Category Archives: Soup

Vegan Sweet Potato-Peanut-Coconut Soup

Rainy weather, like we’ve had in the Bay Area for the last week or so, always makes me want to eat hearty warm soups. I ran across a recipe for Sweet Potato-Peanut Bisque from Eating Well Magazine last week, and was inspired by the idea of an African-themed soup based on sweet potatoes. I, of course, revamped the entire recipe and included coconut milk (because what doesn’t taste better with coconut milk?). I always love recipes that allow me to use homemade ingredients, so was happy to be able to pull out a jar of my tomato passata (basically a lightly-cooked tomato puree) and use my homemade nut butter.

I make my own peanut butter using my VitaMix blender, and have started throwing in several types of nuts to make it more interesting. I buy everything raw, then roast them in the oven prior to making the butter. I use about half peanuts, then this time added in hazelnuts, cashews, and sunflower seeds. I figure it’s always good to vary my consumption of foods, and each of those nuts/seeds has its own unique health benefits and nutrient profile. I’ve found that the flavor is similar enough to peanut butter to allow it to substitute in recipes, but it’s a bit more interesting on an apple or sandwich.

This recipe is pretty easy, and so delicious. It’s a bit decadent-feeling with the coconut milk and peanut butter, but the spice cuts through the richness in a lovely way. And these are nutrient-dense foods, with lots of healthy fats–so a small bowl goes a long way to satisfy you. The soup re-heats well in the microwave, and is great for work lunches. I served it with my homemade bread, which was made with 1/2 whole wheat flour and some of the leftover whey from a cheese-making adventure this weekend. More on that next time!

African (Inspired) Vegan Sweet Potato-Peanut-Coconut Soup

Serves 6

  • 2 large sweet potatoes (10-12 ounces each)
  • olive oil
  • sea salt
  • 1 medium yellow onion, chopped
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • 16 oz jar or can of tomato puree
  • 2 cups filtered water
  • 2 jalapenos or serrano chiles, chopped (seeded if you’re a wimp, like me)
  • pinch (or more, as desired) red pepper flakes
  • 2 teaspoons minced or grated fresh ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground allspice
  • 1 15-ounce can coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup natural peanut butter or other nut butter
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Chopped fresh cilantro leaves or chives for garnish
  • Sauteed shallot for garnish

Begin by roasting the sweet potatoes. Pre-heat the oven to 400°, and peel and chop your sweet potatoes into 2″ chunks. Toss with olive oil to coat, and dust with sea salt. Roast until the cubes begin to brown, approx. 30 minutes. Roasting brings out the sweetness of the sweet potatoes and gives the finished soup a lot more flavor.

While the sweet potatoes are roasting, begin to prep your soup ingredients. In a stock pot pot or dutch oven, heat about 1 tbsp olive oil in the pan, and add the chopped onion. Cook until translucent, about 2 minutes. Add the minced garlic and ginger, and cook for another minute. Add in allspice, pepper flakes, chiles, tomato puree, and water, and cook for about 10 minutes.

Add in the sweet potatoes and peanut butter, and cook for 5 minutes more. Puree with an immersion blender if you have one, or transfer to a food processor or blender to process in batches. I like to leave it a bit chunky, which the immersion blender does well. Finish by adding the coconut milk and stirring until it is heated and fully incorporated. Feel free to add more water if the soup is thicker than you prefer. Season with salt and pepper to taste (salt needed can vary quite a bit, depending on ingredients used).

I happened to have a shallot that needed to get cooked, so chopped it and sauteed separately, then added it at the end for some texture. This turned out to be a lovely addition.  Serve with crusty bread and top with diced chives or cilantro leaves.

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Pumpkin – Apple – Tomato Soup (Dark Days)

Excited to dig into round two of the Dark Days challenge, I again scoured my fridge and pantry for ingredients. I had seen a recipe a few weeks ago for an apple and butternut squash soup on the blog Running with Tweezers, and was intrigued by the combination. I had a 10lb cheese pumpkin from the farmer’s market that had been sitting outside since Halloween, and needed to get used soon. I had also purchased a 20lb box of tart-sweet pippin apples from Mariquita Farm, a lovely organic farm about 85 miles south of me in Watsonville. They have a great program where they offer mixed “Mystery Boxes” for $25, and also offer single-item boxes like apples for very good prices. They drop off once or twice a month at a restaurant near me, and I love being able to decide when I want things and order them, vs. the regular deliveries of a CSA.

I decided to start with cooked pumpkin, as I hate peeling raw squash, and I knew I would need to cook the whole thing anyway. I cut the cheese pumpkin in half, seeded it, and coated the cut sides with a little bit of local olive oil. I put the cut sides down on a baking sheet, and baked at 400° for 2 hours. The inside was soft, and much of the juice had collected in the pan. Then all I had to do was scoop out the interior and discard the peel.

You wont need all of the pumpkin for the soup–I just used three cups. There is no need to puree the pulp for the soup, as you’ll be blending it when it’s done. I love having local pumpkin around for pies and other delicious seasonal desserts, but find that the fresh pumpkin is far too moist to be used directly in those recipes calling for canned pumpkin. Instead, I puree the cooked squash in the food processor, then strain it and squeeze as much water out as possible. Below, you can see the rest of the pumpkin sitting to strain. I let it sit for a while, then lift up the edges of the cloth and wring it out. Typically, the pumpkin reduces by about half with a good squeezing, and then is the right consistency for typical pumpkin recipes.

One of my favorite tools in the kitchen is a set of straining cloths (called “All-Strain cloths”, pictured above) I purchased from the chef Michael Ruhlman. He has a shop on the website Open Sky where he sells kitchen implements that he and local Cleveland craftsman have made. Open Sky is an amazing site where many chefs and other prominent folks sell items they personally use and endorse at a competitive prices. It’s one of those sites where you have to join to see prices and buy, but it’s really worth it–I’ve gotten many things from chefs like Tom Colicchio and Dorie Greenspan. If you are interested, you can follow this link for $10 off your first purchase.  All-Strain cloths are $22 for 3, so only $12 with the discount. They are heavy-duty, and I use them for everything from straining stocks to draining fresh goat cheese. (I do get a little referral bonus if you follow my link to Open Sky and end up purchasing, but I wouldn’t share it if I didn’t really buy a ton of kitchen things from them!)

As I worked to come up with my own recipe variation, I came across these lovely oven-roasted tomatoes in the fridge. I visited Mariquita Farm for a tomato u-pick with my local Slow Food chapter back in September, and roasted about 10 lbs of San Marzano tomatoes in my oven. These are not exactly like sun dried tomatoes–more tender and juicy–but store really well in olive oil in the fridge. I decided they would be a great addition to the flavor profile. You could definitely use olive-oil packed sun dried tomatoes to equal effect.

I rounded it out with more stored onions and garlic, chicken stock that I pressure canned, and some butter and sour cream from the local Straus Creamery, just 60 miles from me in Marin County. I used Bragg’s cider vinegar (though I am making my first round of cider vinegar with apple peels and cores at the moment–more on that soon) to bring up the acidity. I felt like it needed something else, and I’m kind-of in love with smoked paprika right now, so I added some at the end. The 1/2 tsp is not enough to be really strong, but it brightens the flavor and gives a mild smoky aftertaste that I found lovely. You could add regular paprika, or even red pepper flakes as well, though the flavor wouldn’t be quite the same.

I like my soup to be really thick–you can see above the consistency at which I finished the cooking, before I pureed with an immersion blender. The flavors of the tomato, apple and pumpkin really blend well–none is super prominent. The smokiness of the paprika and the tanginess of the sour cream really take this over the top for me!

Pumpkin – Apple – Tomato Soup   (about 4 servings)

1 tbsp butter

1 large onion (chopped)

2 cloves garlic (chopped)

4 small or 3 medium tart apples, diced (I used pippins)

3 cups cooked pumpkin

1/3 cup oven/sun dried tomatoes (in olive oil), plus

4-5 oven/sun dried tomatoes sliced (for garnish)

2 tbsp apple cider vinegar

1 pint chicken stock

1 pint water (or more, to desired consistency)

1/4 cup sour cream, plus more for garnish

1/2 tsp smoked paprika

2 tsp sea salt (adjust based on other ingredients–my stock was not salted)

pepper to taste

snipped chives or other fresh herbs (for garnish)

Melt the butter in a large saucepan (3 quart or more) and add in the onion and sauté until browned and softened. Then add in the garlic and diced apples. Cook until the apples start to soften, then add in the vinegar, stock, equal amount of water, chopped dried tomatoes, and pumpkin puree. Cook for 10-15 minutes, until apples begin to break down and the mixture is at your desired thickness.

Blend with an immersion blender or transfer to a blender or food processor. Blend until totally smooth. Add in sour cream and blend a bit more, then stir in salt, pepper, and paprika to taste.

To garnish, add a spoonful of sour cream, some diced tomato, and fresh chives. Dig in and enjoy!

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Chicken soup for now and later

After making chicken stock recently, I wanted to use some of the leftovers to make a quick soup. After the second round of heating the stock, I strained out the veggies (carrots, celery, onion and garlic), then pureed them in the food processor. I added in some of the leftover stock (I was only able to pressure can 8 pints, and had another two pints or so left).

I grabbed a bag of frozen shredded chicken from the freezer, threw in a cup of frozen cranberry beans, and then raided the fridge for fresh veggies to toss in. I cut the corn off a couple of cobs, diced a red bell pepper, and then headed outside and picked a few kale leaves, which I cut into ribbons and threw in as well. One of the best things about soup is that it is so versatile!

This soup is fantastic! It is really flavorful–I love the texture of the pureed vegetables–it makes the soup so hearty and rich. Though I encourage you to experiment on your own, here’s the basic recipe I made:

  • 1 quart chicken stock (4 cups)
  • Veggies from stock making (2 large carrots, 4 ribs of celery, 4 cloves garlic, 1 large yellow onion) either softened from making stock or cooked until tender, then pureed
  • 2 cups shredded chicken (already cooked–feel free to use rotisserie chicken if you have none made)
  • 1 cup cooked cranberry beans
  • 2 corn cobs, kernels removed
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced finely
  • 1 bunch kale (about 10 leaves), stems removed and cut into ribbons
  • salt and pepper to taste

The soup was rich and hearty, super healthy, and after eating my dinner, I had about 3 pints of soup left. I filled three pint jars with the leftover soup, and decided to freeze them for later use, as my fridge was pretty full. So now I have at least three more meals ready to take to work, and the whole process took less than 30 minutes, due to the work I put in making the raw materials in advance.

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