It’s the first week of January, so I am going to go out on a limb and guess that no fewer than 52 percent of you are gnawing on a carrot stick right now. If you’re not gnawing on a carrot stick right now, you probably have some within reach of you. If they’re not within reach of you, they’re in your fridge, because you, like most of us, are more ambitious when it comes to grocery lists than you might be when it’s time to consume said groceries. And if they’re not in your fridge, you might have them on your mind, nagging at you. Early January is like that. (Late January is all about rich comfort foods. Trust me.)
I set off 2012 on this site with a carrot soup, and it’s not accidental that I’m doing the same in 2013. You see, one of the sadder facts about me is that I’m plagued with indecision about everything, from bangs to coffee tables to soups, and before you ended up reading about Carrot Soup with Miso and Sesame and maybe even some pickled scallions, I had at least three ideas for carrot soup spinning in my head and it likely took me a solid week with immeasurable hemming and hawing to even settle on the miso version first. This carrot tahini soup was first runner up last year, but it’s clear to me, eating my first bowl of this right now, this was a mistake. The inspiration is one of my favorite snacks (sadly, not shared by my assistant, yet), carrot sticks dipped in hummus* and here I tried to deconstruct the two things only to reconstruct them better.
Amazingly, both carrot soups originate from the same place, which is that I don’t much care for it. And I know what you’re thinking: “Three carrot soups? When you barely like one? Weirdo!” But, I’d argue, pickiness, namely mine, needn’t be so much a roadblock but a source of inspiration. I enjoy finding ways I can make things I once believed to be not my thing very much my thing. If I find carrot soup is vaguely sweet and flat, how can I make it complex and textured and bright? Last year it was miso, sesame and pickled scallions. This year it is even better: some smoky cumin, coriander and pepper flakes sauteed with the soup vegetables, a swirl of lemon-tahini to finish, loads of crispy chickpeas as croutons. It’s all sorts of January-ness in a bowl — vegetarian, nay, vegan, antioxidants! alpha-carotene! beta-carotene! potassium! Guys, it’s like one spoonful of quinoa short of Food Blog Deity status. But — snore! — really, it’s just good. January or not, that’s the only good reason I can think of to eat something.
One year ago: Carrot Soup with Miso and Sesame
Two years ago: Chard and White Bean Stew
Three years ago: Walnut Pesto, Spicy Caramel Popcorn and Southwestern Pulled Brisket
Four years ago: Veselka’s Cabbage Soup, Spelt Everything Crackers, Feta Salsa, Zuni Cafe’s Roast Chicken and Bread Salad, Cranberry Vanilla Coffee Cake, Sausage Stuffed Potatoes + Green Salad
Five years ago: Caramel Cake, 96 Favorites and Viennese Cucumber Salad
Six years ago: Boozy Baked French Toast, Parmesan Black Pepper Biscotti, Coq au Vin
Carrot Soup with Lemon, Tahini and Crisped Chickpeas
My soup vice is because I’ve already confessed to finding it a little dull, that I overcompensate with add-ins. Here, there’s a dollop (lemon-tahini), a crouton (cumin-crisped chickpeas, which might sound familiar as they’re also here), wedges of toasted pitas (brushed with olive oil, sprinkled with za’atar) and a garnish (parsley). If you’re not me, this might seem like overkill, in which case you should definitely just use the ones you find the most interesting.
Serves 4, generously or 6, petitely
2 tablespoons (30 ml) olive oil
2 pounds (905 grams) carrots, peeled, diced or thinly sliced
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 regular or 6 small garlic cloves, peeled and smashed
1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon table salt, plus more if needed
Pinch of Aleppo pepper or red pepper flakes
4 cups (945 ml) vegetable broth
1 3/4 cups cooked chickpeas, or 1 15-ounce (425-gram) can, drained, patted dry on paper towels
1 generous tablespoon (15 ml or so) olive oil
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
3 tablespoons (25 grams) tahini paste
2 tablespoons (30 ml) lemon juice
Pinch or two of salt
2 tablespoons (30 ml) water
Pita wedges, garnish
A few large pitas, cut into 8 wedges
Olive oil, to brush pitas
Za’atar (a Middle Eastern spice-herb blend) or sesame seeds and sea salt to sprinkle
2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, coarsely chopped
Heat two tablespoons olive oil in heavy large pot over medium heat. Add carrots, onion, garlic, coriander, cumin, salt and pepper flakes and sauté until they begin to brown, about 15 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat your oven to 425 degrees F. Toss chickpeas with one tablespoon olive oil, salt and cumin until they’re all coated. Spread them on a baking sheet or pan and roast them in the oven until they’re browned and crisp. This can take anywhere from 10 to 20 minutes, depending on the size and firmness of your chickpeas. Toss them occasionally to make sure they’re toasting evenly.
Once vegetables have begun to brown, add broth, using it to scrape up any bits stuck to the bottom of the pot. Cover pot with lid and simmer until carrots are tender, stirring occasionally, about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a small dish, whisk together tahini, lemon juice, salt and water until smooth with a yogurt-like consistency. If more liquid is needed to thin it, you can add more lemon juice or water, a spoonful at a time, until you get your desired consistency.
Spread pita wedges on a second baking sheet and brush lightly with olive oil. Sprinkle with za’atar or a combination of sea salt and sesame seeds and toast in oven with chickpeas until brown at edges, about 5 minutes.
Puree soup in a blender or with an immersion blender until smooth. Ladle into bowls. Dollop each with lemon-tahini, sprinkle with crisped chickpeas and garnish with chopped parsley. Serve with pita wedges. Forget January, you’d eat this anytime. Right?