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Let me preface this post by admitting that I am not a soup person.  Soups are frequently too… well… soupy.  Canned chicken noodle or tomato soup?  Not really.  I know that when most people are sick they look forward to soup and the person who brings it to them.  I on the other hand, face a sore throat with dread, knowing that soup may be the only thing that I’ll be capable of eating, but that the ubiquitous chicken noodle soup is literally the last thing that I will want.

I’m sure that now you’re wondering, “if that’s the case, then why on earth would you choose soup as the very first thing that you post on this blog?”  Because things started to change a couple of years ago, when I first tried fresh butternut squash soup.  I found out that, instead of being a hands down soup-hater, I LOVE soup that is thick, comforting, viscous, creamy – think the kind of soup that toppings can sit on top of, without sinking straight to the bottom and dissolving in the watery broth.  Typically these are purées or cream based soups, and I particularly like soups that take advantage of the rich flavors of fall and winter.

For me, this carrot and sweet potato soup is a perfect example of those soups.  It’s full of warm, tangy, spicy flavors, and it comes together with limited  time commitment.  (Frequently I roast the carrots and sweet potatoes first [with olive oil, salt and pepper] for a more complex flavor, but last night skipped that step in favor of quickness, and it was still delicious.)  We served it with steamed sugar snap peas, cheesy beer bread (I’ll post it soon!) and Cabernet Sauvignon, and it made for a great meal.

And where was Jazz, the namesake of this blog, during this soup-making adventure?  Being himself of course; running around scarfing up any bit of sweet potato he could find… here he is begging for what he thinks is potato.  His dismay when he found out it was a slice of carrot was quite entertaining.

This makes for a feel-good meal, I promise!  How could you go wrong with carrots, sweet potatoes, ginger and plenty of warm spices?  Not to mention the lovely orange color, which could cheer up even the gloomiest winter evening.

Start by collecting what you’ll need.  Chicken stock and the spices aren’t shown here, because the stock is already heating in the little pot on the right, and I simply hadn’t delved into the spice cabinet yet. (For a vegetarian friendly version just sub in vegetable stock!)

Next you’ll want to mince your onions and ginger, and wash, peel and chop up the carrots and sweet potatoes.

Heat up the olive oil in a pan, then add the onion and ginger.  Cook it until it’s fragrant and the onion is translucent, taking care not to burn the ginger.

Once the onion and ginger have had a chance to saute, add the chicken stock, carrots and potatoes.  Take care to make sure that all of the ginger and onion have been scraped from the bottom of the pan so they don’t burn.  Simmer for half an hour and vegetables can be pierced easily by a knife.

Now it’s time to puree your soup using either a free-standing blender or an immersion blender.  I used the immersion blender I received for Christmas.  If you like your soups really smooth, a real blender is the way to go.  Since I prefer to have some of the original texture left, immersion is perfect, not to mention easier.

(Be sure to cool the soup a little if you are going to transfer it to a blender, both to avoid burns and to limit the chance that steam will blow the lid off your blender: BIG mess, trust me.)

Now that the soup is pureed, it’s time to season it.  Start with half a cup each of orange juice and half & half (I cheated and used some leftover orange juice concentrate from a fruit salad dressing.  I found that roughly two tablespoons was perfect).  Then start adding your spices.  I will warn you though- this soup has a good kick courtesy of the fresh ginger and the dry spices, so take the time to start adding the spices slowly, give them a moment or two to meld, and then add more spice as needed.  Everyone’s taste buds can handle different levels of spice, so tune it yourself!  If you find that you’ve already passed the point of no return and your tongue is burning, try adding additional orange juice and cream to mellow it out… topping with sour cream or Greek yogurt will help as well.

If you prefer a sweeter soup, try replacing the dry spices used here with cinnamon, nutmeg, and a dash or two of pumpkin pie spice, which will make for a more typical ginger flavored soup.  Don’t leave out the salt and pepper though!  It’s a completely different set of flavors, but equally good.

Spicy Carrot and Sweet Potato Soup
Adapted from Bon Appétit, December 1998: Gingered Carrot Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup minced onion
1/4 cup peeled minced ginger
3 1/2 cups chicken or vegetable stock (may need additional depending on preference)
2 1/2 cups peeled chopped carrots (approximate)
3 1/2 cups peeled chopped sweet potatoes (approximate)

Seasonings- all should be added to taste:
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup half and half
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon chili powder

Optional: Roast the carrots and sweet potatoes with salt, pepper and olive oil until tender, and reduce simmering time– will only need time to heat and for flavors to blend.

1.  Heat oil in the pot which you will cook your soup in.  When hot, add onion and ginger.  Sauté until onion is translucent- stir frequently so ginger does not burn.

2. Add chicken stock, carrots and sweet potatoes. Stir– being sure to mix in all ginger and onion so it doesn’t burn.  Simmer (don’t boil) until the vegetables are easily pierced with a knife.

3. Puree soup in pot with immersion blender, or in batches in a conventional blender until it reaches desired consistency, adding additional stock if necessary.  If serving immediately, return to stove and follow step four.  If not, refrigerate and complete step four before serving.

4.  Add orange juice and half and half.  Add spices and mix thoroughly– start slowly and taste, adding spice as desired.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  If desired, soup can be garnished with sour cream, shredded carrots or fresh ginger.

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