Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Roasted Carrot and Apple Soup

It's apple season again...

These are the Fuji apples in my front yard and I couldn't be happier that they are ripe and ready for picking...

They remind me of my mom's apple pie.  I love my mom's apple pie.  When I was growing up, every year at Thanksgiving she made at least three because she knew that family would take big slices home with them whether she liked it or not.  And of course, that would leave her with none, so she made at least one extra one for our house.  The recipe for the crust came from a book so tattered and used that I'm not sure it's even really a book any more.  It comes complete with her notes and scribbles over the years that marked her changes to the recipe that brought it to the perfection that it is today.  Maybe some day I'll earn the right to use that recipe.  For now, I can only dream of having my mother's crust making skill.

It's these food memories from years ago that fuel my need to cook today.  Sitting around the table every year, peeling and slicing bags and bags of apples for the pies.  Hands sticky and sweet from all the apple juices running down my fingers.  The laughter and stories told around that table with my mother, sister, grandmother, and sometimes an aunt of friend.  I hope that my boys have those same sorts of memories when they're grown.  They don't have the patience or skill to peel and cut apples with me yet, but I smile every time one of them brings his stool over to the kitchen counter and asks to help me cook.  I know that one day they'll look back fondly on mixing pancake batter with their mom and they'll be better men for it.

Nowadays, when I peel and cut apples, I can't help but remember the apple cutting marathons of my childhood Thanksgivings and I feel a bit closer to home.  That's exactly how I felt when I was making this soup.  It's comfort in a bowl.  Warm, slightly sweet, and with just a hint of smoky heat that makes it different and even more delicious.  I was inspired to make it by a recent posting in the wonderful and gorgeous blog, Canelle et Vanille.  If you've never seen it, please do.  The author, Aran,  takes the most beautiful photographs and her food is heathly, yummy and interesting (she's gluten free and from the Basque region of France/Spain, so many of her recipes are inspired by her childhood home).  My soup here is really her soup with just a few minor tweaks for my taste.  You'll forgive me won't you?  The soup is so fantastic that you'll have no choice but to forgive me.

Roasted Carrot and Apple Soup
Inspired by this recipe at Canelle et Vanille

This recipe calls for a spice called  piment D'Espelette.  It is a ground red pepper from the Basque region that I was unfamiliar with before reading the Canelle et Vanille post.  I happened to spot it at a kitchenware store and snatched it up.  It's worth looking for because it imparts a lovely note of heat into the soup that's not really hot, but sort of smoky and lingering.  It really makes the soup.  If you can't find it, try using just the tiniest pinch of cayenne and 1/8 tsp paprika or even smoked paprika. 

2 apples such as fuji, gala, or pink lady
1 1/2 lbs carrots
1/2 small sweet onion
1 clove garlic
1/4 tsp ground coriander
1/8 tsp piment D'Espelette
3 sprigs of thyme
1/2 tsp salt
3 cups low-sodium chicken broth (you could use vegetable broth and make it a vegetarian soup)

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.  Peel and cut the carrots into 1 inch pieces.  Peel and slice the apples into 8ths. Place the carrots and apples onto a cookie sheet and roast for about 30 minutes.  The apples will be soft and the carrots will have begun to soften.

In the meantime, dice the onions and garlic and saute until beginning to soften, about 5 minutes.  Add the coriander, piment D'Espelette, thyme leaves, and salt and stir for one minute.  Add the roasted carrots and apples to the pot as well as the broth.  Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes until the carrots are fully softened.

Carefully spoon the soup into a blender or food processor (you may want to do it in two batches) and blend until smooth.  If you have an immersion blender, this is the time to use it!  Serve the soup with sprinkling of more piment D'Espelette and thyme leaves.  Don't forget the crusty bread to dip into the soup and clean out the bowl.  May this soup and this apple season bring you many happy memories.

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