Some of my most dismal food memories are of hospital fare. The few times I’ve had to stay overnight in a hospital, the food invariably has been a disaster of soggy vegetables, mystery meat and Technicolor Jello. Even my extraordinarily healthy appetite heads south in the face of such sad offerings.
The good people at Stanford Hospital & Clinics are on a mission to change all that. Last week, they invited patients, staff and food writers to a tasting of their new Farm Fresh menu of wholesome food prepared with local, sustainable, organic and seasonal ingredients.
This carrot soup, sweet with apple juice and spicy with ginger and curry, won me over instantly. It’s simple enough to be soothing while still complex enough to be intriguing – just the sort of dish to brighten up a hospital stay.
The menu revolves around freshly made soups, salads, whole grain breads and simple fruit desserts. It’s food you would be happy to eat at home. So it’s especially nice that Stanford is sharing the soup recipes on its website. They range from an earthy cauliflower spiked with rosemary to a bright roasted sweet pepper with goat cheese.
The recipes come from adviser Jesse Cool (right), one of my favorite chefs, cookbook author, and owner of Flea Street Cafe in Menlo Park and Cool Cafe on the Stanford campus. She’s long been an advocate of healthful, organic food.
Soup was a natural choice for the new menu, says hospital CEO Martha Marsh. “When people are sick, they think about soup, salad, fruit and whole grain bread as things that will help them feel better.”
I can testify, though, that this flavorful carrot soup will make you feel better even if you aren’t ailing. It’s an ideal centerpiece for a light summer meal, as good lukewarm as piping hot.
This soup is even easy enough to make on a camp stove the way I did because my kitchen is still torn up for a remodeling project.
I’ve edited the recipe slightly to make it easier for home cooks, who don’t usually weigh all their ingredients. I’ve also added a dollop of yogurt for a tangy counterpoint to the carrots.
Who knew hospital food could taste this good?
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped coarsely
2 cups apple juice
2 pounds carrots, peeled and chopped into 1-inch chunks
4 cups vegetable stock
2 cups water
1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger
1 tablespoon curry powder
1 tablespoon honey
1½ teaspoons salt
¼ teaspoon pepper
½ cup yogurt, preferably thick, Greek-style
In a deep soup pot over medium-low heat, warm the olive oil. Add onions and cook slowly until soft but not browned. Add carrots, apple juice, stock and water, cover and cook until very soft, about 30 minutes. Add ginger and curry powder. Puree mixture thoroughly in the pot with an immersion blender. Or let soup cool and whirl in small batches in a food processor or blender jar, being careful not to get splattered. Add honey, season with salt and pepper, and reheat if necessary. Serve with a tablespoon of yogurt in each bowl.
Adapted from Jesse Cool’s recipe for Stanford Hospital & Clinics