Some people are born to bake. They know how to follow instructions, drugs can measure quantities with surprising accuracy and are patient enough to do things like let dough rise or bring ingredients to room temperature. Others are a bit more implusive, health system too impatient to wait for their ingredients (but I want cookies now!), too rebellious to follow a recipe’s instructions, tweaking and changing things as they see fit. These people may turn out some good cookies and cakes, but they’ll never be bakers at heart.
I think I fall into the latter category, and so my attempts and cookies and muffins are never as successful as attempts at soups, mains and sides. Whenever I’m baking, I feel like I’m throwing everything into a bowl and crossing my fingers. I can’t taste and adjust, add a little more of some ingredient, try different accompaniments. I’m coming to terms with it. I’ll never be a baker at heart.
Tangent over, now back to regularly scheduled programming…Thanksgiving. I mentioned on Monday that I’m using this week to test out some new Thanksgiving recipes. The first was a rousing, raging success: Carrot Pumpkin Soup with crushed hazelnuts. (Thanks again to Oh! Nuts for those hazelnuts! They’re so very delicious!)
I had some ground rules for this soup recipe. Since it’s just me and my mom cooking for a large crowd, it had to be somewhat simple. No simmering for hours, straining, simmering or making a roux. There will be enough of that with all of the other Thanksgiving dishes. This soup is super simple — a quick saute of shallots, carrots and garlic, then add some canned (or pureed) pumpkin and stock and simmer for awhile. Run it through with an immersion blender, then stir in some cream, smoked paprika and sherry vinegar. Top it all off with a good drizzle of olive oil and some crushed hazelnut and you’ve got a bright orange, smoky sweet soup that’s perfect for a Thanksgiving first course.
Carrot Pumpkin Soup
Note: You can certainly make this soup a day or two before to save time. Just leave out the olive oil and hazelnuts until you’re about to serve. This soup would also freeze well (again, without the oil or hazelnuts).
1 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 medium shallot, minced
1 cup chopped or sliced carrots
1 lg. clove (or 2 small cloves) garlic, minced
1 15 oz. can pumpkin (or 2 cups pureed pumpkin)
3 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup cream
1 tsp. smoked paprika
salt as needed
2 tsp. sherry vinegar
good olive oil for drizzling
1/4 cup coarsely chopped hazelnuts for garnish (I got mine from Oh! Nuts)
Set a pot over medium heat. Once it’s hot, add the butter and shallots. Saute for 2 – 3 minutes, until the shallots just begin to get translucent. Add the carrots and garlic and sautee for another 5 minutes.
Add the pumpkin and stock. Once the liquid comes to a slow boil, cover and reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer for 25 – 30 minutes.
Using an immersion blender (or regular blender or food processor), puree the soup for a couple of minutes, making sure all large chunks of carrot have broken up.
Return to heat and stir in the cream and paprika. Taste and add salt if needed. Stir in the sherry vinegar. Ladle into bowls and drizzle with olive oil, then sprinkle with the hazelnuts.
Makes 4-6 appetizer-sized servings.