“i said to my soul
so the darkness
shall be the
and the stillness
t. s. eliot
Winter has always seemed to me to be a season of waiting. Maybe that’s why I’ve struggled to like it. All season long, we wait for the days to lengthen again, the sun to shine again, the weather to warm again. We don our heavy coats and rugged boots and trudge through gray days and cold houses and cracking skin. We remember the fresh fruit of summer farmer’s markets and the warm light of balmy months, but we remember it faintly, in shadows, the way I imagine this world will someday be remembered when we are long from it, too. And then, just when it seems we will never see sunshine again, we will never put away our coats again, we will never go for long walks just to soak up the sky, Nashville goes and pulls a stunning Sunday like yesterday and gives weather forecasts in the 50s and 60s this week. It’s striking how much and how often my soul yearns for light—the light of honesty, the light of daytime, the Light of the World—and it’s striking how standing in that longed-for brightness, open and exposed and seen, changes everything, absolutely everything, that I can feel and see. I told Tim yesterday I wish it were daytime all the time, and then I thought, someday it will be. I am writing these thoughts from a living room sofa enveloped in late afternoon February sunshine, leaves blowing outside the windows, wind hollowing like an old woman laughing at a joke. I look at these photos of bright carrot soup, made of vegetables grown deep in darkness, underground, then pulled and torn out of the earth into light. I look at that vibrant orange color, so alive and electric, such a contrast to the dark background against which it’s placed: Light and darkness all around us, metaphorically and literally, all the time.
Velvet Carrot Soup with Amaretti Crumble
This recipe is adapted from Paul Gayler's Great Homemade Soups book, where he refers to it as a sort of soup version of squash-filled ravioli. Given our current carrot fascination, we've swapped in carrots, and given that we had fresh thyme on hand, we've used that instead of Paul's sage. Where he wowed us, however, was in this soup's texture, blended in a Vitamix and then strained through a fine sieve. So soft and silky! It's like velvet.
- 2 tablespoons (25 g) unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup (188 g) chopped onions
- 6 thyme leaves, coarsely chopped
- 2 pounds carrots, peeled and cubed
- 1/4 cup (50 g) slivered blanched almonds
- 1.3 quarts (1.5 liters) chicken stock
- 1/2 cup (100 ml) whole milk or cream
- A few handfuls (50 g) amaretti cookies (available at specialty grocers or, around here, at TJ Maxx)
- 3 tablespoons freshly grated Pecorino cheese
In a large stockpot over medium heat, heat butter until fully melted and hot. Add onion and thyme, and cook for 10 minutes, until onion is soft and translucent. Add carrots, almonds, and stock, and bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer for 25 to 30 minutes, or until carrots are soft.
Transfer mixture to a high-speed blender, food processor, or Vitamix. Blend until super smooth. Because the mixture practically filled the Vitamix, I found it crucial to strain the mixture through a sieve back into the stockpot, reblending in the Vitamix everything that couldn't go through the sieve. Don't skip this step! It is key to the velvet texture.
Once all soup mixture is smooth, return it all to the stockpot, add milk or cream, and bring mixture back to a boil over medium heat. Divide soup among bowls, and sprinkle amaretti cookie crumbles and Pecorino cheese as a garnish. Serve hot.
ps - I remember vividly when I started to understand recipes as formulas rather than regulations, and, if you're the type who likes to understand recipes this way, too, the formula for a good homemade cream soup is this: fat + onions (+ herbs, maybe), sauteed in a pot until translucent; stock and chopped vegetable added and cooked until soft; everything pureéd; everything strained through a sieve so it's super smooth; some milk or cream; some garnishes; bam.
*We received a review copy of Paul’s book, from which this recipe is adapted.