It can be hard to warm up when the world looks like this:
Doesn’t that sight just make you want to curl up inside a warm loaf of bread? Yeah, me too. We’re in the midst of weather so cold that the mayor has issued a “cold advisory” and the newspaper is writing stories about it.
Fortunately, soup was created for seasons just like this. Unfortunately, my soup repertoire can be somewhat limited. I’ve about had it with lentil lately… I’ve made it like six times since the fall, and that doesn’t count all the times that I made lentils as a side dish. Hence, I’ve been trying to explore new soup frontiers.
I came home the other night and found half a butternut squash on its last legs in the fridge. Rummaging around the vegetable drawer revealed an onion, some carrots and a sweet potato (yam? what’s the difference?). And so, sunshine soup was born. I can’t totally take credit for this. My friend Kim has been making a soup along these lines for a long time, and now that I have an immersion blender, I no longer have to wait for a dinner invitation.
The color of this soup is bound to brighten your day, even when the sun refuses to come out. And it’s hearty creaminess will warm you from the inside, even when the thermometer doesn’t make it much past zero (that’s Fahrenheit, folks). Chicky was so enamored by it that she refused to let my mother take home leftovers. I know, I know. What kind of children are we?
Cook’s note: I’ve been really into various varieties of oils lately, and have been experimenting with them in my soups etc. I love the heady savoriness of a truffle oil or the satisfying nuttiness of pumpkin seed oils…. They add another dimension to the dish that you’re not likely to find elsewhere. If you’re interested in trying them, you can find pumpkin, hazelnut and truffle oil at your local Whole Foods, or natural market. If $20 for an 8 ounce can seems a bit steep, don’t sweat it. This soup will taste perfectly great without. I know because I ate the leftovers just plain and they were delish.
Sunshine soup with fried sage and pumpkin seed oil
(Not to be confused with Nigella Lawson’s soup of the same name and similar color, but drastically different ingredients.)
I medium yellow onion, diced
1 lb butternut squash cut into 1-inch dice
1 large sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1-inch dice
2-3 full size carrots, or 14 baby ones, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 Tablespoons chopped fresh sage
6 cups vegetable stock
3/4 cup evaporated milk
salt and pepper to taste
10-15 fresh, whole sage leaves, washed and dried
5 Tablespoons vegetable oil
4-6 teaspoons pumpkin seed oil
Heat a large saucepan over medium-high heat with a few good glugs of olive oil. When oil is hot add onions and stir until translucent and soft, about two minutes. Add squash, carrots and sweet potato, and stir to blend. Add sage and vegetable stock and cover. When stock comes to a boil reduce heat and let simmer 20 to 30 minutes. Add more stock if necessary.
While the squash cooks, fry the sage. Heat 5 tablespoons of vegetable oil in a small frying pan over high heat (don’t use olive oil, it will smoke before it gets hot enough). When the oil is hot, add sage leaves a few at a time to the pan. BE CAREFUL! The oil may splatter. The sage leaf will contract and then start to turn brown after about 5 seconds, so you need to remove them quickly from the pan, either with tongs or a slotted spoon. I generally add the sage, count to seven and then take it out of the pan. Put the sage on a paper towel to drain and sprinkle liberally with sea salt.
Return to your pot. When the vegetables are soft, turn off the heat. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup smooth, and then mix in the evaporated milk. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Spoon soup into bowls and drizzle with a teaspoon of pumpkin seed oil. Crumble fried sage over the top.
Serves 4-6 depending on your appetite.