To bring out carrots’ subtle sweetness, I’ve boosted the flavor in the broth by steeping an herbal tea bag in it and stirring in coconut water. But I balance the sweetness, too, with ginger and chile, then give the whole thing richness by stirring in coconut milk and silken tofu at the end. The result is mmm-mmm creamy but with really clean flavors.
I could just eat bowlfuls of this alone, but I originally created it as the base for a fish dish. At the Pebble Beach Food and Wine Festival, I stayed up until three in the morning to puree twenty gallons of this soup so that I could poach bluefish in it. It was a huge hit! Simply reheat the pureed soup until barely simmering, stir in more coconut milk to thin it, and gently poach any oily fish in it. The combination of sweet, heat, and spice in the soup pairs perfectly with rich, fatty fish.
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 medium leek (white and pale green parts only), trimmed, cut in half lengthwise then into 1/4-inch-thick half-moons, and thoroughly rinsed
1 medium yellow onion, coarsely chopped
2 celery ribs, coarsely chopped
5 medium carrots, cut into 1/2-inch-thick rounds
One 2-inch piece fresh ginger, cut in half lengthwise, then cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
1 jalapeno chile, stemmed, cut in half lengthwise, and seeded
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1/2 teaspoon crushed red chile flakes
1 quart Vegetable Stock or Chicken Stock or store-bought unsalted broth
2 cups coconut water
1 high-quality lemon-ginger tea bag, paper tag removed
2/3 cup silken tofu
2/3 cup light coconut milk
Freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup unsweetened flaked coconut, toasted (see Note)
1. Heat a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil and heat until it dimples and squiggles. Add the leek, onion, and celery and stir until well coated with the oil. Add the carrots and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion is just translucent but not soft, about 5 minutes.
2. Add the ginger, jalapeno, garlic, and chile flakes. Cook, stirring, until the vegetables are caramelized, about 4 minutes. You really want to bring out the brown richness of the veggies here.
3. Stir in the stock and coconut water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to maintain a simmer, and add the tea bag. Simmer until the carrots can be mashed easily with a wooden spoon, about 30 minutes.
4. Remove and discard the tea bag. Stir in the tofu and coconut milk. Using an immersion blender or stand blender (working in batches if necessary), puree until very smooth. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
5. Reheat to serve the soup hot or chill it to serve cold. Garnish with coconut flakes just before serving.
To toast coconut, spread the flakes in a layer on a half sheet pan and bake at 325°F until golden brown and crisp, stirring occasionally. Don’t let ‘em burn! Cool completely before using.
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