Weeknight Soup Improv
The workday had been long, and still at 6:30 last night, dinner remained a remote concept. As I worked my way through the produce bin of the fridge, I was greeted by a few sweet potatoes purchased over the weekend at the farmer's market.
What could I pull together with these, I wondered, in about an hour? I needed something that would feel like a meal, rather than just a part of a whole, so roasted sweets were out of the question. A soup, however, might do the trick.
I continue wading through the bin and pull out an apple and an onion. A few snips with the shears and I have some fresh thyme from the backyard. What else could I add...Ah! A few garlic cloves, a portion of a chile pepper, a small hunk of peeled fresh ginger.
Okay, so by now, I've got the sweet potatoes and apple as my base, with thyme, garlic and onion doing savory aromatic duty, chile and ginger taking care of the heat, but in order to make this equation complete, I needed something to bring out the sweetness of the sweet potatoes. A cinnamon stick might be nice, and will love playing with the apple as well.
After peeling and chopping, I throw everything into a large heavy-bottomed pot. No oil to get things started; I had no time to spare. Tonight's "stock" would be water, and just enough to barely-cover everything.
I bring the mixture up to a boil, then reduced the heat, covered the pot and let all the goodies talk to each other for about 30 minutes, until the sweet potatoes are very fork tender.
With the cinnamon stick and thyme sprigs removed, I could proceed with pureeing my ad-hoc mixture. This is when a hand-held stick blender really comes in handy; this marvelous contraption allows you to puree directly in the pot. Be careful with hot liquids, which like to spatter.
The puree is smooth albeit a few minor chunks, but acceptable for a last-minute dinner. But as the proud owner of a new food mill, I can't resist hand-cranking out those chunks through the blade. The result is smooth and velvety on the tongue.
I return the puree to the pot, add a little more water for thinning and salt to taste. I sip and get a well-balanced spoonful of heat, sugar, spice and earth.
One hour later, dinner is ready. Who says last-minute cooking can't be glorious?
Have a favorite ad hoc, throw-together dinner up your sleeve? Share in the comments area below.
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