Amazing carrot soup

For years carrot soup has been one of those things that I love to order in restaurants, and then was always sort of a let down when I tried to make it at home. It turned out bland, chunky, and boring, nothing like the delicately spiced concoction the chefs around town produce.

Then while standing in line at Flour Bakery one day last week, I started perusing the display copy of the Flour Too cookbook. In it is a recipe for carrot soup, in which Joanne Chang calls for roasting the carrots before putting them into the soup to bring out their natural sweetness. It was such a simple and obvious act, and yet it had never occurred to me. The next night, I peeled, cut and roasted three pounds of carrots to make soup with.

Life being life, I didn’t have time to make the soup all at once. Instead, I roasted the carrots one night and made soup the next. I also didn’t have the celery or fennel that Chang calls for in her recipe, so I improvised, using what I could remember from another carrot soup recipe given to me by a friend a few months ago. That recipe called for soaking a cup of cashews in boiling water and then adding them to the soup. The cashews really add heartiness, elevating it from a side to an actual meal.

While I usually rely on my immersion blender for soups like this, it takes a long time to get it as smooth as I’d like. So I dumped it into my trusty blender and had otto the desired consistency in a matter of seconds rather than minutes.

Carrot soup
Makes five, 2-cup servings

1 cup cashews
1 cup boiling water
3 lb carrots, peeled and cut into coins
2 Tb olive oil
2 onions, diced
2 teaspoons dried thyme
1 small granny smith apple, peeled and diced
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2-inch piece of ginger peeled and chopped finely
6 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 Tb ground ginger
1 Tb curry powder
1, 15 oz can evaporated milk OR 2 cups almond milk
salt and pepper to taste

Boil one cup of water and add 1 cup unsalted cashews to it. Let soak at least an hour, or as long as overnight.

Heat oven to 375 and arrange carrots on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Drizzle with olive oil and roast in oven 25 to 30 minutes, or until carrots are tender.

While carrots roast, prep onion, garlic, apple, and ginger.

When carrots are done, heat a Tablespoon of olive oil in a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat. Add onions, garlic, and thyme and cook until onions are translucent, stirring occasionally. Add apple, gingers, curry powder, carrots and stock and bring to a boil. Cover pot and reduce heat to low. Let simmer at least 30 minutes. Transfer soup to a blender, or use an immersion blender to puree soup. Add evaporated milk or almond milk, if desired. If mixture is too thick, add a bit more stock or water as you blend.

Garnish with chopped nut, yogurt, or flavored oils, if you want. Though it’s just as good on it’s own.


Vegetable hand rolls

There are few things as satisfying to me as a good hand roll. I love the combination of not quite warm rice, fish, and nori- it’s like a savory ice cream cone.

Yet until recently I’d never tried to make one at home. Sushi has always been a “going out” food, probably because I’m not too keen on handling raw fish at home. But I’ve been eating more vegetable-only rolls lately, and so when I saw nori at the Asian market a few weeks ago I thought, “I can do that.” So I did, and it was wonderful, and now I wonder what took me so long.

veg rolls

This is really about as easy as making tacos. A few things to note:

– Make sure your grains are luke-warm or warmer. The flavor and texture are better that way.

– Don’t overfill. This will lead to breakage and leakage. If you need more food, make another one.

– Do what you like. Add your favorite vegetables, make a soy and wasabi dipping sauce, slip in some protein (hello, shrimp?), if that’s what gets you excited.

– While the ice cream cone shape you get in sushi restaurants is really sexy, I find it easier and neater to do a more burrito-esque fold. First, fold the bottom up over the filling, then fold each side in. To seal, dip your fingers in some warm water and run over the seam. Voila!


Vegetarian hand rolls
(makes two)

Two sheets nori
1 cup grains (I used quinoa and brown rice), room temperature
1 Tablespoon rice vinegar
1 Tablespoon sesame oil
vegetable assortment of your choice. I like shredded beets and carrots, pea shoots, avocado, and grated ginger
soy sauce to taste

Heat grains so they are at least room temperature or luke warm (this makes them easier to mix, and I think they fast better this way). Add rice vinegar and sesame oil and mix well. Spread half the grain mixture on a sheet of nori and top with desired vegetables, being careful not to overfill (less is more here). Fold bottom of roll up over filling, and then fold each side over the middle. To seal, dip your finger in luke warm water and run over the edges of your roll. Dip in soy sauce, if desired. Eat as soon as possible, the nori will get soggy if left too long.



Summer is finally here. It was touch and go there for a while with a cool May and a wet early June. I was starting to think the warm weather would never get here.

But now the humidity and heat are upon us and I couldn’t be more glad. Bring on the iced coffee, the gin and tonics, the grilled fish, and obligatory s’mores, the sunscreen, tan lines, flip flops and sunglasses.


I don’t cook much in the summer. Well, at least not inside. Too hot, and generally I’m too social in the summer to hang around the kitchen. I want to be outside as much as possible: at the beach, in my kayak, on vacation. When I do prepare a meal at home it’s usually something pulled together quickly, a salad or a small smorgasbord of cheese, crackers and other tidbits found in the fridge. Generally, that line-up also includes a pickle or two.

Pickles are one of my favorite things to much on when the weather gets hot. And I don’t just mean kosher baby dills. No ma’m. I’ll demolish jars of pickled okra, watermelon rind, and banana peppers. Dilly beans are  fair game, and quick pickled red onions make guest appearances. Until recently, giardiniera was a rare treat, saved for the occasional visit to Eastern Standard, which serves small bowls of the stuff as an amuse bouche of sorts. I always end up eating the whole thing and then unabashedly asking for seconds like some kind of bourgeois Oliver Twist. Hence I was thrilled when a friend gave me a copy of the America’s Test Kitchen DIY book, which contains a recipe for (among several other good-looking recipes) giardiniera.


If you’ve never had giardiniera, think of it as a pickle crudite, a mixture of cauliflower, carrots, onions, and celery with a hint of garlic and herbs.  Better for you than potato chips, the vegetables pack that same crunch and salt blast that makes snacking so satisfying. While canning and processing pickles can be a chore, these were surprisingly easy to make and have kept excellently in the back of my fridge for months (though the ATK book includes directions on how to process jars for long-term storage). I followed the directions below until it came time to put the veggies into the jars- then I got creative and added sprigs of thyme to one jar, juniper berries to another, and red pepper flakes to yet another. You should feel free to do the same.

When it comes to eating, these are great on their own, but I also use them to dress up salads, tacos, and sandwiches. And if you don’t think you can eat all these pickles yourself, the jars make great hostess gifts for summer gatherings. Much better than a six-pack of Bud Lite anyway.


(adapted from America’s Test Kitchen)

1/2 head cauliflower (1 pound), cored and cut into 1/2-inch florets
3 carrots, peeled and sliced 1/4-inch thick
3 celery ribs, cut crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces
1 onion, sliced thin
4 garlic cloves, sliced thin
2 3/4 c. white wine vinegar
2 1/4 c. water
1/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. Diamond Crystal kosher salt (or canning salt)
optional: dill, thyme, juniper berries, coriander seeds, red pepper flakes
Combine vinegar, water, sugar and salt in a medium-sized saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Meanwhile cut vegetables, and mix together if desired, or layer into mason jars, packing as tightly as possible. Add herbs or spices if desired, and then when vinegar mixture is boiled ladle into jars leaving 1/4-inch head space. Process, if desired, or store in the refrigerator.