It has been way too long – years, it feels like, but only weeks in actual time. Thank you all so much for your kind words and well wishes for my father. I am happy to report that he is doing much better and will hopefully be leaving the hospital any day now. As for me, I left the hospital, and my family, with a whole new outlook and an experience I will never forget.
I promised duck fat fries, but after two weeks of eating take-out in the hospital’s waiting room, I was in need of some nutrients. I have to say, eating “healthy” on Long Island is quite a challenge. The nearest Whole Foods was ten miles away, and even organic milk was in limited supply.
I put healthy in quotes because people out there seem to have a different idea of what healthy means. To me, healthy means natural. It means unprocessed, free of chemicals, whole. To others, it means fat-free, low in calories or lacking carbs. Long Islanders overall seem not too concerned about what is in their food, as long as it won’t make them fat. I’m exaggerating, a little, by painting this “me vs. them” mentality, but it’s really not too far from the truth. I understand it’s not always easy –or possible – to find organic local produce, but I do have one suggestion for my fellow Long Islanders: Look at your labels. If you are buying fat-free, fortified or gluten –free foods, read the ingredients first, and if there are two or more you can’t pronounce, put it back. It’s not worth it.
At my first trip back to the farmers’ market I was greeted by squash, peppers, almonds, pecans, carrots, apples and the slight chill of autumn in Berkeley. As I was paying for my gianormous buttercup squash, I spotted bright red organic sweet potatoes beckoning to be pureed into a soup. I added coconut milk, chicken stock, fried sage leaves and a drizzle of fresh Olio Nuevo. If I was cooking Thanksgiving dinner this year, this soup would undoubtedly be on the menu.
A word on chicken stock: I know it’s a pain to make your own chicken stock – really, I know. There’s nothing fun about picking through bones and skimming off fat. I do think it’s worth the time and effort, but realistically, it doesn’t happen often, even in my kitchen. But, I do go out of my way to find high-quality stock when I don’t make my own. First, ask your local butcher if they have homemade stock. If not, look for Stock Options. It’s second best to homemade. I used the roasted chicken broth for this soup, but the vegetable Stock would work just as well.
Roasted Sweet Potato Soup with Fried Sage
Serves 5 Cook time: About 1 hour
3 ½ pounds organic sweet potatoes, peeled and quartered
1 can coconut milk
3-4 cups homemade or high-quality chicken stock (depending on how thick you like your soup. I used a little over 3 cups)
1 bunch organic fresh sage
4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
3 large shallots, peeled and chopped
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Freshly ground black pepper
Preheat your oven to 425F. Arrange sweet potatoes on a baking sheet and drizzle on about 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil. Add salt and pepper, and toss with your hands to coat. Roast for 30 minutes, flipping the potatoes after 25 minutes.
Finely chop about 6 sage leaves. Pour coconut milk into a small space pan, and throw in chopped sage. Cook on low heat until it simmers, and take off heat. Set aside.
Heat up a Dutch oven on medium heat and add 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add shallots and cook for 3 minutes, until translucent. Add garlic and continue cooking for 2 more minutes. Throw in roasted sweet potatoes and stir. Cook for 5 minutes. Lower heat and add coconut milk – stir – and add 2 cups of chicken stock. Continue to stir, breaking up the sweet potatoes with the back of your spoon. Stir in the rest of the chicken stock, a little at a time, until fully incorporated. Add a sprinkle of salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper. Cover and cook for 15 minutes.
Pour soup into a food processor and puree until smooth. When serving, drizzle on high-quality olive oil and top with fried sage.
Fried Sage Leaves:
Heat up olive oil in a small cast iron pan. Add sage leaves and cook for one minute. Drain on a paper towel.
I almost forgot! Thanks to everyone who voted for Local Lemons for the Foodbuzz awards. Although I didn’t take home a prize, it was an incredible event and I was honored to even be in the running. I’m working on a new Local Lemons facebook fan page, and will post event photos shortly.
Where I Shopped:
Organic sweet potatoes and organic sage: Happy Boy Farms, Temescal Farmers Market in Oakland
Organic shallots and garlic: Avalos Farms, Temescal Market in Oakland
Stock Options roasted chicken stock: Ver Brugge, Oakland
Olio Nuevo: California Olive Ranch (I received the bottle for free at the Foodbuzz Olive Oil Tasting seminar. But honestly, I was planning on buying it anyway)