Friday, January 8, 2010

Adventures in Cooking Part One

It's surprising how exciting Friday's are even after only 4 days of class. It's been a pretty uneventful week but getting back into the swing of classes and attempting to develop a new routine that includes school, homework, swim practices and working out, volunteering, a part time job and if I'm lucky some down time, is always difficult. I wasn't as successful as I would have liked at fitting it all in but hopefully the further we get from the holidays the easier it will get. I didn't have any big Friday night plans, but I have decided that instead of doing a lot of baking like I have done in the past, this semester I would attempt to push my boundaries cooking instead. I decided that every week I would make one new recipe that contained at least ingredient that I have not previously used. This week's recipe was courtesy of Martha Stewart and her "Whole living" line:

Roasted Sweet Potato Soup with Curried Apples

Serves 4 (makes 6 cups)
  • 2 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes (3 or 4)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, halved and sliced
  • Coarse salt and ground black pepper
  • 1 red bell pepper, ribs and seeds removed, thinly sliced
  • 2 jalapeno peppers, ribs and seeds removed, thinly sliced
  • 3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup dry sherry (optional)
  • 4 cups vegetable broth, homemade or canned
  • 2 teaspoons white-wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon curry powder
  • 1 small tart apple (4 ounce) peeled, cored, and diced
  • 1/4 cup plain yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons chopped mint, for garnish


  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place sweet potatoes on a baking sheet and roast for 1 hour, turning once, or until potatoes are very soft. When cool enough to handle, scoop cooked potato out of the skins. Discard skins.
  2. Meanwhile, in a 5-quart Dutch oven or large soup pot, heat oil over medium. Add onion, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and caramelized, about 20 minutes. Add bell pepper, jalapenos, and garlic; cook for 5 minutes. Add sherry (if using), sweet potato, and broth; stir to combine. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook for 20 minutes, until flavors have blended.
  3. Working in batches, puree soup in a blender. Combine batches in a clean pot. The soup should be thick. (If you prefer a thinner soup, add water or a little more broth.) Taste and adjust seasoning.
  4. In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring vinegar, honey, and curry powder to a boil. Add apple; stir for 1 minute and remove from heat. To serve, ladle the soup into warm bowls, add a spoonful of apples, a spoonful of yogurt, and a sprinkle of mint.

It was really really good. I had never used jalapeno peppers or curry powder before today. Turns out that forgetting to wash your hands after chopping jalapenos is a bad idea. Specially if your eye is itchy or you bite your nails, both of which occurred shortly after the chopping was complete. On the bright side my sinuses are now completely clear and I probably wont be biting my nails again anytime soon.

My two new ingredients were both super easy to work with, and I don't really have anything exciting to write about them. Now that I have curry powder in the house, I am looking forward to using it more often and experimenting with it a little bit more. I want to try roti, but I'm thinking that might be a little bit to ambitious for the time being. The above recipe calls for optional sherry, but I didn't have any and didn't want to spend a million dollars on dinner, so I looked in my handy dandy Food Substitutions Bible and it told me to substitute 2 tbsp sherry with 2 tbsp unsweetened orange juice and an 8th of a tsp of vanilla extract. Since this soup made a fairly large batch (pretty sure it was more than 6 cups) and had so many other flavors in it, it's really hard to tell how the substitution faired and how it impacted the taste. It would be really interesting to go through the whole book testing all the substitutions to determine when it is worth making the inconvenient trek to the grocery store. I also substituted white-wine vinegar for red-wine vinegar for two reasons: a) the book told me I could, and b) the grocery store did not have any of the generic brand white-wine vinegar and I am on a student's budget. I am not convinced that these two small tweaks to the recipe made much difference though, specially considering the proportion of the recipe that these ingredients consisted of. After writing this and reflecting back on cooking the meal, I realize how much faith I have put into this book. (Note to self: check the credentials of the authors and reassess level of confidence. If my research methods course taught me anything last semester, it's to be skeptical of everything I read.) I did however learn not to fill the blender too full of scalding hot liquids. The lid was on, and I was holding it down with a cloth but somehow when all was said and done I turn around and there is orange pureed soup all over the floor on the other side of the kitchen. To be fair it's a small kitchen but I'm still scratching my head over that one.

I do recommend this recipe though, and would definitely make it again. It was really easy to follow and didn't involve any crazy skills or equipment. The curried apples alone are beyond delish and a little too easy to eat right out of the frying pan. The jalapenos add just enough of a kick to the soup to balance out all the sweetness from the sweet potatoes and the bell peppers . It's still a very sweet soup though, its sweetness left me satisfied after just one bowl but at the same time I really want more. I am going to freeze the rest in individual sized portions and am looking forward to stumbling across it in my freezer in a few weeks time.

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