October 11, 2012

Spicy Root Vegetable & Leek Soup (Recipe)

Sometimes you just get lucky.

The original recipes I post on Catfish's Dishes get here a variety of ways.  Some are long held family recipes, the stuff I was making long before I ever felt like writing about it.  Some were once other peoples' recipes, but have mutated so much under my watch that I feel fully justified in calling them my own.  Some are even proper "blog" recipes--things I created entirely for the purpose of writing about them, the sort of dish that involves planning, research, and possibly even failed attempts.
But like I said, sometimes it's luck.  Sometimes you just go into the kitchen and cook, and what you end up with is spectacular.  Really, all of my best soups are happy accidents, but when I realized a simple mathematical formula that had eluded me (multiple posts in one week + pictures not taken with a cell phone = somewhat profitable blog) I took the proactive step of keeping my camera in my kitchen at all times.  Last night, my anticipation finally rewarded me.  I had some leeks on hand, but I'd used the last of my potatoes making home fries, so a traditional leek soup was out.  But thanks to the cast-offs of friends who garden, I did have some sweet potatoes as well as a few other root vegetables.  With nothing but a patchwork of ideas in mind, I set out to see if sweet potatoes played as well with leeks as their more common relative does.

First, you'll need to prepare the leeks.  Slice them thinly, working your way up from the root end until it branches off, and discard the tough upper green shoots.  Leeks are notoriously bad about holding onto dirt, so be sure to rinse them thoroughly before cooking.
Cumin seeds add much more flavor than ground.
Heat three tablespoons of butter on medium heat in a large pot.  When the butter has melted and is bubbling, add the sliced leeks, along with one jalapeno, finely diced (seeds included--this is still a creamy soup, and while there is a decent level of spice, the other ingredients hold the pepper down to "medium salsa" levels of spice,) and two teaspoons each of salt and cumin seeds.  Cook the leeks just like you would onions in most soup recipes, stirring them occasionally until they start to become soft and mildly translucent.

Once they have softened, it is time for the root vegetables.  Add four cups of thinly sliced sweet potato, along with a cup each of beets and carrots, also sliced thin.  Although the texture--and a lot of the subtle flavors--of this soup come from the sweet potato, the beets are a dominant presence even at a 1-4 ratio.  Add four cups of vegetable broth and let the soup cook away at medium heat for twenty minutes, stirring occasionally. At this point, the flavor of the soup will be dominated by the beets and the jalapeno, but that will change as we move on to the next step.
Don't let the orange fool you.  Beets will dominate the final color of this soup.
After the soup has cooked twenty minutes, the potatoes, beets, and carrots will be soft enough to mash with a potato masher.  Squish them to a paste, and then add a pint of half and half, along with the juice of one lemon, a teaspoon of paprika, and two tablespoons each of chili powder and cumin, along with salt to taste.  Simmer another ten minutes, stirring often.
You can make it as smooth/chunky as you like.
The resulting soup was pretty wonderful.  I was especially glad to have created it as the vegetarian friend whose presence shaped the content of this blog over the summer will be visiting again at the end of the month, and I am glad to have a new trick to show her.  Just serve it with a dollop of sour cream, and you are good to go--although, while I think it's great as it, I kept having an inkling that what would really put it over the top would be a simple chilled corn salsa (corn, lime, onion, cilantro) alongside the sour cream--either way it's a tasty and quite simple vegetarian soup to add to your fall and winter line-up.

1 comment:

  1. Wow, that looks and sounds amazing! I am a huge soup fan, and like you said, soups are usually "happy accidents." Soups like this are the reasons why Fall is my favorite season!