Feed Yourself, Body and Soul
Don’t you find that there are nights when you don’t feel like cooking? When you just don’t want to make the time--even when you are home for days on end in the midst of a pandemic? Sometimes cooking is a chore for everyone, including those who usually enjoy it.
That goes double for many city dwellers, whose kitchens are so often small and utilitarian. Your average New York City kitchen isn’t necessarily very relaxing; most feel more like workstations. When time is at a premium, or you are tired in body and/or soul, you want to spend time in a room that calls to you and helps you unwind; not the residential equivalent of an office cubicle with appliances.
My kitchen is bigger than many in other New York City and friends envy me for it, yet it’s not that place of grand refuge that I long for. It boasts no multi-level island or walk-in pantry, and it doesn’t open onto a plant-filled patio. At the end of a long day, it doesn’t beckon.
Last night was one of those nights. I had all the ingredients for an easy, comforting soup ready to go, but I just couldn’t get cooking. So I got take-out. I don’t do that often, and I assuaged my guilt by promising myself I’d make that soup this morning.
And that’s what I did. Funny how last night my kitchen felt confining, but this morning it felt cozy and welcoming. I made the Carrot-Ginger Soup that I wouldn’t make last night and lo and behold, all was right with the world.
The soup I made came from a recipe from “Soups + Sides” by Catherine Walthers, published by Lake Isle Press, a companion piece to her wonderful “Raising the Salad Bar.” Both cookbooks offer inventive recipes that rely on surprisingly few ingredients. I chose her Carrot-Ginger Soup because I thought it would be an easy, tasty, and healthful meal with bonus leftovers to spare. And while those criteria failed me last night, this morning was another story.
Cooking early in the day is best for me because not only do I have more energy, I don’t pine for a kitchen retreat as much as I do at night. Soups are particularly good to make in the morning because they’re usually as good or better when they’ve had a chance to sit so the flavors can meld, and you can refrigerate/freeze and reheat with ease.
This carrot-ginger soup looked so good, however, I had a bowl right away for breakfast. Not to worry, though, I had plenty of leftovers. It’s a lovely soup, creamy without any dairy, and the balance of ingredients is terrific. Just the right amount of ginger so it’s tangy and with a subtle kick of heat. The orange juice and touch of maple syrup did not make it too sweet or overtake it.
I enjoy soup all year long, but it’s especially welcome as the weather turns cold. This one will go into my recipe rotation because it’s simple and versatile — great for lunch, as a light dinner paired with a salad, or as a first course. It’s flavorful, satisfying, and comforting as only soup can be. And unless I’m having one of those nights, I can make it with ease.
By the way, I know it’s just a fantasy to imagine a stunningly-appointed kitchen as a magic carpet that would transport me to a life of grace, inventiveness, and bounty where I whip up fantastic meals at any hour of the day or night. The fact is that even if I had Ina Garten’s barn kitchen I suspect there would still be times when cooking is too much, and I will have none of it. On those nights, I hope I have some homemade carrot-ginger soup tucked away in the fridge ready to feed me, body and soul.
1 medium onion, diced
2 tablespoons butter or extra-virgin olive oil
1 whole leek, trimmed, cut in half lengthwise, rinsed, and sliced
2 pounds carrots, peeled and sliced into 1/2-inch rounds
2 tablespoons finely grated fresh ginger
5 cups water
1 to 2 teaspoons kosher salt, or to taste
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (or more if needed)
2 teaspoons maple syrup
1. In a large soup pot, sauté́ the onion in the butter or oil over medium heat for 5 minutes until golden. Add the leeks and carrots and continuing cooking, stirring, until the leek is softened, about 8 minutes. Mix in ginger and cook until fragrant, 1 minute longer. Add water and salt and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer soup until carrots are very tender, about 20 minutes. Let cool a few minutes.
2. Puree the soup in batches in the blender, adding orange juice and maple syrup. Blend each batch for 1 or 2 minutes to get the soup super smooth and creamy. Add additional water or orange juice if the soup seems a bit thick. Return the soup to the pot and heat gently. Season to taste with additional salt, if needed.
Recipe from “ Soups + Side s” by Catherine Walthers, Lake Isle Press, 2010
Originally published at https://www.lakeislepress.com on November 19, 2020.