I started writing this article to submit it well before Thanksgiving, but life had other plans and I had to abandon my original plan. What I wanted to say, however, is still relevant and the recipe still in season, so I picked up where I left off and finished it.
My big heartfelt thanks to local farmers and food producers, who this year met new challenges, adjusted and continued to provide great food to the community. If the pandemic was not disruptive enough, the fire season brought evacuation and unhealthy air to the mix. Still, farmers worked outdoors, harvested crops and brought fresh produce to farmers' markets, grocery stores, farm stands and CSA shareholders.
I would also like to offer a big thank you to the North Coast Growers' Association (NCGA) for their efforts in keeping the Arcata and other summer farmers markets on schedule and adhering to safety protocols aimed at protecting vendors and patrons. Visiting the markets has remained a bright light during these dark months of social isolation.
Thank you also, dear farmers, NCGA and food producers for devising ways to make shopping safe with market boxes, online sales, contactless payments and curbside pick-up. As patrons, we also made adjustments, of course, wearing masks at all times, standing in line according to the signage, but I cannot imagine how we would have fared without the amazing local products brought to us week after week, rain or shine or smoke, always with a smile. Again, thank you.
While I don't need special prodding to make soup any time of the year, cold temperatures turn my liking into craving. The recipe on this page includes seasonal ingredients: orange-fleshed sweet potato and butternut squash, plus carrots, all contributing to a brightly colored end result. I love this soup because it is creamy, flavorful and comforting, guaranteed to cheer you up no matter how gray the sky is. I call it my Giving Thanks Soup.
Sweet Potato and Butternut Squash Giving Thanks Soup
1 pound 2 ounces butternut squash (a small squash or half of a larger one)
1 pound sweet potato
7 ounces carrots
10 ounces onion
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 cloves garlic (3 if small), peeled
1 inch fresh ginger, skin scraped off
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon ground coriander
¼ teaspoon paprika
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth, preferably homemade
3 cups water, more as needed for desired consistency
1⁄8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
½ to 1 teaspoon fine sea salt, to taste
Flat-leaf parsley, minced, for optional garnish
Place two racks in the oven. Heat the oven to 375 F. Prepare a baking sheet and an open-sided cookie sheet, each lined with a silicone baking mat.
Halve the squash lengthwise and remove the seeds (a grapefruit spoon makes this task easier). Place on the baking sheet, cut side down.
Peel the sweet potato and cut it into cubes. Scrub and skin the carrots, then cut them into bite-sized pieces. Place sweet potato and carrots in a bowl, drizzle 1 tablespoon of the olive oil on them and mix well to coat. Spread evenly on the baking sheet next to the butternut squash.
Halve the onion, cut each half crosswise into ¼- inch-thick slices and place in a bowl. Drizzle ½ tablespoon of the olive oil on the onion and mix well to coat. Spread evenly on the cookie sheet.
Place all vegetables in the oven, onions on the rack above the other vegetables. Bake the onions for 15-20 minutes, making sure they don't burn at the edges, then remove from the oven and transfer into a bowl.
Bake the other vegetables 30-40 minutes, stirring the sweet potato and carrots halfway through, until the cut vegetables are tender and it is easy to pierce the squash with a knife. Transfer the vegetables into a bowl. Let the squash cool until you can handle it, then scrape the flesh off the skin (that grapefruit spoon is useful here, too).
Mince the garlic and grate the ginger. Warm up the remaining 1½ tablespoons of olive oil in a soup pot on medium heat. Add the garlic and stir well. Turn down the heat to medium-low. After 30 seconds, add the ginger and stir well. After another 30 seconds, transfer all the roasted vegetables into the pot. Sprinkle the cumin, coriander and paprika on the vegetables and stir well.
Pour the liquids into the pot, cover and bring to a boil. Turn down the heat and let the soup cook for 20 minutes, then test to make sure that you can mash a cube of sweet potato with the back of a wooden spoon against the side of the pot, and easily cut a piece of carrot in half with a knife. Cook the soup longer, as needed.
Remove the pot from the heat and let the soup rest for 20-30 minutes, then purée with an immersion blender. Add more water, if needed, to reach the desired consistency. Sprinkle salt and pepper, stir and adjust as needed.
Serve the soup hot, sprinkling some minced fresh parsley on top.
Simona Carini (she/her) also writes about her adventures in the kitchen on her blog www.pulcetta.com