Photos by Zachary Cross
Spring is really here and along with it warm days, cool nights, and some rainy days and nights. Soup is still a good option on the menu, especially one that can be served hot or cold.
Carrots are a versatile vegetable, and a beautiful one, too. Typically you’ll find orange ones at market but sometimes purple, red, yellow, or white ones as well. The colors aren’t just pretty, they represent different types of nutrients. We associate beta carotene with carrots and the color orange, but orange carrots also contain xanthophylls and lutein. Both are also carotenoids and associated with eye health. I know my mother told me that carrots would help me see at night! Red carrots contain lycopene like tomatoes do. Purple carrots contain the flavonoids anthocyanins instead of carotenoids. Anthocyanins are considered powerful antioxidants.
Originally, cultivated carrots were primarily purple, occasionally white, yellow, or red. Sometime around the 15 or 1600s Dutch growers bred yellow carrots with wild carrots, eventually ending up with the orange we associate with carrots today.
The carrot family is very large, though the family name is Apiaceae. Otherwise known as Umbelliferae, this family’s plants have upside down umbrella-shaped collections of flowers, or umbels. The most well known decorative family member is Queen Anne’s Lace (one kind of wild carrot) but you probably know many others: parsley, coriander/cilantro, caraway, cumin, dill, celery, parsnip, along with many, many others.
Coriander complements its cousin carrot’s sweet flavor, both in seed and leaf form. Though two parts of the same plant, they nevertheless have distinctive flavors of their own. The spice we call coriander here in the U.S. is typically the dried seed of the plant. Ground it has a sweet and almost citrusy flavor (though Serious Eats would disagree and say grinding takes the citrus taste out - I still smell and taste it!). You can buy it already ground or whole and grind or crush your own - it’s a simple job with a mortar and pestle. Jeffrey prefers the flavor and texture of crushed but I confess to preferring the convenience of buying ground.
Cilantro is the form of coriander you will find at market. Looking like Italian parsley, it has a much different smell and taste and some say it tastes like soap. Although this is supposed to be tied to your genes and nothing you can do can change it, I have found that repeat exposure to it, usually paired with yummy Mexican or Asian food, has made me go from hater to fan. Apparently this can work for anyone . If you are a cilantro hater, try it in pesto form or otherwise well chopped to help you acclimate.
We’ve been making carrot soup for a long time. It’s another of our favorites from Martha Stewart’s Quick Cook Menus. The pages in the books are spattered and wrinkled - a sign of a good recipe!
It’s a pretty basic recipe, too. Shallots and coriander are sautéed in butter; carrots and stock are added, boiled, and pureed. A little cream adds body and a sprinkle of cilantro and chives add a nice touch of color as well as flavor.
We’ve followed this basic recipe pretty closely over the years but Martha says, “I find that the flavor of the carrots is greatly enhanced by adding a parsnip or a leek or even a ripe pear or apple to the soup while it is simmering.” The times we’ve tried a parsnip in the soup we found it bitter, but they were supermarket parsnips, not market ones. Maybe someday we will try again!
From Martha Stewart’s Quick Cook Menus
4 tablespoons (½ stick) unsalted butter
1 shallot, peeled and minced
1 ½ teaspoons ground coriander
4 cups chicken stock (I used vegetable stock)
1 ½ pounds carrots, peeled and sliced
1 large parsnip, peeled and thinly sliced (optional) (I did not use)
½ cup heavy cream
Salt and fresh ground black pepper
1 ½ tablespoons chopped fresh coriander (cilantro)
Photos by Zachary Cross
Spring has sprung! Make a meal this week with market vegetables that is quick and easy and leaves you plenty of time to play outside.
Last week at market I was drawn to Lacinato kale. Known to Italians as cavalo nero, or black cabbage, Lacinato kale is a deep, dark green with dimpled leaves. It’s known by quite a few other names such as Tuscan kale, Italian kale, or palm tree kale - the latter because harvesting the outside leaves can lead to the plant looking like a palm tree. Dinosaur kale is another name that I thought that was just a marketing ploy. Apparently some people imagine that the leaves look like dinosaur skin. It might help some dinosaur-crazy kids want to eat it!
Despite the name cavalo nero, kale is not cabbage. At least it doesn’t form the tight head we associate with round cabbages. Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds describes it as “loose-leafed cabbage,” and Victory Seeds as “a primitive, open variety of kale.” Which is it, cabbage or kale? Well, cabbage and kale both fall under the species Brassica oleracea, as do many of the vegetables we commonly associate with the genus Brassica, such as broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, and many others. I was left wondering which brassicas are not oleracea. A least a few well-known ones are not: turnips, mustards, rapini, and Chinese cabbage.
Whichever species of Brassica you eat, they are highly nutritious. Members of the Brassica family are high in vitamin C, soluble fiber, and cancer-fighting compounds. Although eating them raw is one way to preserve the nutrients, Brassica crops retain many vitamins during the cooking process.
Sometimes it’s hard to find a vegetarian recipe that our whole family will enjoy. Especially one that’s not complicated. Beans are a great start to a vegetarian main dish but can be pretty bland. Sometimes when we serve them it’s in a dish with a lot of ingredients, but this one is pretty simple. Olive oil, garlic, and salt and pepper help make the beans and kale into a tasty dish without a lot of effort.
To round out our meal I served a crusty Bread and Butter baguette. As a gluten-free alternative I also made a quick cheese grits casserole. My grits casserole is really more like polenta, making this an all-around Italian meal.
Adapted slightly from Vegetables Every Day by Jack Bishop
Serves 4 as a Main Course
1 ½ pounds kale
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 medium garlic cloves, minced
2 15-ounce cans cannellini or other white beans, rinsed and drained
⅔ cup chicken or vegetable stock
Freshly ground black pepper
Photos by Zachary Cross
This has been such a warm winter and with all the trees and plants blooming it seems like spring. This weekend’s snow and chilly temperatures remind us that winter’s not over yet! Soon it will be time for salads again but for now use this season’s greens in a warm and comforting soup.
This Friday is St. Patrick’s Day and what better way to celebrate than with potatoes and kale? Colcannon is a traditional Irish dish of mashed potatoes with cabbage or kale. I’ve made this dish before but potatoes and kale also make a good soup - and a beautiful, bright green one, too!
Once you’ve made potato soup enough times you don’t even need a recipe. Start by sautéing salted onion, shallots, or leeks in butter or oil. Once they’re soft, add some garlic if you’re in the mood for it. Add some potatoes, peeled or not, plus some more salt and water to cover. Cook the potatoes until they’re soft. Add enough liquid - milk, stock, and/or water - to make the soup consistency you desire. Purée some, all, or none of it. Vary it with something green: broccoli, spinach, kale, or another green. Or something not so green: cauliflower or celery. Or orange, as in pumpkin chowder.
Until you can make potato soup in your sleep there are plenty of recipes out there to give you structure. In addition to the pumpkin chowder there is a recipe for potato leek soup on the blog. This potato kale soup recipe comes from Simply in Season which has at least a half dozen other potato soup recipes as well!
Right now just about all our farmers that grow greens have kale. The varieties range from light green to dark green as well as reds. There are frilly leaves, flat leaves, and leaves in between. I choose Red Russian this time: it has flat but toothed leaves and is a light green with red stems. Be sure to stem your kale but use those stems! Chopped and sautéed with the onion they are plenty tender, especially after being parboiled.
Precooking the kale helps it blend quickly with the soup at the end and keeps the kale flavor from overwhelming the potatoes. I boil mine for 7 minutes to reduce oxalic acid and goitrogens, but 2-4 minutes or even less can be enough if your kale is super tender or you like a stronger flavor.
I often find myself wanting something orange to contrast with whatever green thing I am cooking. An easy way to supply this is with a baked sweet potato or baked sweet potato fries. If I’m feeling energetic I might make some pumpkin muffins. Before I made my soup I put a pumpkin in the oven to cook and when it was done I took a taste. It was delicious as-is! I did salt it a little and added a little butter before pureeing it. It made a vibrant and tasty topping for my soup. Other topping options are cheese, regular or pumpkin sour cream, or bacon bits.
Adapted Slightly from Simply in Season
Yields 6 cups/1.5 L
1 large bunch kale (stemmed)
Steam or parboil leaves and stems and set aside. (Don’t try to cook it with the potatoes; the flavor will be too strong.)
1 tablespoon butter
1 large onion (chopped)
1 clove garlic (minced)
Melt butter in soup pot. Add onion and saute until golden. Add garlic and chopped kale stems and saute another minute.
2 large potatoes (diced)
2 cups/ 500 ml hot water or broth
Add, bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are soft. Remove half of the cooked potatoes; puree the rest with the cooking liquid and return to the soup pot. Return reserved potatoes and steamed kale to soup pot. (Puree everything if a smooth texture is desired.)
3 cups water, broth, or milk
½ teaspoon salt or to taste
Pepper to taste
Add along with additional hot water or milk to preferred consistency. Heat gently until hot and serve.
Printable recipe here