fall (and soup)

This time of year might be my second favorite (I’ve got a soft spot for deep winter that has yet to be usurped). But this is the time of year when the weather first starts to hint at cold. And when trees start dressing in their colorful finery, bit by bit. Then all at once the world is covered in red and gold and orange and you are suddenly surrounded by fall. This is the season of decorative gourds. Of costumes and candy. Of cinnamon and cider and houses that smell like spice.

This is the time of year when I feel most wistful and whimsical and downright sentimental. It makes me self-reflective (even more so than usual) and quiet (again, even more so than usual). What is it about fall that makes a person feel poetical and nostalgic?

This is the time of year when all I want to do is make soups and bake cookies and mull wine. It makes me want to indulge in and savor the process, the aromas, the flavors. Not because I want to necessarily have soup or eat cookies or drink mulled wine, but because it’s the time of year when I have the overwhelming urge to foist the fruits of that labor onto other people. And then indulge in and savor their reactions (gifting food is never purely altruistic).

I would have been making soups anyway with the weather turning (though it alternates between fall and just-kidding-it’s-80-degrees here), but I have another reason to do so. The Hubs just this past week had a Nissen fundoplication done (they wrap a part of your stomach around your esophagus) to deal with his increasingly worse reflux problem. Now he’s on a temporary liquid diet while he heals and is shuffling about the house like an ailing zombie – I mean, what would you expect after getting stabbed in the abdomen six times? (It was a laparoscopic procedure with a robot, hence the series of small stabbings instead of a giant incision.)

So after driving home from a stint in IA for his surgery, I made a curried carrot and sweet potato soup. It turned out better than I expected – golden and smooth, warm from garam masala, a bit a body from a swirl of cream. I should have taken some pictures of the process, but I was so excited to kick off soup season I just completely forgot. I’m also largely terrible at writing down recipes because I tend to do things by feel and taste, so I rarely have accurate measurements (except for baking). But the Hubs keeps saying that I should try so that I can record some of the things that I make. So here’s an attempt with that caveat.

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fall in a bowl – that’s not a command, just an observation

Curried Carrot and Sweet Potato Soup
8-10 carrots, diced
2 medium sweet potatoes, diced
1 medium onion, diced
4-5 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
1-2 tablespoons of coconut oil (I like the scent of this, but you could easily use butter or any oil of your choice, really.)
1 generous tablespoon of garam masala (or your own preferred curry spice mix)
½ tablespoon of ginger powder (I would have used fresh ginger, but didn’t have any on hand)
salt and pepper to taste
1 heaping spoonful of peanut butter
4-6 cups of chicken broth (or vegetable broth if you’re going completely veg)
1 lemon – juice, as well as a few strips of the yellow skin (not the pith)
a decent swirl of heavy cream

Heat a dutch oven or other soup-worthy vessel over medium to high heat and add a couple spoonfuls of coconut oil. Swirl to distribute and melt evenly.

Once shimmering, add diced onion and garlic. (If you have fresh ginger, chop it up and add it here.) Give things a good turn in the oil, and then just let it cook together until the onion is browning and translucent. Stir occasionally so the garlic doesn’t burn.

Add sweet potatoes and carrots, mixing everything together in the pot. Season with salt and pepper and garam masala. Add ginger powder here. (Once the Hubs recovers, I think I’ll make a version with just a touch of Kashmiri chili powder for some spice. I would add that here.)

Give everything some time to meld together – probably around 10 minutes or so – so that the vegetables are starting to soften and the spices are fragrant.

Add a spoonful of peanut butter (preferably something with a lower amount of added sugar, but you do you).

Pour in chicken broth to about 1 inch above the vegetables (definitely an estimate – just used the whole carton of store bought broth I had). Add half of the lemon juice and the pieces of lemon peel.

Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer for about 20 minutes until everything is nice and soft.

Turn off the heat, then blend in batches in a blender (crack the top for steam to escape) or blend in the pot with an immersion blender (my preference – one less thing to wash and no carting boiling soup around the kitchen).

Stir in a generous swirl of cream and the other half of the lemon juice, then taste and adjust seasoning if needed.

If you want to be fancy about it, serve with some spiced sour cream or parsley and cilantro or some toasted sunflower or pumpkin seeds. Or all or none of the above. It’s just fine as is.