Thursday, February 3, 2011

Vegan Carrot Soup and Crispy Polenta Balls

My favorite movie comes to mind when I think of this soup. My favorite movie? Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory... That's Willy Wonka, aka 1971... pre Johnny Depp, thank you very much.

You may be wondering why that fantastical movie comes to mind whilst remembering a delicious dinner of carrot soup since the 'main character' in Charlie and the Chocolate factory is chocolate. Yes. Chocolate. And Mr. Wonka And Charlie. And Grandpa Joe.

BUT.... for someone like me who has an absolutely amazing memory for absolutely useless information, that movie is a bit different.

Interesting fact: I have an incredibly amazing and very odd talent for remembering the most random and odd bits and pieces of basically anything. That and I'm also really really really good at memorizing song lyrics. It's a talent, people; it astounds Honey. Noodle Nose can do it too. Obviously he got it from me. We are an anomaly; at least to Honey we are.

So soup. Remember Charlie and his mom? And Grandpa Joe and Grandma Josephine and Grandpa George and Grandma Georgina? (see?) They were poor, yes? Like, really poor. And remember when he came home from his paper route with the loaf of bread and they were all so speechless and thankful? Do you remember what mom was making for dinner? Cabbage soup.

Since I first watched the movie as a wee child, the cabbage soup has held a certain amount of intrigue for me. I don't know why. But this soup that I made; this carrot soup reminds me of that cabbage soup. Perhaps it is simply because of the basically singular ingredient. Although mine looks and probably tastes better than the cabbage soup of Charlie's childhood.

Perhaps it is because this meal came to life out of sheer desperation and bare fridgedness which mirrors dear Charlie's childhood. One thing is for sure: you probably have carrots in your fridge (and the other stuff too) and you should probably make this soup.

 P.S. I realize it's incredibly simple but you know what? I gave up trying to make everything 'amazingly complex' on this blog. The reality is this: I am a mom with a family and regardless of whether you are or not, you probably appreciate a simple yet delicious meal. That and not everything should be really really hard. Cheers!
p.s. photo could be better. The soup is delicious though.

The polenta balls? They were a bonus. And by bonus I mean better than french fries. Crispy on the outside, tender on the inside. Fantastic with the spicy dip. A perfect addition to the carrot soup. Charlie would have loved them.

Extra virgin olive oil
1/2 red onion, chopped
6 cloves garlic, diced fine
2 cups roughly chopped carrots (6 to 8 carrots, give or take?)
3-4 cups vegetable broth
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1 1/2 teaspoons curry
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

For the polenta balls:
1/2 cup dry polenta
1 cup water
1/2 to 3/4 cup vegetable oil, for pan frying
1 teaspoon curry plus 1/2 teaspoon
1/2 teaspoon salt plus 1/4 teaspoon
1/4 teaspoon pepper plus 1/8 teaspoon
1/4 cup panko bread crumbs

For the sauce:
1/2 cup Tofutti or other vegan sour cream
2-4 Tablespoons tapatio, or more if you like it really spicy
1-2 Tablespoons finely chopped cilantro

Heat cast iron (or other) stew pot on stove to medium. Add extra virgin olive oil along with onion and garlic. Saute until tender, about 2-3 minutes.

Add carrot, turmeric, curry, salt and pepper and stir to combine. Reduce heat to between medium and low and add vegetable broth. Let cook, covered for 25 to 30 minutes, stirring every once in a while. If it's not cooking fast enough, bump the heat up a little bit.

While soup is cooking, prepare polenta balls by bringing water to a boil in another pan. Once boiling, add polenta and stir continually until polenta has absorbed all the water then turn off heat, add curry, salt and pepper, stir again and cover. Let sit for about five minutes.

Remove lid and transfer polenta to a plate or cookie sheet to cool. On a separate plate or in a bowl, combine panko bread crumbs and additional curry, salt and pepper and set aside for next step.

Heat vegetable oil on med/high, closer to high, in a deep-ish pan for pan frying.

Once polenta is fairly cool to the touch and while oil is heating, scoop a small spoonful and roll it into a ball with your hands. Roll each ball individually in the panko mix and set aside for pan frying.

When oil is ready, pan fry balls one side at a time. I managed to do eight balls at once. You will know the oil is ready when you pop a pinch of polenta in and it bubbles. When one side is brown, roll it to the next side and so forth.

Repeat for all polenta balls, placing them on a paper towel covered plate as you go. Cover them with a paper towel as well.

To make the sauce, simply combine vegan sour cream, tapatio and cilantro. Stir and put in a lovely little serving bowl. Set aside.

When carrots in the soup are soft, use an immersion blender to partially blend soup. Note: you do not want the soup to be pureed; keep some chunks, just blend it a bit.

Taste soup and add salt and/or pepper as needed.

When soup is partially blended and balls are pan fried you are ready to serve.

Ladle soup into a bowl, place polenta balls on a plate, spoon sauce, serve, enjoy.

So easy and that's ok! Dinner is meant to be enjoyed, no matter how much time it took to make.

Enjoy! (and watch Charlie and the Chocolate Factory... the real one!)


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