Did your mother – or someone else who presumably cared about your well being – ever tell you that peeling a carrot takes away all its vitamins?
It’s one of those admonitions that gets stuck in your head for the rest of your life, probably because you first heard it when soft brain material was still forming (up till the age of 26, I read somewhere). Those whose job it was to see that you grew up with all parts intact did their best to point out every which way you could inflict damage, wreaking havoc on not only yourself, but others, too. You know:
Don’t run across the room with that sharp pencil – you’ll put someone’s eye out!
You’re going to fall off that tree/roof/high-up-dangerous place on top of the swingset and crack your head open!
If you sit so close to the TV in this dark room; YOU”LL GO BLIND!
I can’t think of such warnings having to do with food equally as menacing as the visions of heads cracked open like watermelons dropped from a tall building and eyeballs plucked whole out of their sockets by an innocent writing tool. Oh, there was something about Vitamin C – not enough and you’d become riddled with scurvy and toothlessness. Other than that my takeaway nutritional wisdom remains; All the Vitamins are in the Skin.
I only just learned (like, yesterday) that in fact, peeling carrots has absolutely little effect on the nutrients contained therein. Other forms of produce, such as apples, pears and potatoes, yes – keep the skins on. But carrots? Turns out that some of the best stuff in carrots, like the beta carotene, is in there all the way through. Lots of vitamins, antioxidants and magical cells live in the colorful parts of fruits and vegetables, and if the food is the same color inside without its skin, no harm done.
I admit I do peel carrots when they have an abundance of stiff, old root hairs and tiny clods of dirt. Who wants to eat that?? Plus they look brighter and prettier without the skin. Fresh little carrot bunches with their green tops on don’t usually have that problem.
Having gone on and said all that (are you still reading this?), it won’t make much difference if the skin is on or off the carrots in this soup recipe since they get pureed in the end. It’s your call.
I’ve just started browsing through Deborah Madison’s tremendously wonderful new book, Vegetable Literacy. The book is organized by families of vegetables, how they’re related and play together – I LOVE that.
The first chapter covers The Carrot Family, which includes celery, parsley, fennel and coriander. Carrots remind me of spring, and parsley reminds me of carrots, so there’s the starting point for my soup.
carrot soup and almond-parsley pesto
This soup couldn't be simpler and tastes like the essence of carrot. Use any leftover pesto within a day or two, tossed with roasted vegetables or spread on a warm crostini.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 1 ½ pounds carrots, peeled and cut into 2-inch chunks
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 stalks celery, chopped
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon ground coriander
- 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
- 1 tablespoon amaretto liqueur (optional)
- 1 bunch Italian flat-leaf parsley
- ½ cup sliced almonds, toasted
- 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds (optional)
- ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- ½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano cheese
- Heat the butter and oil in a large saucepan until butter melts; add the carrots, onion, celery, salt sugar and coriander. Stir the vegetables around and cook until they begin to release liquid and become softened, about 5 minutes.
- Pour in 6 cups water and bring to a simmer. Cook about 15 minutes, or until the carrots are tender. Remove from the heat and cool for a bit, then puree the soup in a blender until completely smooth. Stir in lemon juice and amaretto, if using, and taste for salt.
- To make the pesto, reserve a few parsley leaves and chop the rest in a small food processor until finely chopped. Add all but 1 tablespoon of the almonds and pulse until the nuts are finely chopped and the mixture forms a paste; add the fennel seeds, olive oil, salt to taste and the cheese and pulse to combine.
- Serve the soup with a spoonful of pesto and sprinkle with remaining parsley leaves and almonds.