Vegetarian: Chilled Spice-Roasted Carrot Soup with Yogurt
Slender, beautifully hued carrots are flooding the markets right now, and given their low price, it's tempting to take them home by the armful. But here's the question: what does one really do with carrots? Sure, they're great in raw in salads, and of course they lend a necessary sweetness when diced into soup and stew bases alongside onions, garlic, and sometimes celery. But for those of us who don't really like the flavor of cooked carrots, which can tend toward the blandly sweet, the options seem to run out quick.
Or at least that's the way I thought about carrots until last year, when I joined a local CSA. For weeks at a time, I went home with carrots by the bagful, and though they store well, I was forced to think of new ways to eat them, lest my kitchen become a sort of ball pit of carrots, if you will. One thing I made a lot of was pickled carrots, refreshing and snappy, and another thing I did was roast them. And roast, and roast and roast.
Mostly I ate these roasted carrots tossed into salads, or simply sprinkled with some cubed feta cheese, until one day occurred to me to blend them into a soup. See, normally, I'm not a fan of the ubiquitous carrot-ginger soup, or any puréed carrot soup, really: the carrots just get way too sweet, without any edginess to balance them out. But as I knew from eating roasted carrots by the handful, the root vegetables become deeply rich in flavor when cooked at a high temperature. And I could keep that flavor in my soup by simply adding roasted, and not raw, carrots.
Just to keep the carrots' flavor extra-zingy, for this soup I roast them with whole, fragrant spices: cumin, coriander, and mustard seeds. When the carrots emerge from the oven, burnished and browned, they smell amazing—almost like chai tea, but with a heavier, more mysterious edge. And that fragrance transfers directly to the soup, which is blended with yogurt and lime juice, whose tang goes one step further in rounding out the intense sweetness of the carrots. I've served this soup hot, but it's really better enjoyed cold during the summertime: the bright, intense flavors really come to the forefront after a quick chilldown.
About the author: Lauren Rothman is a former Serious Eats intern, a freelance catering chef, and an obsessive chronicler of all things culinary. Try the original recipes on her blog, For the Love of Food, and follow her on Twitter @Lochina186.