A Kitchen Christening: Nutty Carrot-Chili Soup

I imagine that when people first move into a newly purchased house, they order delivery pizza and eat grocery store sushi with their hands while sitting on plastic-wrapped sofas. I suppose that once they uncover a great-grandmother’s casserole dish that they had thought might’ve gone missing and the silverware that was packed at the last minute, haphazardly tossed into a shoebox, that they finally face the kitchen of their dreams. The only uncertainty left is what to cook first.

When a kitchen is new to a cook, the first meal is messy. Upon settling into a old family house in Boston as the newest member added to upwards of six roommates, I select my first recipe to tackle: a spicy peanut carrot soup, requiring only a handful of ingredients. Carrots, garlic, and one large sweet onion top my list for the Copley Square farmer’s market downtown. I’m ready to get chopping, boiling, simmering, and blending. It’s also 80 degrees and humid as hell. Logic would’ve pointed toward a salad, but soup it is.

Through the side door enter a few roommates: a lab technician, a doctor, and a film student. We meet for the first time, but don’t shake hands because mine are oily with onion. They’ll recline outside with beers while I’m determined to add the correct eight fillings of ¼-cup containers of vegetable broth to the pot. (Any larger measuring cups were nowhere to be found.)

Upon move-in, the house is equal parts mine, free to access. But what has until now been someone else’s kitchen feels very much so like that. A burner is left on Low. Is someone coming back to this? After a few minutes, I switch it off. Left-behind soap suds take the cutting board for a slide. I’m not so sure if the entire spice cabinet is up for grabs, but I’ll help myself to some black pepper. Rufus the cat isn’t invested in chopped vegetable droppings—he’s lived here longer than anyone, and lacks any expression of amusement—but he’ll stand at bay on the dining room table and watch.

I try my best to clean up as I go, leaving an extra wooden spoon and knife in the sink. I make a mental promise to clean them later. In a shared living space, effort is adamant. But no one moves in without an intentional mistake tucked into their apron pocket.

Earlier the same morning, I opened the microwave to make oatmeal. A platter of four marinated and grilled chicken breasts—likely from the night before—sat perched inside, awaiting discovery. I removed the dish, but the microwave still smelled distinctly of chicken. Not one for poultry-flavored oats, I relegated the platter back inside, shut the door, and silently left it for someone else to sort out.

As it turns out, labeling the soup as vegan isn’t exactly a selling point for a crowd with pork destined for the grill and a ginger-garlic sauce simmering on the stove. Flavors are already bursting in this kitchen, as are the positive vibes. But someone’s going to have to deal with the clogged sink, and Rufus certainly isn’t offering a hand.

Here’s the rich, creamy, and savory soup with a kick:

Peanutty Carrot-Chili Soup

Nutty Carrot-Chili Soup (vegan)

Recipe adapted from Minimalist Baker

What you need:

  • 1 heaping Tbsp coconut oil
  • half of a large sweet onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 1 pound carrots, or about 6-8 medium-large carrots
  • a pinch each of salt and pepper
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 1 ¾ cups water
  • ½ cup creamy salted natural peanut butter
  • 3 tsp chili garlic sauce
  • My favorite toppings, per bowl: ½ tsp chia seeds, 2 Tbsp roughly chopped pistachios, and a light sprinkle of toasted pumpkin seeds to dress things up

Instructions:

At the stove: Add the coconut oil to a pot. Chop the half of an onion, garlic, and carrots, and toss them in, too. Heat over medium-high heat, and allow to cook down for 5 minutes. Add salt, pepper, vegetable stock, and water. Give the pot a stir, bring it to a boil for a few minutes, and then allow it to simmer for about 20 minutes, until the carrots are soft.

In the food processor: Pour the chunky soup mixture into a food processor. Pulse on low for up to a minute. Add the peanut butter, whirl for another minute, and then add the chili garlic sauce. Give it another spin on low speed, or pulse until it appears combined and maintains a consistent bold-orange color. Give it a taste, and adjust your peanut butter- chili sauce ratio as desired. A little extra spice never hurt anyone in the long run, I like to think.

To serve: Top it off however you like! Dana offered great flavor combos in the original recipe, like coconut milk and fresh basil for a cooling affect or agave for a sweet touch. My favorite toppings add a bit of a crunch- they’re listed above with the ingredients. Eat how you like!

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