When the loons have left the Narrows Pond and the humming birds are no longer whirring among the flowers and yellow leaves cover the patio and the porch needs to be swept almost every day, my mind quite naturally turns to soup. It must be said that we are a family of soup enthusiasts, and Maine is certainly the perfect place for us to live. For nine months of the year, we can eat soup without ever breaking into a sweat. (I do wonder if we would be as keen on soup if we lived, say, in Florida. How much of what we eat is dictated by climate and locale, even in these globalized times?)
We love all kinds of soup, from chunky meat stews to bean soups to cream soups. Because my husband, Clif, is lactose intolerant, cream soups can be problematic for him. Yes, there is Lactaid, but as a rule we don’t like to burden our digestive systems with food they have a hard time tolerating. As luck would have it, cream soups are at the top of my favorite food list (FFL), just slightly behind donuts, pie, and chocolate. So, then, how to have cream soups on a regular basis without Clif resorting to Lactaid? The answer is simple—potatoes, the tuber of Maine. (I do realize that other states grow potatoes, but as a Mainer who comes from a family of potato farmers, I tend to equate Maine with potatoes.)
In most cream soup recipes, potatoes can be added to give soups that creamy texture I love so much. Clif doesn’t have to hit the Lactaid, and I get to eat cream soups more often. And, as an added bonus, soups thickened with potatoes are not as fattening as soups made with cream.
Last weekend, we stopped at Stevenson’s vegetable stand, which will, alas, be closing next Sunday. Among other vegetables, we bought potatoes and bright orange carrots, a perfect start for ginger, carrot soup. I had garlic, onions, and ginger root at home, and with the potatoes and carrots, that’s all I would need. Along with a little salt, pepper, olive oil, and water, of course. Again, all readily available at home.
By my reckoning, this carrot soup must rank pretty close to the top of frugal meals that are not only good for you but also have you going back for seconds. Add some muffins or a salad, and no sensible person could ask for anything more. Except, perhaps, for some homemade croutons for the soup, which take about seven minutes from beginning to end.
I made the soup last night, and luckily, there is enough leftover for my lunch this afternoon. All morning, I have been thinking of the bright taste of carrots, the undertones of garlic, onion, and ginger, and the smooth texture of this soup. I wish I had doubled the recipe so I had more leftover. Well, I’ll just have to make ginger, carrot soup again sometime soon.
“Creamy” Carrot Soup
Serves four, if you have someone with an appetite like Clif’s. Otherwise, you might be able to get five or even six servings from this recipe.
4 cups of chopped carrots (about six large carrots). Use a food processor, if you have one.
2 potatoes, diced
4 thick slices of gingerroot, chopped
2 large cloves of garlic, chopped
I medium onion, chopped
3 cups of water
Salt and pepper to taste
In a large soup pot, heat enough oil to barely cover the bottom. Add onion and garlic and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring pretty much constantly. Add the carrots and the potatoes and cook for three minutes, stirring frequently. Add the ginger root and cook for a couple more minutes, again, stirring frequently. Add the water and cook the vegetables until they are tender, about twenty to thirty minutes. Puree the soup in either a blender or a food processor. An immersion blender works well, too. With 3 cups of water, this is a very thick soup. If you prefer a thinner soup, then simply add more water. Season with salt and pepper.
These are so much better than crackers, and they are easy to make. Why deprive yourself?
Four slices of bread, cut in cubes
In a large fry pan, heat the oil and add the cubed bread, turning them as they brown. When they are brown and crisp all over, drain on a paper towel in a plate.
If you want more croutons, they can be oven baked (375ºF) on a cookie sheet. Use more bread, put cubes on an ungreased cookie sheet, drizzle with oil, and bake until crisp and dry, stirring every five minutes.
While hot, salt can be sprinkled on the croutons as well as herbs, dried or fresh, and/or grated Parmesan cheese. Or just use them plain. They are good anyway.