Thursday, November 10, 2011

Spicy Carrot Soup with Goat Cheese

When faced with the task of using up a large cache of carrots before my first CSA delivery (where I, of course, got another hefty bag of carrots), I immediately thought of soup. I'll eat nearly any vegetable cooked with bit of sauteed onions, garlic, salt, and a few spices in some good vegetable stock and pureed to silky deliciousness for a hearty, healthy soup. High-quality vegetables (i.e. local and organic, if you can find and afford it) need very little help to be transformed into a delicious meal, but that doesn't mean that a beautiful vegetable soup isn't a perfect place to experiment with new flavor combinations. I started with the basic onions, garlic, salt, carrots, and vegetable stock and then looked into my cabinets and refrigerator for further inspiration. I (re)discovered a jar or harissa paste I picked up harissa paste at the farmers' market, the perfect spicy contrast to the sweet carrots. The refrigerator offered some Montchevre goat cheese, adding both creamy and tangy elements, creating a rich and nuanced soup. All of these flavors blend together into a smooth and comforting blend of spiciness, sweetness, tanginess and richness that brings out the best in carrots without burying their flavor. This fall and winter promises to be full of many bowls of comfort like this one, so if you like what you see here, stay tuned for the many more to come!

Spicy Carrot Soup with Goat Cheese
serves 4

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds carrots, peeled and sliced
1 large or 2 small onions, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed through a garlic press
1 quart vegetable or chicken stock or water
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 ounces goat cheese, cut into small pieces
1 to 2 teaspoons harissa paste, or to taste

1. Heat olive oil in a large heavy saucepan over medium heat. Add carrots, onions, and garlic and cook until onions are softened, about 8 minutes.

2. Add stock to pan with vegetables and bring mixture to a boil. Simmer until carrots are tender, about 30 minutes, and remove from heat. Using an immersion blender, puree the soup until smooth. (Alternatively, puree soup in batches using a blender). With the soup off the heat, add goat cheese, whisking vigorously to blend completely. Add harissa paste, 1/2 teaspoon at a time, mixing thoroughly, to desired level of spiciness. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve hot.

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