This is soooooo good! A long time ago I read a post by legalmoose describing an ongoing event he hosts called Soup Night, and after all these months I've finally started my own Soup Night. Here's what I made for tonight. Day-um is it good! The soup is from Very Vegetarian (with a few modifications), and the cilantro cream is modified from The Millennium Cookbook. Sorry, no picture because it frankly looks kind of ugly, at least the way I made it. But ignore that and make this!
Spicy Sweet Potato Soup
2 tsp. cumin seeds
1 Tbsp. oil
3 med. onions, cut in medium dice
4 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
1/2 bunch celery, cut in medium dice
2 medium carrots, cut in medium dice
1 1/2 tsp. ancho chili powder (I used something called "California" chili powder. Just make sure it's mild and just chilis rather than a blend of stuff)
2 tsp. grated fresh ginger (don't skip this! It's subtle, but you can taste it, and you will love it.)
8 cups water or vegetable stock (I used water with Better than Bouillon, which is on the spendy end, but I like it for a nice, neutral broth)
3 lbs. sweet potatoes (I used the dryish, pale yellow kind), peeled and cut into 1- to 2-inch cubes
1 small dried chipotle or 1/2 canned chipotle, drained (I used 2 tsp. chipotle powder--much easier to adjust heat)
1/4 cup fresh lemon or lime juice
Salt and pepper
Toast the cumin seeds in a dry soup pot over medium heat until they begin to brown. (I took them out at this point and ground them in a mortar) Add the oil and raise the heat to medium-high. Add the onions, garlic, celery, and carrots. Cook without stirring until the vegetables brown slightly (this will take some patience and restraint). When the vegetables have begun to brown add the spices. Cook until vegetables are fairly soft.
Add the stock and the sweet potatoes. Cook until the sweet potatoes are very soft, just about falling apart, about 40 minutes (less for me--maybe 20-30?). Taste the soup and add chipotle if not using powder. Remember that the heat of the chipotle will continue to develop over the next day or so, so if you are heat-averse, be conservative at this point.
Puree the soup and return it to the pot (you'll need to do this in stages unless you have an industrial-size blender). Add the lemon juice and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Top with toasted pumpkin seeds, fresh cilantro leaves, and/or the cilantro-lime cream given below. This makes an enormous amount. Like over a gallon. I'm banking that it will freeze well.
1/2 cup raw cashews
1/4 cup fresh lime (or lemon) juice
1 tsp. light miso
3/4 cup water
1/2 bunch cilantro, coarsely chopped
1 clove garlic
In a blender or food processor combine cashews, garlic, miso, and 1/4 cup of the water. Blend until fairly smooth. Add the rest of the water and blend until completely smooth. You will think it's going to take forever, but it's worth it. Add the cilantro and salt to taste. Blend again until cilantro is mostly blended, leaving green flecks in a lighter green cream. Add more water if you want it thinner. Swirl a dollop into your soup and go to town.