Thai Carrot Soup with Rice

Thai carrot soup

Something else from my Sunday Fridge Cleaning.  I found a bag of baby carrots that needed rescuing and some broccoli florets.  I don't normally buy those kind of carrots because they're tasteless and remind me of amputated limbs.  But I had made carrot cakes for Recovery Café and didn't want to deal with peeling.  I ALMOST put the carrots in the compost, but had a pang of conscience and decided it wouldn't kill me to make something out of them.  Loretta was sleeping and, amazingly, Wyatt had just fallen asleep on the couch watching Bolt.  Perfect invitation for me to spend more time in the kitchen.

As always, Refrigerator Soup is helped by a well-stocked pantry.  Several of you have asked me to start posting about pantry staples but I've been a little overwhelmed.  Where to start?  So instead of rolling out a whole program (and making you feel like you need to spend $500 to equip your pantry), I'll just start by listing things as they come up and making it part of my recipe index.  (This is me trying to get away from the all-or-nothing propensity that has plagued me my whole life.)  Coconut milk is the pantry staple that gave this soup what it needed.  Asian markets in my neighborhood stock untold varieties (I don't have a favorite), often on sale for 79 cents.  Yes--less than $1!  I can't believe how much they charge for coconut milk in the grocery store.  It wouldn't be in my pantry if I relied on Safeway to supply it.  I add it to soups, pull it out for curries, or use it in smoothies with papaya and lime juice (not low-fat, but delicious).

I had a sterling day yesterday at the Korean spa with Bethany where we celebrated our June birthdays.  This has been planned for a year (!!), and we both had that sense of "I-can't-believe-we-made-it-to-this-day." Especially Bethany, who was giving birth this time a year ago.  I had assumed I'd miss dinner with my family, but they waited for me.  I love that.  Yancey had warmed up this soup, put some naan in the oven, and made rice.  AND mowed the lawn.  I should leave more often.  So my sterling day was capped with that never-ending pleasure, family dinner.  Wyatt and Loretta ate every last drop of their carrot soup, too, which surprised and delighted me.

Thai Carrot Soup with Rice
I threw the broccoli in here in true Leftoverist spirit.  You could easily make it without broccoli, and the color would be even more vibrant.  This is the sort of soup that is easy to adjust once you're "done."  Add more lime juice, spiciness, fish sauce, brown sugar, salt, etc. to your liking, and YOU CAN'T RUIN IT!  Or you can add more water if it's too thick, simmer longer if it's too thin, or even add the rice to the soup while cooking instead of scooping it on top.  And you can give yourself a pat on the back for getting rid of those cumbersome carrots that have been knocking around in your produce bin. If you happen to have really good, fresh carrots around, you won't need as much brown sugar as I call for here--they will have more natural sweetness than these ones did.

2 Tb. vegetable oil
3 shallots or one small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves minced garlic
1 2" piece fresh ginger, grated
1 jalapeno or serrano pepper, seeded and finely chopped
1 ts. ground coriander
1 lb. carrots, peeled, washed, and cut into 1" lengths (or smaller--the smaller you cut your carrots, the faster they will cook)
2 c. washed broccoli florets (optional--if you don't use broccoli, you can use more carrots)
2 ts. soy sauce
1 Tb. fish sauce
1 can coconut milk
Juice of one large or two small limes
4 Tb. brown sugar
Cooked rice and chopped cilantro for serving

Pour vegetable oil into a stockpot and let it get hot on medium-high heat.  Add shallots, garlic, ginger, jalapano, and coriander.  Saute until mixture is soft and fragrant, about 10 minutes.  You can add a splash of water if things start to stick--you don't want things to burn or get too brown.

Add carrots, broccoli, and water to cover by about 2".  Simmer everything together for about 30 minutes, or until carrots and broccoli are very soft.  Take off heat, and puree mixture in batches using a food processor or blender.

Put pureed mixture back into your stockpot and add soy sauce, fish sauce, coconut milk, lime juice, and brown sugar. Simmer for about 20 minutes, until flavors are blended and it's bubbling a little around the edges.  Now is the time to add whatever else your taste buds tell you is missing--more liquid, red chile flakes, salt, more lime, more sugar, etc.

Ladle into bowls, and put a scoop of hot rice in the middle.  Top with chopped cilantro (and chile flakes, if you're me).