January 15, 2010
You know what I just spent 74 minutes doing? Chiseling ice out of a troublesome spot on our rooftop deck, prompted by a fresh ceiling stain on the floor below. The endeavor involved a hair dryer, an extension cord, a towel, a broom, a pair of scissors, copious cursing, fingertips teetering on the very edge of frostbite, and a moist wind nipping at my arse three stories above a frozen lake.
So! Now that you know all about my Friday evening, how about that soup I promised you in the title?
Leek and potato soup with a twist
- 4-5 fingerling potatoes
- 1 blue potato
- 2 purple yams
- 1 turnip
- 1 leek
- 10 cups water
- 1 can coconut milk
- something pretty for garnish
- salt and pepper to taste
- any other seasonings you feel like (let’s see… I seem to recall some lemon pepper and oregano)
- Boil all the vegetables in seasoned water until tender (approximately 20 minutes).
- Add coconut milk.
- Blend in the food processor, or with one of these magic bunnies.
The end product was rather surprising to me, I must say. It almost had a licorice-like undertone (purple yams, is that you?), but not to the point where a licorice-hater (moi) would be turned off.
And let me just say, on a final note, that I fully realize that my faint ceiling spot and my soup with fancy tubers are truly ridiculous compared to what’s going on in Haiti as I type. My heart hurts.
I despise sweet potatoes. In fact, “despise” seems like too weak a word. Abhor, perhaps? Truly, I never understood them: what a horrible surprise to have your potato taste like dessert! When would you possibly want to eat that?
My first official encounter with the offending tuber was at an otherwise wonderful Thanksgiving meal during my freshman year in college. One of my favorite professors graciously incorporated a couple of our Mediterranean selves into his family’s celebration, since we were otherwise just going to eat lukewarm ramen perched on the edge of a mattresses in a deserted dorm on a gray New England eve.
And let me tell you, that Thanksgiving was simply lovely. We were enveloped in a large and diverse family and felt instantly at home. Then, when the turkey was carved and the side dishes passed around, I followed everyone’s lead and heaped piles of inexplicable orange stuff on my plate. Surely, I thought, this is some American delicacy I am going to love. But whoa! Somehow, all of a sudden, mysterious dessert items were touching the meat! What was this, some sort of a carrot concoction gone terribly wrong? And how was I going to get it off my plate in front of three faculty members who were asking me all sorts of questions demanding thoughtful responses?
So I ate the orange heaps. And holy smoke, the stuff was worse than it looked. When I politely inquired about its contents, horrifying things came up: marshmallows! orange juice! brown sugar! I know that this paragraph contains more exclamation marks than the legal limit, but I don’t quite know how else to convey the utter horror I felt with every bite.
And wouldn’t you know it, the darn tubers have just continued to reappear in my life since then. I finally established a truce with a pecan-covered sweet potato dish that my husband prepares every November, but would I ever buy sweet potatoes outside that very specific Thanksgiving requirement? Heck no.
However, last week I stumbled across some unexpected sweet potato inspiration. And more inspiration. And then some more. And I thought, perhaps there’s something I’ve been missing all along? So yesterday, at our last farmers’ market of the season, I collected the following:
- ~5 sweet potatoes claiming to be “THE BEST” (perhaps that’s the trick, eh? these were the long purply dudes I rarely see in stores)
- 2 blue potatoes
- ~5 white potatoes
- 1 carrot
- 1 yellow beet
- 2 sunchokes
- 2 small onions
I partially peeled them, cut them all up into bite-sized pieces, and added:
- olive oil (generously!)
- a sprinkle of balsamic vinegar (just because it seemed right)
- a couple of pinches of dried oregano
- a couple of generous shakes of salt (I used my precious)
And then I just tossed the whole thing into the 375F oven for ~45 minutes. Imagine my surprise, then, when a truly amazing dish, within which sweet potatoes were both sufficiently disguised and definitely noticeable, emerged:
… begging to be served over quinoa, to a skeptical husband who had claimed that sweet potatoes are only worth one’s time in a desserty incarnation. HA!