Carrots are on my mind for two reasons. One is that I keep unearthing giant monsters from my garden. The second is that I seem to have ordered 9 seed packets for different carrot varieties so I know it’s going to be a carrot year. I didn’t know that I liked carrots that much. It’s more that I wanted to learn the differences that distinguish different varieties from life rather than looking at a picture—their shapes, flavors, and colors.
Strange how important color can be in food. As a college Oakley Sunglasses cheap student I worked in a lab at UC Davis where ice creams were different colors than their flavors would suggest. We gave them to students to eat and asked them to identify the flavors, which they found very hard to do. Banana isn’t usually green; pistachio isn’t pink, strawberry isn’t yellow. Without the colors in their right places, the tasters were stumped. We put colors and flavors together in very particular ways, it turns out, and with the ice cream flavors matched with their colors, there as no problem and much relief. As kids, my brother, who worked for a different lab at UC Davis,and I thought it would be amusing to make blue mashed potatoes from the Peruvian tubers he was studying. We thought it would be fun because it would be off-putting, and it was. There aren’t a lot of blue foods, maybe for a reason. Except for blueberries and blue corn flour, blue does not invite one to dig in.
Which brings me back to carrots.
Even though lots of people are growing them and buying them, it seems a bit fussy to call for particular colors of carrots in a recipe. If I saw a recipe for a white carrot and cumin puree, I might think, “Oh? And what’s wrong with orange?” But if white carrots are what you have, well, you give things a try. I’ve http://www.oakleyonorder.com/ had a lot of them, very late harvest, gigantic white carrots that I keep finding buried in the ground. Naturally I wondered what would happen if I made a white carrot soup. It would taste like carrot, but it wouldn’t look like carrot. Would my guests know what they were eating?
Garden writer, Leslie Land, who ate this soup, thought that blindfolded, one might guess that it was based on potato and something rooty. In fact, there was not potato (just a tablespoon of rice). She then put for the idea that flavor is associated with pigment and that orange carrots have more flavor—an idea she has promised to research the minute she gets home. It’s true—the flavor was not robust, though to me it was clearly carrot. But maybe because they were pretty old carrots was why they weren’t’ more carroty. The jury is still out on the flavor component.
I suspect that a white carrot soup can mess with your head. It tastes like carrot but looks like potato, parsnip, celery root, anything but carrot. A soup made of yellow ones is less disturbing, slightly more carroty, and in fact, pretty and delicate to behold. If you use those purple skinned orange cheap oakley carrots in a soup, though, you’ll end up with the ugliest brown soup you can imagine. I did that once and I couldn’t eat it. I couldn’t’ get past the color. But the flavor was amazing which suggests there might be something to Leslie’s theory.
I’ve been using my lighter colored carrots in an almond-carrot cake where they work beautifully, giving the cake a soft, rich golden hue instead of intermittent orange streaks. I recently braised some yellow carrots with orange cores that I bought from Boggy Creek Farm in Austin, tossed them with coconut butter and lime and they were gorgeous (and quite worth eating). Roasted purple carrots mixed yellow, white, and a few orange ones are full of drama, but the inclusion of the orange fellows lets you know that you’re eating carrots. Going back to the soup, I thought that a very fine dice of orange carrots plus the tender greens would be helpful, letting you know where you are in the vegetable world, and so I did just that.
Ivory Carrot Soup with A Fine Dice of Orange Makes about 5 cups
This is an extremely simple soup, intentionally so, as I was just going for the purity of color and flavor. Try it also with the pale yellow carrots, but not so much the purple skinned ones. They turn brown.
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 pound of white carrots, scrubbed and thinly sliced
1 tablespoon raw white rice
1/2 teaspoon sugar
A sprig of thyme
4 cups water or light chicken stock
A few tablespoons finely diced orange (and/or other colored carrots, for garnish) plus some of the finer greens, chopped
Warm the butter and oil in a soup pot, add the onion, carrots, rice 1 teaspoon salt and sugar. Cook over medium heat for several minutes, turning everything occasionally.
Add one cup of the water or stock, cover the pan, turn down the heat, and cook while you heat the remaining three cups of liquid. When hot, add it to the pot, maintain a simmer, cover the pan and cook until the carrots are tender, about 20 minutes. Remove the thyme branch. Puree the soup. Taste for salt and season with pepper.
Simmer the diced carrots in boiling salted water for about 3 minutes, then drain.
Scatter the diced carrots plus the minced greens over the surface of the soup just before serving.