Do we ever have the control over our lives we so desperately yearn for? I think not. Our son wrestles with twenty-something issues as he builds his adult life. Our ten year-old cousin went into a sudden diabetic coma while on a ski trip in glorious Utah. Thankfully, she is well now but the same day we learned my old boss had died suddenly. At age 67, all I could think was that he was too young. Still, while reading his obituary I learned he’d had a one year old grandson. Small comfort knowing he lived long enough to experience the birth of a next generation.
The new season of Downton Abbey is about to begin, a pop-culture reminder that time marches on. This morning I woke up feeling compassion toward Lady Mary. Those of you who follow the series know her beloved husband Matthew died suddenly in the last episode, shown in the spring. We, the viewers, knew of his death, while Mary did not. When we last saw her, she was blissful, new baby in her arms, happy, unknowing that her joy would be put on hold when she learned of her husband’s death. From that moment forward, nothing would be as she’d imagined it.
When I went to sleep last night, I had similar illusions. With the holiday period officially ending, both children would be heading back to school. But a 5:30 AM call shattered my illusions. Schools closed. The whole world sliding on ice, the control I thought I had over the day ahead wiped away in an instant.
Reflecting on the closing of the holiday season, I have come to think that part of what we look forward to about the holidays is the sense of ritual, the sense that as we turn the calendar to December every year we know the 25th will bring Christmas, the 31st will bring New Year’s. No matter what else happens, those celebrations, those markers will persist. Something to count on when everything else is literally up for grabs.
So, my day didn’t go as expected, but in the grand scheme of things it was really no big deal. I got to spend more time with my daughter, while this Hot and Spicy Sweet Potato and Peanut Soup simmered on the stove top. Based on a classic African recipe, it’s a perfect blend of smooth and creamy, sweet and sour. Garnished with some fresh herbs and slivered crystallized ginger, make it a full meal along with Rice Pilaf with Braised Greensand a bottle of chilled cider.
I look forward to seeing you in my kitchen, gathering flavors, soon. And to introduce you to my new website next week. Dena Testa Bray: Web Designs Services for Creative People, is built to showcase my budding business. But more on that soon….
HOT AND SPICY SWEET POTATO SOUP
Yield: 4 to 6 Servings
- 2 tablespoons olive oil or ghee*, or a combination of both
- 1 large onion, peeled and chopped into large dice
- 2 carrots, peeled and chipped into large dice
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons garam masala*
- 3 medium tomatoes, canned or fresh, peeled, seeded and chopped
- 1 large sweet potato, peeled and chopped into large pieces
- 6 cups stock, chicken or vegetable
- 1 cup creamy peanut butter, preferably unsweetened
- 1 teaspoon salt
- coconut milk or cream, for serving (optional)
- chopped cilantro or micro-greens, for serving (optional)
- Heat a large soup pot on the stove top. Add the ghee or olive oil or both. Heat to a sizzle, then add the chopped onion, carrots, and garlic. Sauté the vegetables until they become translucent and tender, about 5 minutes. Add the garam masala to the vegetables, stir, and cook another minute or two more to release their flavors.
- Add the tomatoes, sweet potatoes, stock, peanut butter and salt to the soup pot. Bring the stock to a boil, stir everything, then lower the temperature to a simmer.*
- Simmer the soup until the sweet potatoes become very tender. Cooking time will vary depending on the size and freshness of the potatoes, about 30 minutes to an hour.
- Using an immersion blender, purée the soup in the soup pot. (If you do not have an immersion blender, remove the soup from the stove top and allow it to cool slightly. Working in batches, purée the soup in a food processor or blender.) Reheat on stove top.
- Taste. Add more salt if needed.
- Serve drizzled with coconut milk or cream and garnished with fresh cilantro or micro-greens.
- Ghee is clarified butter. Garam masala is Indian spice blend. Use your favorite blend or substitute a mixture of dried ginger, turmeric, cayenne and dried cinnamon to total 2 tablespoons of dried spices. (Both should be available in the foreign foods section of your grocery store.)
- This soup can be made in a slow cooker or crock pot instead of on the stove. Follow the instructions to cook the vegetables and spices in a sauté pan on the stove, then add all the ingredients to the crock pot. Follow manufacturer’s directions from that point on.
- Consider serving with Rice Pilaf with Braised Greens or Fragrant Onion Rolls with Roasted Garlic.