More importantly, the garnishes
I haven’t really been feeling like meat lately. I’ve never been a vegetarian before and I highly doubt that I will ever become one, but it’s funny how I can go weeks without preparing meat in my home or even ordering it at restaurants. It’s probably even sillier how this has come about in the dead of winter, when all people can go on about are “rib-sticking,” hearty meals. You know, the ones with meat. Sure, there’s the cost and convenience part (vegetables and grains are very cheap and they aren’t going to poison you no matter how you cook them), but I think most of all it’s just my mood lately.
And yes, I think it has something to do with that winter mood I’ve gotten in the past week or two. I’ve been walking a lot lately, more and more each day just to listen to music or hear the news. (And, I have to say, I just got this little app on my phone that tracks how many steps I take each day and I have gotten very personally competitive with increasing the amount every day. I’m not ambitious or competitive in any means when it comes to grand-scheme-of-life things, but if it’s a tedious, absolutely useless thing that has no real implications on my life, I get pretty into it. Rationality has never been a strength of mine.) After I get home from walking a very long route from my school’s campus, I feel like cooking, but those heavy meals give me no appetite. So turn to soup.
I ended up on Smitten Kitchen’s carrot soup with crisped chickpeas, tahini, and crisped wedges of pita with za’atar. Simply because have you seen the ingredient list for that soup? It’s simple, really simple, and that really appealed to me at the time. But as Deb even admits in her post, the soup, good and nourishing though it is, is not of the most dynamic kind. That’s quite alright though, in part because I don’t think every meal can be a revolution, but more importantly because what goes on or with the soup more than makes up for it.
There’s the spiced, slightly-crunchy chickpeas, that get roasted in the oven with some olive oil, a hefty couple pinches of salt, and some spices. Deb calls for cumin; I used garham masala just because it includes cumin, is delicious, and I have way too much of it (I think it was a good call). I think the idea of using them in place of croutons is pretty genius—I love croutons or something crunchy to contrast smooth soups, and using chickpeas adds a dimension I probably would have never thought of. Then there’s the tahini drizzle, which is the basic, all-purpose sauce of tahini, lemon and a little bit of water. It’s awesome on this soup. I dolloped some full-fat yogurt on the first bowl of soup I had but thereafter quickly realized: tahini sauce > yogurt, at least on this soup. And! Let us not forget the wedges of pita, baked with olive oil and za’atar until crunchy. I used them to scoop up piles of the soup and chickpeas, but they can also be crumbled over the top to form a type of crouton. When it comes to the garnishes, it all goes and they’re all good.
I think these garnishes are a nice reminder that any meal can become special by the addition of a few thoughtful details. Because although I haven’t been into heavy meals, I have been into flavor. And obviously not like duck-fat flavor, but like tangy-sour-bitter-sweet-texture flavor. (Perhaps this is why I have been particularly inspired by Ottolenghi and Tamimi’s Jerusalem lately.)
To get the recipe for the carrot soup and all the garnishes, I’ll just direct you over to the original recipe. Deb does a really nice job of organizing the recipe, much better than I could, into making everything from start to finish in about 45 minutes to an hour. But! One thing I would urge you to do is really layer the olive oil and za’atar on the pitas. She calls for it sprinkled on the pitas, but the middle eastern restaurant I go to makes a paste of the oil and spice mixture, and spreads it on thick. I didn’t do that, but I definitely had a heavy hand with the za’atar. Do it; the spices taste great scooping up the soup.
One Year Ago: Challah