Sit down, which I assume you are if you are reading this post. Take a deep breath, and tell me what’s been troubling you. Too long a list perhaps? Has your boss, spouse, kids, roommate, efriend got you down? Have your shoes and whole wardrobe, for that matter, reached their expiration date? Completely out of ideas for your next blog post?
Then you have come to the right place because I have a firm belief that making soup is absolutely therapeutic. So this particular session is FREE, on the house—if you consider that the grocery bill actually pays for your dinner not your therapy.
The whole process is magical…it is really…try it if you have not. Let me walk you through this one and maybe you’ll be hooked on making your own soups from now on.
You begin with a gorgeous array of fresh seasonal vegetables—if you don’t have them, start your therapy session by perusing a local Farmer’s Market. Bring your own bags please; you wouldn’t want to offend the natives.
Once you’ve gathered your lovely bevy of dirty and rustic veggies, wash and peel. Chef’s note: If you have never worked with leeks before, you probably don’t know that dirt is hidden between all the lovely layers. So chop off the ends first, separate the layers and soak them in a rectangular dish filled with water while you chop everything else.
Now put on your favorite music. This is absolutely essential in the whole making soup as therapy process. Hum or sing aloud! There is evidence as noted in Discovery Health that all types of singing have positive psychological effects. The act of singing releases endorphins, the brain’s “feel good” chemicals.
So please, if you are truly in this for its therapeutic effects, sing away. Just ignore the grumpy teens who claim your voice sounds a bit like a dying cat. Tell them this is the perfect opportunity to plug-in and tune you out.
OK…veggies are clean and peeled, now it’s time to chop. To make the carrots easier to chop, I line them up parallel to each other and cut all three at the same time. Voila, all three carrots are chopped in seconds. If you have any type of food processor or chopper, let it do the work of chopping the garlic, onions and leek (all together is fine). If you have to chop these by hand, I’m sorry—maybe the onion chopping can be your cathartic cry you need. But don’t dwell on the tears, move along and complete the task at hand…delicious creamy sweet potato soup.
Once you have all of your veggies chopped and ready for action, put the butter in a big stock pot and saute your onions, leeks,carrots and garlic with one bay leaf until soft. Inhale…I mean this literally. Close your eyes and really take in the wonderful aromas of garlic and leek being cooked in the butter. Mmmmm.
After you chop your potatoes and apple into inch-like cubes, throw in the sweet potatoes, apple, russet potato and chopped ginger into the pot. Lightly add salt and freshly ground pepper to taste (some people like to use white pepper to avoid the black pepper flakes in the soup). Saute everything together for a couple of minutes.
Oh my, the fabulous smells should be permeating your whole kitchen and moving throughout the house by now. Everyone in your household is fully aware that something wonderful is afoot in your kitchen, and you are beginning to feel pretty damn good about yourself. See? Your self-esteem is beginning to take a shot upward. I’m good, aren’t I?
Add the soup stock and simmer with the lid on for 30 minutes or until the potatoes are fork tender. Add the brown sugar. Last but not least, puree the entire pot either with an immersion blender (you lucky devil you) or carefully pour small batches of the soup into a blender and puree. DO NOT POUR THE ENTIRE BATCH IN AT ONCE, AND DO NOT FORGET TO PUT THE LID SECURELY ON THE BLENDER! Leave the little cylinder out for allowing air to escape (no explosions please) and put a clean kitchen towel over the hole. Burning your face and ending up in the E.R. will not help with the good vibe we have going here so please have all your wits about you for this step.
Stir in the coconut milk. Taste and add salt and pepper to your liking. Finally, your soup is complete! Serve it up in bowls and garnish with a dollop of nonfat plain yogurt, sour cream or creme fraiche. Then sprinkle a few dried cranberries and chopped toasted pecans on top of the yogurt. You are ready for the final step in the therapeutic process…eating the soup slowly, sip by sip with a large chunk of rustic, crusty bread.
In the end, both your mind and soul should be filled up and satisfied. Your worries will at least have taken a good one hour break from harassing you, you will have fed yourself and your family, and you will owe nothing at the end of the cooking/therapy session.
Sweet Potato Soup
Inspired by a recipe from Gourmet Magazine but totally Geni-fied.
Makes 6-10 bowls of soups depending on bowl size.
30 minutes prep time and 30-40 minutes cooking time.
3 T. unsalted butter
3/4 c. finely chopped onion
1 c. finely chopped leek, washed well and drained
2 large garlic cloves, minced
3 large peeled and slice carrots
1 T. minced ginger or 1-2 teaspoons dried ginger
1 bay leaf
2 1/2 lbs (about 4 large or 6-7 small) sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1 inch cubes
1 large russet potato, peeled and chopped in 1 inch cubes
1 medium apple (any type), peeled and chopped in 1 inch cubes
8 cups chicken broth(or vegetable broth if wanting to make it vegetarian); I prefer low-sodium, and then I add 1 tablespoon of salt after the broth and more at the end to taste.
3 T. light brown sugar
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup light canned coconut milk
optional: 2-3 drops of sriracha
optional seasonings: 1-2 tsp curry powder
optional garnishes: 1 tsp of nonfat plain yogurt, sour cream or creme fraiche for each bowl
1 t. dried cranberries per bowl
1 t. toasted pecans (toast directly on the stove in a saute pan for 2 minutes, tossing with a spoon or heat proof spatula)
Make the soup: In a large stock melt the butter and cook the onion, leek, garlic and carrots with the bay leaf on moderate heat, stirring, until the vegetables are softened (about 3 minutes). Add the sweet potatoes, russet, apple and ginger. Stir and saute for a minute. Pour in broth and simmer the mixture, covered, for 30-40 minutes or until the potatoes are fork tender. Add the brown sugar and stir. Discard the bay leaf (this is very important since bay leaves are choke-able). In a blender, puree the mixture in batches until it is very smooth (making sure to leave the cylinder cap open with a towel over it. This allows steam to escape so it doesn’t explode), transferring it to a large serving bowl or pot. Or, if you have an immersion blender, just puree directly inside the pot. Add coconut milk, sriracha and salt and pepper to taste and stir.
Serve in bowls, dolloping one teaspoon of nonfat yogurt, creme fraiche or sour cream. Top with dried cranberries and toasted pecans for garnish.