I served both of these lovely soups at dinner parties, where wonderful friends were gathered. I was excited to share my affection for squash and sweet potatoes, especially when they are blended into luscious soups.
It's fun and delicious to top the soups with whatever you have on hand - herbs, cheeses, yogurt, or in this case, creme fraiche and harissa, for an extra shot of flavor and interest.
SWEET POTATO COCONUT SOUP
1 1/2 tablespoons oil
1 onion, chopped
1 tablespoon of fresh ginger, grated
pinch of red pepper flakes
3 cups chicken stock
1 1/2 pounds of sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into cubes
1 1/2 cups of coconut milk
1 tablespoon of clover honey
large pinch of ground cinnamon
Heat oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and ginger, cook until soft, 5 minutes. Add red pepper flakes and cook for 30 seconds. Add stock and water, bring to a boil. Add sweet potatoes, bring to a simmer. Cook until potatoes are soft, 20 to 30 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes.
Process with an immersion blender until smooth.
Simmer over low heat. Whisk in coconut milk, honey and cinnamon.
Cook until warmed through. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
SPICED BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 tespoon ground turmeric
1 teaspoon ground white pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 onion, chopped
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
2 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into cubes
2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cups water
2 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup creme fraiche
1/4 pound aged gouda, shredded
freshly ground black pepper
MAKE THE SPICE BLEND
In a small bowl, combine all of the ingredients.
MAKE THE SOUP
In a large heavy pot, toss the onion with the olive oil and 1 teaspoon of salt. Cover and cook over moderately-low heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is very soft, about 10 minutes. Stir in the squash, cover with a lid and cook for 20 minutes.
Add the tomato paste, 1 teaspoon of the spice blend and the water to the pot, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the squash is tender, 20 minutes. Let cool.
Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender, or use an immersion blender. Add the creme fraiche, 3/4 of the cheese and 1 teaspoon of the harissa to the last batch. Return all of the soup to the pot and season with salt and black pepper. Serve the soup, passing the remaining cheese and more harissa at the table.
Recipe adapted from Food and Wine, October 2011