Andy Williams said it best, “This is the most wonderful time of the year.” Yet this season is not without stress and heartaches. It’s not just the stress of finding the right gift for everyone from the mailman to your mother-in-law or the pressure of baking the perfect holiday cookie. This is because over time, vacations also become a unit of measurement, counting the years of departure of a loved one.
However straining your heart and mind may be this season, food is a great balm. And I don’t mean in the kind of eating your feelings, although the holidays lend themselves to it. No, the healing power of food shines this time of year because it can derive a double duty: the perfect gift that keeps the spirit of a loved one alive.
For me, I feel the closest to one of my late grandfathers when I bake his legendary cheesecake. The closeness to the other grandfather comes when I pour a bowl of Cheerios. Obviously, they were distinctly different men. But cheesecake in large quantities is not a realistic holiday gift, and giving a box of Cheerios …
But Uncle John’s Carrot Ginger Soup is perfect. Every Christmas Day, Uncle John – who was not really an uncle but who shaped my father’s life so deeply that he deserved the honorary title – would visit us, a pot of his homemade soup. hand. As a child, I never really understood my mother’s enthusiasm for Uncle John’s giant mason jar full of oranges. Soup was soup in my childhood mind. But over the years, I started to understand. With its earthy carrot sweetness and ginger zest, this soup flowed like velvet, if velvet could be poured. It was worth every ounce of Christmas anticipation.
This will be our second Christmas without Uncle John, but I’ve decided it shouldn’t be our second without his soup. That’s what I’m going to give my family this year (spoiler alert for the 60 percent of Redwood City I’m related to), and now I’m sharing that with you too. Whether as a gift or just for a cold winter night, this soup is something I hope for you go enjoy. Maybe you have a family member or friend to honor – if you do, I hope you take the opportunity. After all, what better time to celebrate our loved ones than the most wonderful time of the year.
Carrot soup with ginger
Like most good things, I took the annual consistency of Uncle John’s soup for granted and never asked for the recipe. This one is from Epicurious and most closely resembles what my family remembers from the original. The natural sweetness of carrot pairs perfectly with the crisp warmth of fresh ginger. The lemon juice and zest give this soup a sparkle that can be enjoyed all year round.
- Makes: 4 servings, I highly recommend doubling it.
- 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
- 1 1/2 cups chopped onion
- 1 tablespoon finely peeled fresh ginger
- 1 1/2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 1 1/4 pounds of medium carrots, peeled, chopped (about 3 cups)
- 2 tomatoes, seeded, chopped (about 1 1/3 cups)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
- 3 cups (or more) canned chicken broth or low salt broth.
- A vegetable broth would also do the trick.
- 2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice
- 4 tablespoons sour cream (I used plain yogurt)
- Salt and pepper to taste.
- Melt butter in a large, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and sauté until soft, translucent and just starting to turn a little golden. Glue your face to the pot and inhale. If a feeling of rich, buttery euphoria doesn’t fill your soul, give it a few more minutes.
- Post-butter-onion euphoria, add ginger and garlic; sauté for a few minutes. Add the chopped carrots, tomatoes and lemon zest; sauté for a minute. Add 3 cups of broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, partially cover and simmer until carrots are very tender, about 20 minutes (more if you double the recipe). Cool slightly.
- Batch puree in a blender. Return the soup to the pot. Mix the lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper. (Can be made a day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)
- When ready to serve, bring the soup to a simmer. Epicurious says you can now thin the soup with more broth if you want. I’m not a fan of thin soups so didn’t think this was necessary. Serve with a dollop of sour cream or yogurt.