In the many years I was planning events professionally, clients hosting lavish buffets, or even rather simple ones, always came around to that one question – “Shouldn’t we serve some kind of vegetable that’s, you know, healthy?” Not creamy spinach dip, or cheesy stuffed mushrooms, but something that would presumably appease the guest who didn’t want, well, food. Caterers were full of suggestions, but it always seemed to come back to the old stand-by – the crudités tray. Cut vegetables surrounding a bowl of dip. Easy – and cheap. Some caterers made these vegetable trays absolute works of art, with a variety of veg in beautiful colors with a choice of fresh-made dips. But the truth was invariably that this tray of food was never empty at the end of the event. And we always cleaned up lots of plates with a stray carrot or broccoli floret in a puddle of dip sitting next to the crumpled up napkin. People go through the buffet line and put some vegetables on their plate to look virtuous, but never actually eat them. And despite many efforts, it was virtually impossible to convince a client that this stab at virtue was unnecessary. After a long night on my feet at an event, I never got to have any leftovers of the good stuff, but was always welcome to as much raw veg as I could carry.
And I am guilty of this behavior myself. When entertaining at home, I’d plan a spectacular spread of rich and delicious foods, then right at the end feel guilty for not offering anything “light”, so outcome the pre-cut vegetables and fat-free yogurt based dip. I even once put the crudités tray on my beautiful buffet, but thought it ruined the look that I had so carefully constructed and put it back in the fridge. I, in fact, think that the success of the “baby” carrot (really just whole carrots cut to look like miniature versions) was built on buffet guilt.
So this recipe was born of an overabundance of baby carrots, left over after a pitiful attempt to healthify a party spread. Roasting the carrots and using carrot juice make this an intensely flavored soup. I actually prefer canned 100% carrot juice or the kind that comes in tetrapack boxes from the juice aisle at the store to the refrigerated variety, which I find a bit sweet and expensive. If you can’t find any of these, low-sodium vegetable stock will work. You can, of course, use an equal weight of peeled whole carrots cut into chunks.
Roasted Carrot and Cumin Soup
Scatter a little chopped fresh cilantro over the soup if you’d like to add a dash of color. This is particularly good accompanied by toast slathered with cream cheese.
1 (16 ounce) bag baby carrots
1 large shallot, cut into wedges
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 ¾ cup 100% carrot juice
1 ½ teaspoons ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt (or to taste)
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Toss the carrots and the shallot in the olive oil and spread in one layer in a rimmed baking sheet. Roast for 45 minutes to one hour, until the carrots are soft, wrinkled and browned in places and the shallot is lightly browned.
Transfer the carrots and shallots to a blender, and add half of the carrot juice, the spices and the salt. Puree until smooth, scraping down the sides of the carafe if needed. Add the remaining juice and puree until smooth and combined.
Pour the contents into a saucepan and heat over medium heat until warmed through.
Makes 2 large bowls or 4 small ones