Nobody's calling me a Domestic Goddess over here, but one of the ways I'm hoping to spend my time while I'm on maternity leave is to get more creative in the kitchen. We have lots of great green grocers near our house and I've always loved the idea of picking up whatever is fresh and in season and just "coming up" with something for dinner that night. I also have lots of cook books and magazines just brimming with recipes that I've been threatening to try for...let's face it...years. Now that I won't be leaving the office at 6pm or later every night I might just have a hope of striking a few of them off my to-do list. Call it Project: Cold Cereal is for Breakfast.
I'll be collecting the recipes I create and try here because it's 2010 and who the hell has a recipe box anymore? Losers and Grandmas that's who. That's right, I just called your Grandma a loser. Deal with it.
Tonight: Sweet Potato Soup!
So, soup. Who doesn't love a nice hearty soup this time of year? When I was growing up, in the 80's, the only soup we ever had (other than my Mom's awesome turkey soup on Boxing Day) was Campbell's Tomato or Lipton's Chicken Noodle. If you wanted to make them "special" you would make the tomato soup with milk or add a butt load of saltines to the chicken noodle. Looking back, we might as well have been eating bowls of hot water and salt. Back then, the idea of making soup from scratch or coming up with my own recipe seemed impossible. Turns out soup is one of the easiest things to make. Once you have the mechanics down, the possibilities are endless! I, for one, will never be buying pre-made soup again.
What you'll need:
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (a couple of glugs)
3 cloves of Garlic
1 medium sized Yellow Onion
2 ribs of Celery
2 medium sized Carrots
2 large Sweet Potatoes
Nutmeg (fresh or dried, to taste)
Ginger (fresh or dried, to taste)
Pepper (fresh ground, to taste)
1 carton (900ml) Vegetable Stock
Parsley (fresh, a handful)
Wine pairing: I know less than nothing about food and wine pairing. I do however, know what I like. What I like is this - inexpensive and red. I also like drinking cheap red wine while I'm cooking. Tonight's selection is my new favourite by Barefoot Vineyards in California and it is a Cab Sav. It is deeelicious. It costs like, $10. Awesome all around.
Listening: Ellis Marsalis Trio (featuring Jason Marsalis), Twelve's It. These warm, swinging tunes are a great match for the comfort and zen that chopping up a bunch of veggies while wearing your comfy pants and enjoying a glass of wine brings. Trust.
1. Throw a couple of glugs of olive oil into your soup pot (I usually go around the bottom of the pot twice). Turn the heat up to medium / high. That's a 6 on my burner.
2. Once the olive oil is good and hot add your 3 cloves of garlic (crushed) and your onion (chopped) and let them stay in there by themselves until they start to get fragrant. Stir frequently to make sure the garlic doesn't burn. If you feel like the garlic is getting too brown too fast, turn down the heat.
3. After a couple of minutes you can start adding the rest of your vegetables, which should be chopped into 1" cubes or smaller. Also add your nutmeg and ginger (you can add more later, I like a lot). I like to saute everything for at least 45 minutes so that they have lots of time to get tender and caramelized. This is when it starts to smell like someone is doing some serious work in your kitchen. Stir occasionally to make sure nothing is sticking to the bottom, but let the bottom of the pot get nice and brown. There's lots of flavour in those brown bits.
4. Once you're satisfied that everything is tender you can add your vegetable stock. I like to use the Wolfgang Puck Organic or the Campbell's (25% less sodium) Organic. I know, I'm an elitist, lefty, latte drinking snob suggesting organic stock but it IS so much better. There's also a lot less salt. There is so much great flavour in all these veggies, you don't need any unnecessary salt. When you pour the stock into your pot, make sure to scrape all those brown bits up from the bottom for flavour and colour. Make sure that the stock covers the veggies, if you need a little more liquid you can add some water.
5. Let the soup come to a boil and simmer, covered, on medium / low heat (that a 3 on my burner) for at least 30 minutes.
6. Blend the soup in batches in a regular blender or use an immersion blender to blend the whole mess in the pot.
7. Add pepper to taste (again, I like a lot) and garnish with some chopped parsley and some more pepper on top. The parsley adds a nice fresh contrast to the rich flavours of the soup.
I served this soup with a side of white asparagus which I roasted in olive oil, lemon and garlic and some crusty french bread. This made a lovely, simple weeknight dinner. I'd consider serving a smaller portion as a first course at a dinner party and would definitely love to cook this up for my vegetarian and vegan pals.
Verdict: Sweet Potato Soup is a win / win / win. Easy and fun to make, super yummy, filling and really very good for you.