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Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice (Recipe: Carrot, Celery and Apple Soup)

by  Chef Dana Herbert on October 13, 2014
Sugar and Spice and Everything Nice              (Recipe: Carrot, Celery and Apple Soup)

There's nothing like the wonderful flavors and spices of fall.  Coming from a family where my grandmother was a cook and my great grandmother could burn too, it's no wonder the smells coming from the kitchen were incredible.  You could smell the cinnamon, nutmeg, anise, vanilla, ginger, allspice and more.

By far, the most popular of the spices is vanilla.  Vanilla is a flavor derived from orchids of the Genus Vanilla primarily from the Mexican species, flat-leaved vanilla (V. Planifolia).  Vanilla is the second most expensive spice next to saffron due to it being labor intensive to grow.  Many companies sell a watered down version of it but when you find a good pure one stick with it.    A lot of vanilla comes from Madgascar, Indonesia, and the West Indies.  Until the mid 1900's, Mexico was the leading producer of vanilla.

Cinnamon is by far one of my personal favorite spices. It comes from the bark of a tree. It has its own unique flavor that goes well with anything sweet as well as savory if you are trained to use it right.  You can find cinnamon in two main forms, powdered or stick.  I love both for different reasons.  When I want to infuse flavor but not see it (sort of keep them guessing), I will cook with a stick and then pull it out.  Powdered is great for baking applications.  True cinnamon comes from Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, and other areas in that region of the world.  Two thirds of the world’s cinnamon that we are used to comes from Indonesia.  The other one 1/3 from China.  

Nutmeg is seed of an evergreen tree indigenous to Indonesia.  After the planting of the tree it takes 8-9 years before the tree is in full production.  The tropical fruit from which nutmeg is derived also yields the spice called mace.  Nutmeg is the interior and mace is the exterior.  Both are generally found in their ground form.

Ginger is a spice that is totally distinctive.  Its used in both sweet and savory and usually found raw,  candied, or powdered.  Each have their best used depending upon the application.  Ginger is indigenous to china but also found in west Africa, and the Caribbean.   Because ginger produces beautiful white and pink flowers, it is often used in landscaping.  I always say Ginger looks like a bunch of knuckles.

These are just a few of my favorites, but also check out some of the other spices such as all spice, anise, cardamon, mace and more.  There are so many wonderful fall spices that you can be totally immersed in them.  

A final quick note, never store your dry spices over the stove.  I know many people did for convenience when cooking but you actually shorten the life on your spices because of the heat.

Here is one of my favorite recipes using cinnamon and nutmeg.  Come back next week for my Creamy Rice Pudding recipe.  Let me know what you think.

 

CARROT, CELERY AND APPLE SOUP
Servings: 4 |Prep time: 20 minutes | Cook time: 40 minutes

INGREDIENTS

2 pounds carrot
1 onion, chopped
3 celery stalks
2 cups apple juice
2 cups vegetable stock
3 apples, medium
2 tablespoons tomato paste
¼ cup brown sugar
1 bay leaf
3 tablespoons sugar
½ tablespoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg

PREPARATION

1.  Place the carrots, onions, and celery in a large pot with the apple juice and vegetable stock. 

2.  Bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat to a simmer. Simmer for 10 minutes.

3.  While the pot is simmering, peel and core the apples. Dice the apples and add them to the pot along with the tomato paste, brown sugar, bay leaf, and sugar. Return the pot to a boil over medium heat. 

4.  Reduce the heat to a simmer and cover for 10 minutes. Remove and discard the bay leaf.

5.  Allow soup to cool. Place the mixture in a food processor and blend until smooth. 

6.  Return the soup to a clean pot and heat gently. 

7.  Season with salt and pepper and ladle the soup into warm bowls. 

 

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