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Dutifully, I buy carrots. They are dull and unromantic in many states, disappearing into a soup or playing second fiddle in a vegetable roast. For my purposes, they are the understudy of real produce; the kind of thing I don’t bother to want unless nothing else is around. And yet… they have their own place in my fridge (bottom right drawer). In a package I pull from the refrigerated section at the grocery store before I’ve even realized it, they ride home with me and into my kitchen again and again.
I’m surprised, then, to find myself making this cream of carrot soup, an ode to the orange and bitter enemy I seem to love. Many more classically Italian and tomato-forward dishes jump from the pages of Quick and Easy Italian Recipes, but it isn’t the pasta or mussels or whole fish that catch me; it’s the deep and velveteen orange of this carrot soup. I begin chopping.
True to the book’s name, this soup is quick, easy. It comes together in a process of softening and blending almost too smooth for my wooden spoon to stir. Even its carrot flavor is softened, and I find that this, finally, is how a carrot should be enjoyed: at half-saturation, mellowed and creamy but bold in its role as headliner.
It’s ready before I am. We eat half for dinner with French cheese and a long baguette, a harmless borrow from the neighbors to the northwest. The other half we freeze for a colder day, or one that needs a brighter bit of color.
The following is the recipe I used, as found in Phaidon’s Quick and Easy Italian Recipes.
4 1/2 cups chopped carrots
1 clove garlic
2 1/4 cups milk
1 3/4 cups meat broth (stock)
1/3 cup finely grated fontina cheese
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
Salt and pepper
Put the carrots and garlic into a Dutch oven or casserole, pour just enough water to cover, and add a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil over medium heat and cook 15 minutes, or until almost all the liquid is absorbed.
Transfer to a food processor and process to a puree, in batches, if necessary. Pour the mixture back into the Dutch oven. Stir the milk into the carrot puree along with the broth (stock), and mix well. Cook for 10 minutes, or until fairly thick. In the meantime, preheat the broiler (grill).
Season to taste and sprinkle with fontina, nutmeg, and a pinch of pepper. Put the Dutch oven under the broiler to melt the cheese, and serve immediately.