Thursday, February 6, 2014

Sweet Potato, Spinach, and Coconut Soup with Toasted Coconut and Almonds

Joe Yonan showed me how great sweet potato soup can be with greens and toasted nuts. And now I'm here to tell you it's great with both. I know I can't stop raving about it, but this will be the last you hear from me on this sweet potato soup, since I've enjoyed the basic version, two of Yonan's riffs, and now my own custom creation.

One of the greatest lessons I've relearned from this series of soups is to go beyond infusing the base with flavor and top it with something special as well. The rich and silky foundation, swirled with tender greens, would be delicious on its own, but it's the toasty crunch on top that makes the soup really extraordinary. My culinary obsessions ebb and flow, and because I'm currently occupied with incorporating all manner of coconut products into as many meals as possible, I'm quite pleased with the layered coconut flavor and texture this recipe achieves.

I've enthusiastically enjoyed each of the sweet potato soup variations, but I can't wait to move on Yonan's other concentrated soup base recipe - spicy black bean. After all those sweet and silky bites, I think I'm ready for a little heat.

Sweet Potato, Spinach, and Coconut Soup with Toasted Coconut and Almonds
makes 1 serving

1 cup Sweet Potato Soup Base, defrosted if frozen (see recipe below)
1/4 cup coconut milk (or coconut cream, for an even richer soup)
1/4 cup water or vegetable stock, or additional coconut milk, plus more as needed
2 ounces baby spinach or kale
Kosher or sea salt
1 tablespoons sliced almonds
1 tablespoon unsweetened coconut flakes

1. Pour the soup base into a small saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the orange juice and water, adding more water if you want a thinner consistency. Cook until the soup is bubbling hot, 3 to 4 minutes. Add spinach and cook until it is wilted, 2 to 3 minutes. Taste and add salt if needed. Decrease the heat to low, cover, and keep it hot.

2. Heat a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add the almonds and coconut and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are fragrant and lightly browned, about 4 to 5 minutes.

3. Pour the soup into a serving bowl, top with the almonds and coconut, and serve warm.

Sweet Potato Soup Base
from Serve Yourself by Joe Yonan
makes about 4 cups

2 (10- to 12-ounce) sweet potatoes
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
1 celery stalk, thinly sliced
1 small leek, white and pale greens, thinly sliced
2 sprigs thyme
Kosher or sea salt
Pinch of curry powder
2 cups light chicken or vegetable stock, warmed

1. Preheat the oven to 425°F.

2. Use a fork or sharp knife to prick the sweet potatoes in several places. Place on a piece of aluminum foil
and bake until the sweet potatoes are tender and can be easily squeezed, 60 to 75 minutes.
(Alternatively, to speed up the process, microwave the pricked sweet potatoes on High for 1 minute,
then carefully transfer to the oven on a piece of foil. Bake until the potatoes are tender, 30 to 45

3. Pour the oil into a 3-quart saucepan over medium heat. When it starts to shimmer, add the carrots,
celery, leek, thyme, and a pinch of salt. Stir to combine well, then decrease the heat to low, cover the
pot, and allow the vegetables to sweat in their own juices until very soft, 10 to 15 minutes. (Take care
not to allow the vegetables to burn.)

4. Scrape into the saucepan the soft flesh from the roasted sweet potatoes, add the curry powder, and stir
to combine, mashing the sweet potato flesh with a spoon. The mixture will be chunky. Stir in the stock
and combine well. Bring the mixture to a boil, then decrease the heat so the mixture gently simmers, and
cook, covered but with the lid slightly ajar, for about 15 minutes to let the flavors meld. Allow the mixture
to cool slightly, then remove and discard the thyme.

5. Use a handheld immersion blender to puree the soup base, which will be very thick. (Alternatively, you
can puree it in a blender or food processor. If using a blender, be sure to remove the center cap on the
lid and cover with a dish towel to let steam escape, and work in small batches to avoid splattering the
soup.) Taste and add salt if needed.

6. Let the soup base cool to room temperature. Divide it into 4 portions and use immediately, refrigerate
for up to 2 weeks, or freeze in small containers or heavy-duty freezer-safe resealable plastic bags,
pressing as much air out of the bag as possible before sealing. It will keep frozen for several months.

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