Scott and I were taking a walk one afternoon this past week. It was a gray, gloomy day and we were chatting as we approached a busy intersection. Suddenly, I stopped dead in my tracks as I happened to glance over to my left, noticing the strangest thing. I ran over to get a closer look.
"Strange" isn't actually the correct word to describe what I saw. I pulled out my iPhone and snapped a few pictures, but they really didn't do this sight justice. When we got home, I begged Scott to grab his camera. We jumped in the car and returned to the scene - this is what I had observed:
The first signs of spring! "Wondrous" is really the word I should have used. The barren branches of an old gnarly tree were covered with tiny, vibrant promises of new life. A glorious sight it was indeed, since it's been a long, cold winter here in Southeastern United States.
How about you, have you noticed any of these small assurances of better days ahead?
This Thai Inspired Carrot and Yellow Pepper Soup is my ode to spring-on-the-horizon, although it can be enjoyed anytime of the year. It's a seasonal transition soup - light, fresh, loaded with healthy ingredients and bursting with bright flavor. At the same time, it's the perfect soup to warm your body and spirit on these still quite chilly late winter days.
The process begins with a sauté of chopped onions, yellow pepper and garlic. Fragrant ginger, lemongrass and coriander are added next, along with a touch of brown sugar and a whole pound and a half of vibrantly-hued carrots. A long, slow simmer in chicken (or veggie) broth marries all the flavors, and tenderizes the veggies so they're ready for a spin in the blender with the final touch; a can of light coconut milk. The result? Silky smooth, full of flavor and lick-the-bowl-clean deliciousness!
There's also a fun topping that's quick and easy to throw together. It's a gremolata, which is just a fancy word for a topping or garnish comprised of finely chopped herbs, garlic and lemon zest. I added minced carrot, ginger and lemongrass to mirror the flavors of the soup. I like to drizzle a bit of Greek yogurt or cream on each bowl of soup, then top with a scatter of the flavorful gremolata.
I've served this as a fancy appetizer soup, with quiche and salad for a light lunch and also on it's own for a casual dinner with a loaf of crusty warm bread. It would be great to pack in a thermos for a late winter/early spring picnic with a loaf of focaccia or artisan bread. No matter when or where you serve this Thai Inspired Carrot and Yellow Pepper Soup, expect rave reviews!
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- For the soup:
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large onion coarsely chopped
- 1 large yellow bell pepper coarsely chopped
- 4 medium cloves garlic minced
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh ginger*
- 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh lemongrass
- 2 teaspoons ground coriander
- 1 tablespoon brown sugar
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 6 cups low sodium chicken broth
- 1 ½ pounds carrots peeled and roughly chopped (I sometimes cheat and use the baby carrots that are already peeled - makes this soup come together super fast!)
- 1 14- ounce can light coconut milk
- ½ teaspoon salt
- For the gremolata:
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley
- 1 tablepoon finely chopped carrot
- 1 teaspoon finely grated fresh lemon zest
- ½ teaspoon finely chopped fresh ginger
- ½ teaspoon finely chopped fresh lemongrass
- 1 small clove garlic finely minced
In a large Dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat until hot. Add onion and yellow pepper and cooking, stirring occasionally until onion is wilted, about 3-4 minutes.
Add garlic, ginger, lemongrass, coriander, brown sugar and red pepper flakes. Cook for another 2 minutes, stirring frequently.
Add chicken broth and carrots. Increase heat to high. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce to a steady simmer. Cook for 25-30 minutes or until carrots are very tender.
Add coconut milk and puree until smooth with immersion or regular blender. If using a regular blender, blend in batches. I like to place a narrow funnel in the opening of the blender cover and hold it in place as I blend. It allows the steam to escape, preventing a mess.
Serve hot with a drizzle of Greek yogurt (thinned out with a little milk) and a scatter of Thai gremolata.
For the gremolata, combine all ingredients and stir to combine.
For a beautiful topping, drizzle the yogurt or cream in drops over the top of the soup. Take a toothpick or a skewer and run it through the drops creating an attractive swirly pattern. Scatter a small spoonful of the gremolata over the top.