What do you do when your best friend is sick in the spring? You find a comforting soup that has fresh flavors. Knowing Kat wasn’t feeling well, I searched her giant The Soup Bible for “light and refreshing” recipes. Carrot and Cilantro Soup was one of the few that was still served warm. It sounded great, so the next day I came up with a version of my own. I didn’t have The Soup Bible, and I like making up recipes anyway.
As with nearly every soup, I started with carrots, celery and onions (mirepoix, if you will). I also diced some rose potatoes to give the soup enough weight to stand alone as dinner.
I know coriander and cumin work really well with carrots, but didn’t want the cumin to overwhelm the soup. According to The Flavor Bible, cumin is a medium weight spice, with moderate to loud volume and a heating function. Ground coriander seed, however, has light weight, moderate volume and a cooling function. Perfect! (Also, I am aware that I mentioned two cookbooks with bible in the title. I won’t dwell on what that says about my relationship with food.)
Anyway, I added ground coriander and a subtle amount of cumin and chili powder for complexity. White wine functioned as the acid of the soup, but I thought later that lime juice would be a good option, too.
Surprisingly, after I pureed the whole thing, I didn’t need to adjust any of the flavors. This is extremely rare, but I think a big part of this is that I added my spices and salt early. And I didn’t skimp on the salt either. I know it’s always safer to start small and add later, but there is a difference in how salt works depending when you add it. When you add it early, it brings out the other flavors of the dish, but when you add a lot of salt toward the end of the cooking process, you really just start to taste salt.
By some miracle, I got the whole thing right the first time around. And I wish I could tell you what those exact measurements were, but we’re not always very exact around here.
Carrot and Cilantro Soup
- 1 pound of carrots
- 3-4 stalks of celery (put the leaves in there too)
- 3 small rose potatoes
- 1 medium yellow onion
- 1 quart of chicken stock (When I don’t use homemade I like Trader Joe’s Free Range Chicken Stock. Vegetable stock works too, of course.)
- 1/4 cup dry white wine (or try juice of one lime)
- 1 tablespoon ground coriander seed
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon chili powder
- Salt and pepper
- Small bunch of fresh cilantro
Chop or dice peeled carrots, onions, celery and potatoes. (Small pieces will cook faster.) Toss vegetables with extra virgin olive oil in a large soup pot. Put over medium-high heat, add a good amount of salt (unless you know your stock is very salty), pepper and other ground spices. Stir occasionally. When vegetables have started to soften, add stock and bring to a boil. You can give it a taste to make sure your levels are alright. Then simmer about 20 minutes until vegetables are soft and flavors have come together.
Add a handful of chopped cilantro. (I’ve read that cilantro is best added late in the cooking process.)
Puree the soup using an immersion blender or food processor. Taste to make sure it’s good. Then serve garnished with more fresh cilantro. I also think it would be great with a drizzle of chili oil. I didn’t have any, but now I’m in the process of making my own. We served this soup with bread made quickly from pizza dough rubbed with olive oil, sea salt and dried rosemary.