set aside. If using fresh tomatoes, this step is unnecessary.
  2. In a large, heavy bottomed pot, toast the curry powder and garam masala until fragrant over medium heat, about 1 minute. Transfer the spices to a small bowl and set aside. In the same pot heat the vegetable oil over medium heat and add the onion and potatoes. Sauté for 10-12 minutes, until the onions have softened and the edges of the potatoes are beginning to brown. Clear a space in the center of the pan and add the garlic, serrano, ginger and tomato paste and sauté for 30-60 seconds until fragrant. Add the toasted spices and stir to combine, letting them toast again until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the cauliflower to the pot and toss thoroughly for 2-3 minutes, until the cauliflower is well coated with the spices and aromatics.
  3. Add the tomatoes, chickpeas, water, and salt, turn the heat to medium-high, and simmer briskly for 15-20 minutes, until the potatoes and cauliflower are tender. Add the peas, stir to combine, and let simmer until the peas are hot, 2-3 minutes. Transfer the curry to a serving bowl and serve immediately with basmati rice and naan.

Click here for a printable version of this recipe!

Whole Wheat Naan

Makes 4 Naan

3/8 cup warm water (about 100F)

½ teaspoon active dry yeast

½ teaspoon sugar

½ tablespoon olive oil

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup whole wheat flour

Butter, for serving

  1. Combine the water, yeast, sugar, and olive oil in a large bowl or in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a dough hook. Let sit until the yeast has begun to foam, about 5 minutes. Mix to recombine.
  2. Add in the salt and flour, and slowly mix (low speed if using a standing mixer) until all the flour is incorporated. If using a mixer, increase the speed to medium and knead for 8 minutes, until the dough is smooth and glossy and springs back easily when pinched. If mixing by hand, turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for 8-10 minutes, until smooth, glossy and springy.
  3. Turn off the mixer, remove the dough from the dough hook and let it fall into the mixer bowl and cover the bowl with a dish towel. Let rise until almost doubled in size, 45-60 minutes.
  4. Once the dough has fully risen, turn it out onto a floured surface and divide it into 4 equal pieces. Taking one piece of dough at a time, roll it out to a circle 6-8 inches in diameter. Repeat with the remaining dough pieces.
  5. To cook, heat a cast-iron skillet over medium high heat for 5 minutes until very hot. Gently lay one naan in the pan and brush it with water, then cover, letting it cook for 2 minutes until golden brown. Flip the naan, letting it cook covered for another 2 minutes until golden brown on the bottom. Spread a little butter on the naan, and cover the cooked naans to keep them warm and repeat with the remaining dough.

Click here for a printable version of this recipe!

Honey Ginger Cookies

Honey is a tricky thing to use in baked goods. Unlike granulated sugar, it’s comprised primarily of fructose rather than glucose, which means that it cannot be easily substituted for regular sugar in a recipe. It’s also much sweeter by weight than traditional sugar, allowing for an enhanced Maillard reaction when cooking. The Maillard reaction is when carbohydrates in food caramelize and brown when heated, allowing for the development of flavorful compounds. This is good in moderation, but it can also lead to a burnt birthday cake.

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The good news is, when honey is used properly in a recipe, the results are phenomenal. The viscous liquid allows ingredients to be slowly steeped into the honey so that their flavors permeate every bite of the finished product.


In these Honey Ginger Cookies, freshly grated ginger is simmered in honey, then whipped into a sugar cookie dough. The spicy sweetness of the ginger pairs excellently with the floral essences of the honey, and the result is almost like a glass of iced ginger tea in cookie form.


When baking with fresh ginger, you have to be sure to grate it finely so that it’s evenly distributed. Grating fresh ginger can be somewhat of a headache, but you can avoid the whole situation by storing your ginger in the freezer. This preserves the ginger for many months at a time, which is ideal when you bought a 6 inch piece of ginger root only to use 1 teaspoon and find you don’t know what to do with the remainder. Also, frozen ginger is much firmer than ginger kept at room temperature, so when grated, you don’t have to deal with fibrous ends mushing everywhere into the grater and never actually producing a pile of grated ginger.

The rest of the cookies are simple, consisting mainly of butter, sugar, eggs, flour, and leaveners, so that the focus is kept on the honey and ginger. The honey gives them both a chewy and cake-like texture, giving them universal appeal.

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The adaptability of these cookies allows them to be the perfect tea companions, while also being excellent study buddies for Finals Week.


Interested in trying these cookies? Just like my page, “Kinsey Cooks,” on Facebook, or leave a comment on this post about your favorite food. If you happen to see me on Tuesday, May 28, I’ll give you one of these Honey Ginger Cookies (while supplies last).

Honey Ginger Cookies
Makes 6 dozen small cookies

2/3 cup honey
1/4 cup grated fresh ginger
2 sticks (16 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar, plus 1/3 cup for rolling the cookies
2 eggs
1/4 cup milk
3 3/4 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. In a small skillet over medium heat, combine the honey and ginger, and bring to a slow simmer, stirring occasionally until fragrant, about 3 minutes. Remove from heat, strain through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl and set aside to cool.
3. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and 1 cup sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
4. With the mixer on low, slowly add the honey and ginger and mix to combine.
5. Add the eggs and milk and beat on medium speed until well combined.
6. Add the flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt to the mixer and mix on low until just combined.
7. Scoop the dough into 1 tablespoon sized portions and roll them in the remaining 1/3 cup of granulated sugar. Place them on the baking sheet, spacing them 1 1/2 inches apart.
8. Bake for 10-12 minutes until golden brown, rotating the baking sheets halfway through baking. Let cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.