Meatless Monday: Sweet on Sweet Potatoes
Unlike Mister MA, I’m a big fan of the sweet potato and I’m always looking for new ways to play with them. My latest discovery comes from Peter Berley’s “Fresh Food Fast” which suggests pairing up the sweets with coconut milk and ginger, plus other aromatic treats. Even more than the sheer comfort factor of slurping on a coconut milk-infused elixir on a cold evening, I love how versatile this recipe proves to be. Want to make it super spicy? Go ahead. Not interested in the greens? Leave ’em out. I even considered pureeing, but the sweet potatoes are so tender, they practically puree themselves on the tongue.
Berley suggests pairing the soup with a scoop of jasmine rice, a lovely idea that makes the soup feel more like a meal. Tempeh also enters this equation; it’s cut into strips and flash fried to make crispy, a terrific garnish for the soup bowl. I was surprised by how much I enjoyed this add-on; if you’re new to tempeh -- fermented soybean cakes with a smoky flavor and “meaty” texture -- crisping them up in the skillet is an easy and delicious way to get introduced. Of course, tempeh is optional; the sweet potatoes and coconut milk are fabulous all by themselves.
Spicy Coconut Sweet Potato Soup With Greens
Adapted from “Fresh Food Fast” by Peter Berley
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups diced onion (about 2 medium onions)
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger, peeled (about half the length of your thumb)
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 small jalapeno pepper with seeds, minced (Use chile of choice)
1 teaspoon coriander seeds, toasted and ground or 1 teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon turmeric
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks (about 4 cups – I found this equaled about 4 small sweet potatoes)
1 14-ounce can coconut milk
2 teaspoons coarse sea salt or Kosher salt (I reduced this amount to 1 ½ teaspoons)
1 small bunch collard greens, tough stems removed, leafs cut into ¼ inch wide strips (kale would work equally well, even bok choy)
1 limes, cut into wedges
½ cup roughly chopped cilantro, for garnish
In a large saucepan over medium heat, warm oil. Add onion and sauté until softened, 3-4 minutes.
Add ginger, garlic, chiles, plus the coriander and turmeric. With a wooden spoon, stir to coat aromatics with spices, creating a bit of a paste. Add sweet potatoes, 2 cups of water, coconut milk and salt. Increase heat, bring up to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer, covered, for about 15 minutes.
Add greens to soup and simmer, uncovered, until tender, about 10 minutes. Add extra water if soup is too thick.
Ladle soup and top with a spoonful of steamed rice and crispy tempeh strips (see details below). Squeeze lime and sprinkle with cilantro.
Crispy Tempeh Strips
1 8-ounce package of soy tempeh, cut into ¼-inch strips (I got about 10-12 pieces)
1 cup neutral oil (Canola, sunflower or grapeseed)
coarse sea salt or Kosher salt
In a large sauté pan over medium heat, warm oil until hot but not smoking. Fry tempeh in batches (don’t crowd pan) until golden brown on both sides, 3-4 minutes. Drain on paper towels and sprinkle with salt immediately.
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