I’m out of soup. Those of you who have been visiting Peanut Butter and Julie for a while (by the way, thank you!) know that I love my soup and that I always like to have at least one type in the refrigerator. I didn’t have very much time to cook today, and I didn’t really feel like going to the grocery store (especially since it was right about that time when all of the kids had just gotten out of school), so I had to flip through my recipes to find something low-maintenance, quick, and full of everyday ingredients. Something Rachael Ray would be proud of, if you will. What I came up with was my Szechuan Carrot Soup.
Szechuan, or Szechwan, or Sichuan (according to Wikipedia, they are all correct) cuisine originated in southern China, and it is generally characterized by being hot and spicy. Technically, all Szechuan dishes should get their heat from the Sichuan Peppercorn, but as these are not readily available, I have used red pepper flakes instead. If you love the idea of a healthy carrot soup, but can’t stomach spicy foods, just omit the red pepper.
I love this soup because of the subtle Asian flavors that you can taste in the "background" as you eat. The elements of soy, sesame, peanut, and ginger are not overpowering, but you definitely know that they are there. This soup is very healthy and surprisingly filling. It would be great as a starter for a huge Chinese themed feast, or as a simple supper alongside a "sammie," as Rachael would say. I only have a few comments for this simple Szechuan soup:
- The soup will keep for up to one week, covered, in the refrigerator. You can eat it hot or cold. I think it tastes great cold, but most people probably prefer it heated.
- If you don’t have gingerroot on hand, replace it with 1 heaping teaspoon of ground ginger. If you do want to buy some gingerroot, it keeps really well because it can be frozen, sealed in a plastic zip-top bag.
- If you want to make this a true vegetarian dish, then substitute vegetable broth for the chicken broth.
- I don’t recommend skim milk for this recipe–it makes the soup too watery.
- For serving, garnish with some chopped peanuts or cilantro.
Szechuan Carrot Soup
Makes 6 cups
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 celery rib, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
1 one-inch piece fresh gingerroot, peeled and thinly sliced
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 cups chicken broth
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons peanut butter
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon sesame oil
1 cup milk (low-fat or whole)
In a large heavy saucepan, cook the onion, celery, and garlic in the olive oil over medium-low heat, stirring, until the onion is softened, 8 minutes. Add the carrots, gingerroot, red pepper flakes, and chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer, covered, until the carrots are very tender, about 45 minutes. Stir in the soy sauce, peanut butter, brown sugar, sesame oil, and milk. Using an immersion blender or a regular blender, puree the soup. Reheat the soup over low heat until hot, adding more broth or water if it is too thick (do not boil); serve.