1 leek – white and pale green parts only – halved lengthwise and cut in 1/8" slices
3 garlic cloves – skinned and finely chopped
1 cup dry white wine
1 teaspoons sea salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 3/4 lbs young carrots – peeled and cut about ¼" slices
2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth in cartons (Pacific Organic)
3 to 3 1/2 cups of spring water
FOR THE FENNEL–GREEN PESTO
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds – crushed in a mortar
1 small bunch fennel greens or fresh dill – stems trimmed (about 1 oz)
2 tablespoons pine nuts
1 small garlic clove – skinned
1/8 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest (use microplane grater)
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
fennel sprigs as garnish
Makes:6 to 8 servings
The humble carrot is a familiar sight in every supermarket, and perhaps that’s why it doesn’t usually command much attention or excitement. But those colorful roots certainly have some exotic origins. Its wild cousin, Daucus Carota, a plant native to Afghanistan, with skinny purple or white roots, was also known to the ancient Egyptians, Romans and Greeks, who used them mostly for their seeds and foliage. It was not until the 13th Century that the garden carrot as we know it today, with its deep orange hue and its plump root, made its entry into the Western world and started being cultivated for food.
Today, the carrot is one of the most common vegetables grown, with many cultivars coming in different colors and shapes. Young carrots are definitely the sweetest and the most tender of the lot, and spring is the best season to enjoy them.
This recipe is a luscious and velvety soup made with young, tender carrots. I serve it with a zesty fennel-green pesto, which adds a mild anise flavor to the soup. All in all, this humble vegetable with exotic roots makes for one elegant soup!
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1Step 1: Heat the olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed soup pot at medium-high heat. Add the shallots and the leeks and sauté for 3 to 4 minutes, until softened. Add the garlic, wine, salt and pepper to taste. Mix well and simmer for 3 to 4 minutes, until the wine has evaporated and reduced to a syrupy sauce. Add the carrots, broth and 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer covered for 25 to 30 minutes until carrots are very tender.
2Step 2: While the soup is simmering, place the crushed fennel seeds, fennel greens, pine nuts, garlic, salt, lemon zest and olive oil in the bowl of a food processor. Process until it forms a creamy paste, scraping the sides of the bowl a couple of times. Transfer to a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and keep refrigerated until ready to use.
3Step 3: When the soup is ready, purée with a stick blender or food processor until very smooth and thin, using the balance of the spring water to the desired consistency. Taste and season with salt and pepper if needed. Remove from heat and set aside.
4Step 4: Ladle the soup in soup bowls, garnish with a spoonful of the fennel–green pesto in the center and a fennel sprig. Serve immediately.