Moroccan Carrot Soup

Moroccan Carrot SoupFood Fancy

Every January the Fancy Food Show comes to San Francisco. It’s one of the best things about my job. For three whole days, the Moscone Center is filled with artisans, vintners, farmers, cheesemongers, chocolatiers and distributors from around the globe showing people anything and everything you could possibly think of in the world of food. The people watching is beyond entertaining.

The last few years of the show have been, well, boring. It was the same stuff over and over again, which made sense because of the economy. Nobody took a risk on a new line when there was no money to be spent. On top of that, there was, frankly, a lot of junky and repetitive stuff. How much-flavored popcorn do you need? And really? Another Fair Trade Organic Chocolate?

This year’s Fancy Food Show was different. There was a buzz in the air. If I could choose one word to describe the vibe it would be passion. Passion for ingredients. (And not just a single ingredient. Bacon spread anyone?) Passion for making something the very best it could be. A great example is the variety of ice creams. Yes, there were many, but all were made to an artisan’s exacting standards and the flavors were not the usual. They included: Banana Cinnamon, Nola Coffee & Donuts, Salted Caramel and, my favorite, Chocolate Covered Strawberry with real milk and strawberries not (strawberry-like bits). This same attention to quality went way beyond the ice cream into the salami, and cheese, and baked goods, on a scale I haven’t seen recently. The possibilities and offerings were endless.

The silliness and the crazy water fad costumes of years past were replaced by innovative, young, enthusiastic food lovers with whisk tattoos, who were interested in making real food and not re-packaging the same old ideas. Even better, most of these companies were small and independent. In prior shows, the big time players would dominate the scene, but not so much this year. (Let’s hear it for the little guys!) Throw in a Top Chef demonstration or two and I found myself inspired. The food industry seems to be changing for the better.

Below is a soup that my recently inspired self is ready to whip up…when my feet stop hurting.

Moroccan Carrot Soup
Adapted from The Bon Appétit Test Kitchen
Yields 4 servings

2 tablespoons butter
1 cup chopped white onion
1 pound large carrots, peeled, cut into 1/2-inch dice (about 2-2/3 cups)
2-1/2 cups low-salt chicken stock
1-1/2 teaspoons cumin seeds
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 cup plain yogurt, stirred to loosen

Melt butter in large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté for about 2 minutes. Stir in the carrots to coat with butter.

Add the chicken stock to the saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer the soup until the carrots are very tender, and can be mashed easily with a fork (about 20 minutes).

Stir the cumin seeds in small, dry skillet over medium-high heat until they become fragrant. Set the seeds aside to cool (about 4 to 5 minutes). Finely grind the cumin in a spice mill or coffee mill.

Remove the soup from the heat. Pureé the soup directly into the saucepan using an immersion blender until it has a smooth and even consistency. (Or remove the soup from the heat, and pureé in batches in a regular blender—be careful not to splatter! Then return the soup to the same pan.)

Whisk in the honey, lemon juice, and allspice. Season with salt and pepper.

Ladle the soup into bowls. Drizzle with yogurt in a decorative swirl and sprinkle with cumin.

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