“Nose to tail” eating is all the rage these days, and with good reason: it is healthier, more sustainable, and more ethical to eat all of the animal, rather than discarding the parts that we don’t like (as David Chang says in the new Momofuku cookbook, “farmers do not raise walking pork chops”).
I am taking some baby steps in this direction: I’m trying to do a better job of rendering out chicken and pork fat (leftover from when I roast a chicken, make stock, or trim a pork shoulder). I keep them in labelled jars in the fridge, which makes me feel very much like Ma Ingalls. Let me tell you: you have not had black bean soup until you have had it made with a tablespoon of pork fat instead of the usual butter or vegetable oil. I’ve gotten really excited about fat rendering lately, and even bought 2 pounds of leaf lard from the farmers market yesterday. I picked up a $10 Goodwill Crock Pot, which is currently happily bubbling away with pork fat.
Nose-to-tail extends to vegetables as well. My mom recently hipped me to this cool NY Times article, which has some neat ideas for using produce trimmings that we normally throw out (or compost!). I bought a beautiful bunch of baby carrots at the market the other day that seemed destined for carrot soup. I took this picture after I removed the tops (which I used – more on this later):
Carrot tops have a grassy flavor that reminds me very much of parsley. Also, “carrot tops” remind me of this guy, who I think all redheads resent just a little bit:
Anyway, carrot tops. I always include them in chicken stock, but I didn’t really consider them as a soup ingredient until I saw this recipe from Sydney Oland. She suggests turning the carrot leaves into a light oil to drizzle over a sweet, curried carrot soup.
Now I know that we just did the herbs in oil thing, but with this recipe you really only end up using a teaspoon or two of oil per serving. The extra oil will keep in the fridge for a few days; I suggest subbing it for regular olive oil in your favorite soup or tomato sauce recipe for a nice bright dimension.
I am not the biggest fan of main-ingredient soup (squash soup, carrot soup, potato soup, etc), but this is a really great one. I like how the carrot top oil balances the sweetness from the carrots, which can often be cloying in these kinds of dishes. It’s like nature intended them to be perfect counterparts!
(served with couscous)
Curried Carrot Soup with Carrot Top Oil
adapted from Sydney Oland
- 1 bunch of carrots with their tops (preferably small, tender carrots), tops removed and saved and carrots washed and cut into rough 1-inch chunks
- a few stalks of flat-leaf parsley (optional, but nice)
- 1 very small clove of garlic
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon butter or more vegetable oil
- 1 small red onion, roughly chopped
- 1 1-inch chunk of ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
- 2 teaspoons curry powder (preferably one with a bit of heat. If yours is sweet, add a pinch of crushed red pepper)
- 2 cups of vegetable stock, chicken stock, or water
- 1 14-oz can of coconut milk (light coconut milk is OK)
- handful of toasted sliced or slivered almonds
Make the carrot top oil: pick about 1/2 cup of leaves off of the carrot tops and discard or compost the rest. Combine the picked leaves, the parsley if using, garlic, and oil in a blender or food processor and process until completely smooth. Set aside.
Make the soup: heat the butter or oil in a small saucepan over medium-high heat until melted. Add the onion, a big pinch of salt, and the ginger, reduce the heat to medium and cover. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is wilty and the ginger is very fragrant, about 5 minutes.
Add the curry powder and carrots and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the carrots take on a little bit of color, about 5 more minutes. Add the stock or water and coconut milk, bring to a boil, and reduce to a simmer. Cook until the carrots are completely soft, about 15 minutes.
Using a blender or immersion blender, puree the soup until it is completely smooth. If you have the time and are willing to wash another dish, strain the soup through a fine strainer (this is optional, but a nice touch). If you want to serve the soup cold, refrigerate until chilled, then taste and adjust seasoning as needed. If you want to serve it warm, wash out the saucepan and return the soup to the heat, warming gently.
To serve, ladle about 1 cup of soup in each bowl and drizzle some carrot top oil artfully on top. Sprinkle the almonds on and eat!