I love how I can know someone for years and years and years and still learn new things about them. For example.
My friend Marissa and I have known each other for the better part of a decade–almost our entire adult lives. She’s one of the first friends I made in college. We spent inordinate amounts of time together, in dorms and in common rooms, on grassy lawns and on airplanes, in classroom seats and in theater seats. I’ve shared a bed with her. She’s worn my clothes. I can tell you exactly how she’ll react to a piece of news, or who her celebrity crushes are, or what her sister’s ex-boyfriend’s name is. But not until she came to visit me from Florida last month did I learn how much she loves carrots.
It started when Audrey and I took her out for Thai food. We ordered some gorgeous elaborate stir-fry, speckled with vegetables, and the first thing Marissa did was to pick every single carrot off the serving dish and claim them for herself. She was genuinely more excited about those carrots than about anything else we’d done that day. “Omigosh, you guys, I LOVE carrots,” she gushed between mouthfuls. It took me aback. I could feel a small pang of offense–how hadn’t she told me this before? It seemed like such a fundamental character trait. Well, maybe not so fundamental. But certainly news to me.
So a couple days later, on a cold and blustery evening, when the train to my neighborhood got shut down and Marissa was stranded at a distant station wearing shorts and a thin sweater, shivering and sad by the time I picked her up, I knew I needed to make her something warm and carroty to bring her back to her sunny self. I’d had a carrot miso soup recipe bookmarked for months, and with a carrot-loving houseguest and a half-finished tub of miso in the fridge, I knew the time had come. This is a beautifully simple recipe, for a soup that’s smooth and lush and gloriously comforting. For me, it hit the same autumn spot as squash soup, with a similar pulpy orange sweetness; but it’s brighter and less sugary than squash, with a deep salty thrum from the miso.
The soup itself is clean, simple, and cheerfully sweet. I felt it needed a little bite and a touch of richness to even it out. So, going off of a parenthetical note on the original recipe, I quickly pickled some scallions in rice vinegar, then swirled them into the soup. A drizzle of dark fatty sesame oil, and we had a lovely windy-night meal.
And now I’m wondering what else she hasn’t told me…
Carrot Miso Soup with Quick-Pickled Scallions (serves 4)
Adapted slightly from Smitten Kitchen
4 scallions, thinly sliced
1/2 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
1 tsp salt, plus more for seasoning the soup
2 tbsp peanut, vegetable, or canola oil
2 lb carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
1 large yellow onion, diced
3 large or 5-6 small garlic cloves, thinly sliced
1 tbsp minced or finely grated fresh ginger
1 quart (4 cups) vegetable broth
1/4 cup (4 tbsp) white miso, or to taste*
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Toasted sesame oil for drizzling
*Most miso contains gluten, although some brands–like the one my local supermarket sells–are gluten-free. Shop accordingly.
In a small bowl, combine scallions, vinegar, and salt. Stir to combine, and set aside to let the flavors mingle while the soup cooks.
In a large saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add carrots, onion, and a pinch of salt, and sweat for 8-10 minutes, or until onion is translucent. Add garlic and ginger and saute for 1 minute, or until fragrant. Add broth and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to keep at a steady simmer. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes, or until the carrots are very tender. Remove from the heat and puree with an immersion blender, or in batches in a stand blender.
Transfer a ladleful of the hot soup to a small bowl. Add miso and whisk until smooth, then stir the mixture back into the soup. Taste and season with salt and pepper to taste. If the soup needs more miso, ladle off a bit more soup and whisk in the miso as before. Ladle the soup into bowls, and top each bowl with a spoonful of scallions and a drizzle of sesame oil. Serve warm.
This soup–minus the miso and scallions–will keep in an airtight container in the fridge for 3 days, or in the freezer for up to 4 months. When you’re ready to serve, bring the soup back to a simmer, then remove from the heat and whisk in the miso as instructed. The scallions in their brine will keep, covered, in the fridge for up to a week; they’ll get softer the longer they sit.