written by Thor Erickson | photography by Tambi Lane

It was a bone dry 95 degrees as our 1975 family van rolled into downtown Ashland. I was hot and thirsty, and my three sisters had been asking for hours for dad to turn on the air conditioning. “It uses too much gas.” He hollered back from the driver’s seat as he pulled over to a bank of granite-clad drinking fountains at Lithia Park near the center of town. “Go drink some cool water.”

Following his instructions, we piled out of the van and raced to the fountains. As I took my first gulp, I almost gagged at the foul smell and taste of the warm water.

Over my shoulder, I heard a laugh. I turned to see a balding middle-aged man in a dress. “Never drink the Lithia water!” he exclaimed in a British accent. He was holding a carrot in one hand, and a pitcher of water in the other.

He took a big bite of the carrot, followed by a drink of what I assumed was non-Lithia water, and started to speak loudly “O Romeo, Romeo! Wherefore art thou Romeo? Deny thy father and refuse thy name; Or, if thou wilt not, be but sworn my love, and I’ll no longer be a Capulet.”

As the bearded thespian trilled Shakespeare’s words, chunks of half-chewed carrot and potable water sprayed out of his mouth onto the now large crowd of spectators. From the middle of the crowd came another voice. “Shall I hear more, or shall I speak at this?” Romeo shouted as he worked his way close enough to Juliette to receive the bulk of the orange spew. Romeo flinched as random sized chunks of soggy carrot bounced off his face. The crowd celebrated with laughter and applause.

Like the actor playing Juliette transformed the Bard’s classic tragedy into comedy with some solid technique and a few other ingredients, we have the ability to transform raw carrots, which are delicious on their own, into something completely different and wonderful.

This roasted carrot soup takes advantage of carrot’s natural sweetness by slowly developing complex flavors. The miso butter garnish adds a depth of umami that is sure to get a standing ovation.

Like the actor playing Juliette transformed the Bard’s classic tragedy into comedy with some solid technique and a few other ingredients, we have the ability to transform raw carrots, which are delicious on their own, into something completely different and wonderful.

Roasted Carrot Soup with Miso Butter

Ingredients:

FOR THE SOUP

  1. 6 to 8 large carrots (about 1¾ pounds)
  2. ¼ cup olive oil
  3. Salt
  4. 6 cups vegetable stock
  5. 1 piece ginger, 1 inch long, peeled
  6. 1 sprig thyme, plus more for garnish
  7. ½ large sweet onion, chopped
  8. 2 large garlic cloves, chopped
  9. Freshly ground black pepper

FOR THE MISO BUTTER

  1. 4 tablespoons (½ stick) butter, at room temperature
  2. 2 tablespoons miso
  3. 1 scallion, minced (optional)

Instructions:

FOR THE SOUP

  1. Peel and cut the carrots into ½-inch rounds. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss the carrots with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and sprinkle generously with salt. Set an oven rack 6 to 8 inches from the heat source and turn on the broiler. Broil the carrots until they brown and soften, turning them over with a spatula every 5 minutes or so; this should take 15 to 20 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, bring the stock to a boil, add the ginger and the sprig of thyme and simmer gently for 15 minutes.
  3. Put the onion in a medium stock pot with the remaining olive oil. Brown the onion over medium heat, stirring frequently. Add the garlic, and then add the carrots.
  4. Remove the ginger and thyme from the stock and add the stock to the pot with the onions and carrots. Bring to boil and simmer for 5 to 10 minutes, until the carrots are soft enough to purée.
  5. Use an immersion or a standard blender to purée the mixture until smooth. If the soup seems too thick, add more stock or water and reheat gently. Add salt and pepper to taste.

FOR THE MISO BUTTER

  1. Cream the butter and miso together with a fork, adding minced scallion if you like.
  2. Use immediately or roll into and wrap with parchment paper or plastic wrap and refrigerate or freeze for cutting into slices later.

TO SERVE

  1. Serve soup hot with a slice of miso butter floated on the top.
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