I happen to love soup a lot. As is evidenced by the big “SOUP” in ingredient cloud to the right, I tend to cook it frequently. Summer, fall, spring, or winter, soup just feels like the perfect meal for dinner or lunch; if soup was appropriate for breakfast (do smoothies count??), I’m sure it would enter my regular repertoire at that meal as well. My style of cooking – not liking to follow recipes religiously, modifying ingredient lists to suit what’s in my pantry and fridge at the time, throwing together recipes on a whim, and playing with flavor combinations – lends itself well to the “art” of soup-making … there’s a lot of leeway to do what you please and still come out with a good result, consistently.
A minestrone-type or vegetable soup is perhaps the easiest meal to whip up, either after work or on a Saturday evening, because you can add whatever vegetables and aromatics you have on hand. Sometimes I like to use up whatever odds and ends of vegetables I might have lying about in my crisper, then perhaps stir in a dollop of pesto or toss in a handful of pasta or rice. It’s economical, healthy, fast, and pretty mindless to make. Better than that, soups are so warm and comforting they seem to give you a hug from the throat all the way on down to your tummy (in the warm way, not the burning hot way!). It’s such an ideal meal when you just want comfort food – or a hot meal on a chilly fall night!
Some of my favorite soups, though, are puréed soups – butternut squash, acorn squash, pumpkin, carrot, leek and potato, celeriac and potato, zucchini, tomato, roasted red pepper … they’re all great! There’s something about the smooth texture that just slides down your throat like wearing a silk robe – it just feels good to eat. Is that strange to say?? I guess I must really love food!
Anyway, this particular soup has one of my favorite combinations: carrot and ginger. But it has a little surprise too, a sweet potato that was sitting all by its lonesome in my fruit/vegetable basket. The potato, something I don’t often add to my soups, added body and depth to the soup; I will probably consider adding one to all my future carrot soups. The ginger, though, is absolutely essential – if you don’t have fresh, ground will do in a pinch, but freshly minced ginger brightens this soup and keeps it from being flat. The coriander and turmeric help, too – but be careful not to add too much of the hotter spices because a more subtle spicing is better here. If you do, though, you can add a bit of cream and it will do wonders. I don’t usually like to add cream to this kind of soup, because it’s not healthy and it can dull the flavor, especially if the cream doesn’t have a chance to cook down a little, but it did help here.
Regardless of the exact path you take to get there, I’m sure you’ll enjoy eating a bowl of this soup at the end of the road!
Carrot and sweet potato soup with ginger and spices
The composition of this soup is really flexible; I’ve made many versions of this soup – varying the amount of onions, garlic, celery or none, potato or none, cream or none, and different spices – and it always comes out pleasantly well. Just make sure you use ginger, fresh and a bit of ground for depth. If you use a light touch with cayenne and turmeric, you probably don’t need the cream.
- 1/2 Vidalia onion, chopped
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 sweet potato, quartered lengthwise and sliced to 1/4″ thickness
- 3 carrots, halved and sliced to 1/4″ thickness
- 2 cloves garlic, sliced
- 1″ section of ginger, minced
- 3 cups vegetable stock, low sodium
- salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1/4 tsp celery salt
- 1/2 tsp turmeric
- pinch cayenne pepper
- 1/2 tsp coriander
- 1/4 tsp ground ginger
- 1/4 cup half-and-half or heavy cream (use whatever’s on hand or none at all, to your taste; I like half-and-half)
In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium to medium-low heat. Sauté the onion until it softens a bit; add salt while it cooks to sweat out the moisture. Add in the carrots, then the ginger and garlic at the bottom of the pan; cook them for about two minutes. Sprinkle in the turmeric, coriander, cayenne, and ginger, stirring until they become aromatic.
Pour in 1/2 cup of stock and stir, making sure anything sticking to the bottom of the pan dissolves. Carefully drop in the potatoes, then add the rest of the liquid. Bring the soup to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer until the carrots and sweet potatoes are tender. Adjust the seasoning, adding more salt or spices to your taste. Add the black pepper.
Pull the pan off the heat. Using a hand blender or a stand blender, purée the soup until it becomes silky smooth. If you’re using cream, heat it in the microwave for 30-40 seconds so it warms up. Stir the cream into the soup; adjust final seasoning if needed. Make sure that after puréeing, you don’t return the soup to the heat or else it’ll bubble like a gurgling volcano and sputter soup all over you and the stove. Don’t worry – it will still be very hot.