Ladies and gentlemen,
I know you must all be confused.
Not too long ago I made a bold claim that I did not (absolutely did not) like sweet potatoes. Nor butternut squash for that matter. In fact, winter squash and I were not really friends at all.
Things have obviously changed in the past few months.
I've resigned myself to the fact that I will probably not eat berries again until June. Or juicy, ripe summer tomatoes until August.
I can't bring myself to purchase out of season zucchini, as versatile as it is to cook with.
Instead, I have been learning to live in harmony with the seasons. I would dare say that most Americans have no idea of what grows naturally at any given moment-- or where. I mostly blame the agrifood industry, as large supermarket chains provide us comfortably and conveniently with flora and fauna from all over the world. There are no seasons in the grocery store. Everything is always "in season."
But when you learn to eat in the moment, produce becomes all the more special. I'm sure when June comes along, I will savor fresh, ripe, local berries. And instead of picking up a styrofoam package of tomatoes that were injected with Ethylene Gas to make them ripen just in time for their debut on the supermarket shelves, and that were also grown and picked by slave laborers, I will dutifully wait until August to devour homemade roasted tomato sauce by the pint.
So what does this have to do with sweet potatoes? Anyone who lives in the North East knows that fresh local produce in the wintertime is not exactly abundant. What is abundant are root vegetables, potatoes, winter squash, hardy greens, and the like. So I decided to become friends with them.
A few recipes that helped me change my mind about sweet potatoes:
Sweet Potato Fries!
& THIS SOUP
Honestly, I think the reason I didn't care for them before was due to their preparation. I had always eaten them candy-sweet, loaded with brown sugar or maple syrup, buried under mountains of marshmallows, and other gross stuff like that. I think I've mentioned before I don't like my savory food to be sweet. And with sweet potatoes, I think just what they need is a sharp contrast of salty, tangy, and/or creamy.
A few words of praise for this luxurious soup: Sweet potatoes are simple, if not humble creatures. But underneath a layer of dirty brown skin, there is a world of potential. This soup starts out homely. When the sweet potatoes are done cooking in the broth, you might think that I'm trying to serve you sweet potato puree. But wait! Add a generous drizzle of cream and swirl it in. Follow with a couple of pinches (who is measuring?) of hot red pepper flakes, a few grinds of pink Himalayan salt, and top with your favorite creamy blue Gorgonzola. In my mind's eye, it's like dressing up jeans and a T-shirt by adding a blazer, heels, and a shiny necklace. This soup seriously blows my mind.
Fancy Sweet Potato Soup
1 tbsp butter or olive oil (I used a combination of both)
1 small onion, chopped
1 pound sweet potatoes, scrubbed, peeled, and cut into a rough ½-inch dice
2 cups good quality vegetable broth
Generous amount of heavy cream (or, if you're a wimp, milk or half-and-half, or a combination)
Couple of pinches of hot red pepper flakes, or to taste
Salt, to taste (I used pink Himalayan salt)
Generous sprinkling of crumbled Gorgonzola cheese for each serving, for garnishing
In a medium saucepan or Dutch oven, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the chopped onion, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. If it starts to brown you can lower the heat a little. Add the sweet potatoes, along with the vegetable broth, and bring to a boil over moderately high heat. Lower heat so that the soup is just simmering, cover, and let cook about 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the sweet potatoes are tender enough that they are easily crushed against the wall of the saucepan.
Using an immersion blender, puree the soup until completely smooth. (You could also transfer the soup to a blender). The soup will be VERY thick! That's why you want add heavy cream. Add as much as you desire, a little at a time, to make the soup thinner. This will also make it super luxurious. Add the red pepper flakes and salt to taste. Serve in pretty bowls and garnish each serving with a generous sprinkling of Gorgonzola.