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Carrot with Toasted Almond Soup

    1 cup sliced shallots (about 4 large)
    1 bay leaf
    1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
    1 teaspoon curry powder
    1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme
    1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
    1 small boiling potato
    1 1/2 lb carrots, peeled and cut crosswise 1/4 inch thick
    1 3/4 cups chicken broth
    1 cup apple cider
    1 1/4 cups water
    3/4 teaspoon salt
    1/4 teaspoon black pepper
    1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted

  Cook shallots, bay leaf, ginger, curry powder, and thyme in butter
 in a 2- to 3-quart heavy saucepan over moderately low heat, stirring
 occasionally, until shallots are softened and pale golden, 6 to 8
 minutes. Meanwhile, peel potato and cut into 1/2-inch cubes.

  Add potato to shallot mixture along with carrots, broth, cider,
 water, salt, and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer,
 covered, until carrots are tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Discard bay

  Puree soup in 2 batches in a blender until smooth, transferring as
 blended to a large bowl (use caution when blending hot liquids).
 Return to saucepan to reheat if necessary. Serve soup sprinkled with