Photograph: Tyllie Barbosa

Michael Tsonton, the executive chef of Copperblue (505 N. Lake Shore Dr.; 312-527-1200), echoes a common refrain when talking about cooking in general: “If you just buy good ingredients,” he notes, “it’s like night and day.” Which is why his recipe for summer carrot soup calls specifically for organic specimens from Wisconsin. The soup’s rich, meaty flavor is accentuated by Spanish paprika, called pimentón, which Tsonton says is worth the trek to The Spice House in Evanston (847-328-3711) or in Old Town (312-274-0378).

Michael Tsonton’s Organic Wisconsin Summer Carrot Soup
(Serves 4)

  • 1/2 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, plus 1 teaspoon
  • 2 ounces sliced jamón serrano with its fat separated; dice small the ham and the fat
  • 1-1/2 pounds (about 6 large) organic Wisconsin carrots, peeled and rough chopped
  • Half of a small Spanish onion, diced
  • 1/4 teaspoon cumin seeds, toasted and ground fine
  • 1/4 teaspoon picante Spanish pimentón (paprika)
  • 1/2 cup Amontillado (sherry)
  • 2 cups rich chicken stock
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1 tablespoon rich sherry vinegar
  • Sea salt
  • Fresh ground white pepper
  • Croutons
  1. Heat a heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat, and add the half tablespoon of olive oil. Once hot, add the diced fat from the jamón serrano. Stir.
  2. Add the chopped carrots and the onion. Sauté the vegetables, stirring occasionally, until they begin to brown, about 7 minutes.
  3. Add the ground cumin and the pimentón, and cook for another 4 minutes.
  4. Add the sherry and reduce by half.
  5. Add the chicken stock and bring the soup to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer until the vegetables are soft, about 15 minutes.
  6. Add the cream and cook another 10 minutes.
  7. Remove the soup from the heat and allow to cool at room temperature.
  8. Purée the soup in a blender or food processor until smooth.
  9. In a small skillet, heat 1 teaspoon of olive oil and sauté the diced ham until browned.
  10. Gently reheat the soup and thin with more chicken stock if necessary. Season with sherry vinegar, sea salt, and ground pepper.
  11. Divide the soup into 4 warmed soup bowls and garnish with croutons and jamón serrano bits.