A bottomless layer of carrots

November 15th, 2012 § Comments Off on A bottomless layer of carrots § permalink

The UBC Farm did a great job keeping our CSA box varied over the course of the entire spring and summer. There was kale in almost every box, and until the weather turned too frosty there were always salad greens as well, but the varieties were always different. If I came home with arugula two weeks in a row, it was only because I had been delighted to find it in the ‘Swap Box’ and had agonized over the decision to trade something else in just so that I could enjoy it again. For the most part, the contents of any two boxes were never the same.

In theory, this was also the case for the bottomless layer of carrots that lined our box for most of September and October, thanks to the bumper crop that was still being harvested up until a week ago. The carrots came in such a wide variety of deep, rich colors – golds, purples, reds, and of course oranges – that it was easy at first to trick my brain into believing it was encountering some form of novelty. Beautiful carrots, but they pretty much all tasted the same. This season my goal was to use every single foodstuff in our box without letting anything go to waste, but after a couple of weeks the never ending carrots nearly broke me. Nearly. By the time they let up, I had pretty much used them all. . . if we ignore the very small handful of stragglers (only 2!) that were pushed to the very back of the crisper and forgotten.

I can’t say a lot of my carrot experiments were all that exciting, but this soups stands out in my memory. It came about sometime early in our multi-week carrot experience, before we resorted to just plain ol’ roasting. The fennel harvest had just begun and we had received a massive bulb with lovely, bushy fronds still attached. Fennel is a cool weather plant, and it grows well year round in many places. You can almost always find it in the supermarket, but if you’re lucky and in the right location you may also find it at your local farmer’s market this time of year.

This is a very simple soup, and a breeze to put together. What I like most is the chunkiness, which is a nice change from a more typical smooth and creamy style.

This recipe was adapted from Heidi Swanson and the New York Times. Most people only use the fennel bulb, but in fact the whole plant is edible. If your stalks fairly tender, you can slice them up thinly and throw them in as well. I followed Heidi’s suggestion to add some protein and topped my soup with a poached egg. I am a sucker for a soft egg yolk on top of almost anything, and it works especially well with the licoricey fennel.

2 tbsp olive oil
2 pounds carrot, peeled and sliced into thick chunks
1 medium fennel bulb and some stalks, thinly sliced; fronds chopped and reserved
3 cloves garlic, chopped
6-8 cups vegetable or chicken stock

2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
zest of half a lemon
salt and pepper to taste
parmesan cheese, freshly grated

eggs, 1 per person

Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy bottomed soup pot. Add the fennel and sautee until just soft, about 5 minutes. Add the carrots and cook until they just start to soften, about 5 to 8 minutes, and then toss in the garlic and cook for a minute. Pour in enough broth to cover the veggies and simmer, covered, until the carrots are fully cooked, about 20-25 minutes.

When the soup is just about 5 minutes to completion, poach or fry an egg to medium soft for each person that you’re serving. The egg turns out best when its freshly cooked and the yolk is still soft, so try to time everything so that the egg finishes just as you’re seasoning your soup.

Remove from heat and add the lemon juice and zest, as well as the salt and pepper, adjusting each to taste. Serve topped with the freshly made egg, and garnish with a heavy sprinkle of parmesan cheese and fennel fronds.

Serves 4