When I was a wee bonnie lass, I tolerated raw carrots, but cooked carrots were the kiss of death to my usually robust appetite. In fact, since MauiJim shares my aversion, I began to experiment tenuously with cooked carrots only recently. I usually saute them quickly or add them at the last minute to preserve their crunchy texture.
However, carrot bisque is an exception. The carrots need to be fully tender in order to liquefy them in a blender. And because they are quite sweet by nature, especially when they are young and freshly dug, I treat them in a similar fashion to yams, sweet potatoes, and butternut squash.
That is, I balance their sweetness with an acid of some sort. In this bisque, I add a goodly amount of tomatoes, stopping just short of actually being able to discern their presence in the brew. You can’t identify them, but they add color, depth, and much needed tartness.
Red wine vinegar brings the various elements into perfect balance and a generous scoop of Umami Pesto takes the entire enterprise to new flavor heights. The only carrot soup I know of that can match the glory of this bisque is Heirloom Carrot Soup with Lemon Verbena, Spearmint & Garlic Gremolata.
If you haven’t tried it yet, there is no better time. The local farmers markets are overflowing with young, freshly dug carrots. Even I can’t resist them any longer.
If you think you dislike cooked carrots, either of these soups will make a convert out of you. I know this is true, because MauiJim, King of Cooked Carrot Avoiders, BEGS for these soups. And even when I remind him that they are comprised primarily of cooked carrots, he still insists that I make them for him. Wonders never cease.
TERM NOTE This soup is a bisque, rather than a soup or chowder, because the majority of the vegetables are pureed, rather than left in chunks. Because of this difference in technique, a bisque typically has a thicker base than either a soup or chowder.
INGREDIENT NOTE Hopefully, you read my earlier post, Umami Potion #9, and have a cup or so of Umami Pesto in the frig waiting to be put to good use.
Sweet Carrot Bisque with Umami Pesto
This carrot bisque is not a one-flavor-note wonder. It is balanced with two acidic notes (tomatoes and red wine vinegar) and given depth with Umami Pesto. And yet, the carrots the still the star. So be sure to buy the very freshest carrots you can find, preferably from your local farmers market.
4 tablespoons cold-pressed, extra virgin olive oil
1 large onion, chopped (about 2 cups chopped)
1 head garlic, each clove peeled and trimmed of stem
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper, optional
2 pounds large, sweet carrots, preferably heirloom carrots, peeled, and coarsely chopped
1 pound peeled, seeded, chopped tomatoes with juice (or 14.5 ounce can)
6-7 cups low-salt chicken or vegetable stock, divided
½ cup Umami Pesto
1 cup cream
fine sea salt, to taste
sour cream (plus more for passing around)
slivered fresh chives
- Prepare the Umami Pesto. Reserve.
- In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil and slowly cook the onions and garlic, without browning, until very soft, about 15 minutes
- Add the vinegar and crushed red pepper, and reduce to a tablespoon or so of liquid.
- Add the carrots, tomatoes, and 6 cups of stock.
- Bring to a simmer. Partially cover, and simmer slowly until the carrots are very tender, about 15 minutes.
- Remove the soup from the heat, let cool somewhat, and then carefully ladle into a blender in batches. Liquefy each batch, leaving some texture, and return to a clean soup pot.
- Reheat the soup, and add the Umami Pesto and cream, stirring to combine. If needed, add the remaining 1 cup (or more) of stock to achieve a medium consistency.
- Season to taste with salt.
- Ladle the hot soup into wide-rimmed bowls and garnish each with Umami Pesto, sour cream, and a sprinkle of chives. Pass additional sour cream at the table, so guests can add more to their liking. I like lots.
Makes 4-6 servings.