We’ve been listening to a lot of Pete Seeger’s great album “Song and Play Time” – which apparently my brother and I listened to when we were kids – after my dad got Sierra hooked on “Ha, Ha, This-A-Way” while we were in California this summer. I don’t love a lot of the ‘popular’ children’s music out there but you really can’t beat Pete Seeger. It’s a truly lovely little album that becomes more catchy the more you listen to it. Funny how that happens. I’ve especially been humming “Soon As We Cook Sweet Potatoes” when I make soup, because, lucky me, I often can and do find yams/sweet potatoes (Japanese yams is what I think they are) here at the market. I’ve been tucking them into salads but mostly have been making vegetable soups heavy on the yams and whatever vegetables I have in the fridge.
I try to make at least a pot of soup a week, good enough for one night’s dinner, maybe a lunch or two, and at least 3-4 meals for baby bee. Sometimes I can get lots of good-looking spinach and so, like last week, the pot is a vivid green and my greedy, greens-loving heart is satisfied. This week I couldn’t get much of anything and so it’s more basic: carrots, yams, potatoes — still very good, though. I very lightly salt my soups now because I am trying to limit Sierra’s intake for these early years (and I probably should do this for myself, too, yes?) and very lightly season with whatever dried herbs – thyme, basil, herbs du Provence – I grab when I open the cupboard. You don’t need much; the yams make it just slightly sweet but they’re balanced by the more traditional potatoes to create a soup that’s mellow and full of good vegetable flavor. I puree it to make it just as smooth and velvety as can be and on a blustery and cool – finally! – fall day like today it’s just the thing.
Sierra seems as happy as we do to eat her thrice weekly servings of soup, particularly if I’ve made a batch of cornbread muffins to alongside. While at times she does eat her meals, as her babysitter says, comme un oiseau, she’s socking it away in much greater quantities than once she did. I try to strike a decent balance between pureed/smooth things, like soup or yogurt, and just regular old grown-up food cut up into bite-sized baby pieces. That way she will still get her vegetables (and fruits) in the form of soup or sauce but also gets to feed herself. And she definitely likes to do things herself; I have a feeling I was exactly the same way when I was her age.
Today’s recipe is written in proportions because as it goes I don’t really have hard and fast amounts for ingredients because I never know exactly what I can get. Something that can drive you crazy here is the utter undependability of the availability of stuff — so yes, some weeks there is glorious spinach and I make the most of it but then the next either the store/s inexplicably don’t carry it or it doesn’t look too good. Adaptability, thy name is perseverance! I’m grateful I’ve always been one who hasn’t been too married to recipes other than those for baking (and even there I’ve learned to fudge a bit when necessary). Thus I may miss my kale and chard and reliable spinach but after all as soon as we all cook sweet potatoes and eat em right straight up we may not notice we’re lacking — in anything.
Sweet Potato + Vegetable Soup
Things That Would Also Be Nice: one quarter of a bunch of chard, cut into thin ribbons, and stirred into the soup after it’s been pureed until it wilts; 2 sliced parsnips, added with the carrots; or the same amount of turnips, roughly chopped.
Makes 6 adult-sized servings.
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 medium red or yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, sliced
3 carrots, peeled and sliced into coins, then halved
1/3 sweet potatoes/yams, peeled and chopped up into 1-inch sized pieces
1/3 potatoes, peeled and chopped up into 1-inch sized pieces
1/3 fresh greens of choice, washed and roughly chopped
1 cup vegetable broth
3 cups vegetable broth or water
1-2 teaspoons dried herbs such as thyme, oregano, herbs du Provence, etc.
salt and pepper to taste
In a large heavy bottom soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and garlic, and cook for about 3 minutes until slightly soft. Add the carrots and cook a few minutes more.
Dump in the sweet potatoes and sweet potatoes, then add the broth and water. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and simmer until vegetables are tender, about 10-15 minutes. Add the greens and the dried herbs and cook until greens are wilted. In a blender or food processor – or using a stick blender – puree the soup until smooth. Salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot.