We’ve had a taste of spring but cold and rainy nights remain in our forecast. Try a creamy soup from market ingredients to chase away some of the chill.
This recipe began, as many do, with ingredients in my refrigerator needing to be used. I love potato leek soup and was interested in trying it out without the white potato. However, I also had some fabulous shiitake mushrooms from Sequatchie Cove Farm that I wanted to use. While poking around the internet I found a mushroom and leek soup, a cauliflower leek soup, a sweet potato leek soup, and a creamy salmon soup. In the interest of taste, and I confess, laziness, I decided to combine a little of all of them. The addition of salmon made this an all in one meal.
A few notes: I kept the mushrooms separate to keep their texture and also satisfy those at my table who do not eat mushrooms (more for me!). Also, I wrote down the quantities I used, but this recipe is flexible. I made it thinking about a traditional creamy potato leek soup, and the quantity of sweet potato and cauliflower I used was with that in mind. The thyme seemed a bit strong while I was first cooking the soup, but, once all the ingredients were added, it was just right. One recipe I looked at used dill in the soup and cilantro as a garnish. Try your favorite combination.
Photo by Zachary Cross
Serves ~ 6
Inspired by Meatified, The Emancipated Epicure, and Eat Drink Paleo
4 small leeks, well washed, cut in half lengthwise, and sliced into half moons
2 cloves garlic, smashed
2 small carrots, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 sweet potato, peeled and chopped
Medium head of cauliflower, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
2 tablespoons butter
2-3 cups stock
½ cup cream
½-1 cup milk
~ 1 pound salmon fillet, cut into bite sized pieces
Small bunch of shiitake mushrooms
2 tablespoons butter, sesame oil, or a combination
Salt and Pepper to taste
Something fresh and green for garnish such as fresh herbs or microgreens
Printable recipe here
Shepherd’s pie has plenty of variations. Try this one with roots and greens for a warm winter meal.
Although technically a shepherd’s pie is a lamb or mutton meat pie with a mashed potato topping, often one made with beef is called that as well. Technically, though, that is cottage pie. Interestingly, the cottage was originally a reference to the potato topping, affordable even to the poor cottage dweller. Also, the term cottage pie preceded shepherd’s pie by at least fifty years, and they were used interchangeably in the beginning. Now a distinction is made by some, but a hundred and fifty years ago, none was made.
I had ground lamb to use for mine, though I also have vegetarians to cook for. A vegetarian or vegan pie is sometimes called a shepherdess pie. I used homemade vegetarian taco meat in mine. Although I used white button mushrooms and cashews in what I made (I often like to follow a recipe exactly the first time), now that I’ve made it I can see it working well with shiitake mushrooms and pecans - both of which can be found locally.
I think of shepherd’s pie as being made with peas or green beans. Unless you have some preserved, though, neither is to be found in winter. Root vegetables are an excellent and hearty substitute, and fresh herbs and greens add a touch of color.
Although at first I thought adding bacon seemed a bit over the top, bacon’s flavor helped balance lamb’s strong flavor. Although I kept my pie pretty basic, stronger-flavored roots such as celeriac and fennel would go well with this dish.
Despite not eating white, “Irish” potatoes, I really wanted to make a shepherd’s pie! The internet came to my rescue again with various topping options including cauliflower, white sweet potato, turnip, and tropical roots such as yuca. Cheri Miller of Harvest Home, one source of lamb at the market, recommends parsnip as well. I wanted my topping to be a local option so the yuca was out. And, as much as I like mashed cauliflower, I wanted some starchiness. Sweet potato is too sweet, though, so I decided to do a mix of vegetables. It was a good option, though in the future I plan to cook them separately and play around with the mixture a little more to get the right balance of sweet (potato) and savory (turnip and/or cauli).
I’m happy that I’ve expanded my definition of what makes a shepherd’s pie so I can make one any time of the year.
Photos by Zachary Cross
Inspired by: Joy-Filled Nourishment; Gutsy by Nature; and Whole Life, Full Soul
2 thick cut or 4 thin cut slices bacon
1 lb ground lamb
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, smashed
2 carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
Small bunch of fresh thyme
A couple handfuls of arugula
Salt and pepper to taste
1 white sweet potato
1 small head of cauliflower
2 tablespoons butter, plus a little more, melted, for topping
Salt and pepper to taste
Printable recipe here
Sometimes in winter it seems like the market is bare. But there are plenty of roots! Use them to make a versatile soup one of these rainy nights.
This is another recipe from our old Martha Stewart’s Quick Cook Menus. We’ve made this soup many ways over the years, taking our cues from Martha’s suggestions. The basic recipe, as the name suggests, has plenty of root vegetables in it: onions, shallots, leeks, garlic, parsnips, carrots, celeriac, potatoes, and turnips. Alternatives suggested are sweet potatoes, rutabaga, and winter squash (not a root veggie but a good winter vegetable). I used white sweet potato in this recipe recently for the first time. I left out the regular white potatoes and the sweet potatoes added some starch in their place. While white sweet potatoes can often be a bit too sweet, the other roots - turnips especially - counteracted the sweetness in the soup.
This recipe is listed in the spring section of the cookbook, but is appropriate in winter. If you are unable to find some of the vegetables, simply substitute others. Keep in mind their varying flavors - and strengths of their flavors - to keep the soup in balance. Potatoes and parsnips are fairly neutral, while sweet potatoes are very sweet, and turnips can have quite the strong flavor.
One disadvantage of making this in winter is the shortage of fresh herbs for garnish. There are plenty of microgreens at the market, though, and those can make tasty and attractive garnishes. I can imagine buckwheat or radish leaves arranged looking like little hearts floating on the soup.
I have not tried beet in this soup, and I think a whole beet could be too strong a flavor. A little red beet purée could make a nice pink color without too strong a flavor. Golden beet has a more mellow flavor and might be usable in a greater quantity than red. It would make a pretty yellow soup, too!
This recipe is easily made vegan by using olive oil or another substitute for the butter, and vegetable stock or water for the chicken stock. Before I started chopping veggies for this soup I browned veggie scraps from the freezer and simmered them in water. I had stock that was ready when the soup veggies were done sautéing.
The other suggested menu items are spring-themed: lamb chops with mint pesto and asparagus. I roasted chicken and Brussels sprouts instead for a hearty winter meal.
Photos by Zachary Cross
From Martha Stewart’s Quick Cook Menus
Serves 4 to 6
5 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 yellow onions, peeled and chopped
4 shallots, peeled and chopped
1 leek, trimmed, washed, and thinly sliced crosswise
2 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
2 parsnips, peeled and cut into ½ inch dice
2 carrots, peeled and cut into ½ inch dice
1 large celeriac (celery root), peeled and cut into ½ inch dice
3 potatoes, peeled and cut into ½ inch dice
2 white turnips, peeled and cut into ½ inch dice
1 ½ cups chicken stock or water
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Sprigs of fresh coriander (cilantro), parsley, chervil, or watercress
Printable recipe here
Have you wanted to try a honey- or maple syrup-sweetened frosting recipe but were not sure where to start? Try one made with sweet potatoes as well.
Photos by Zachary Cross
Even though I love orange sweet potatoes baked whole, roasted in cubes, in recipes, or by themselves, I am not a fan of plain cooked white or purple sweet potatoes. I’ve successfully used the white ones in place of noodles and Irish potatoes, but not for much else. When I saw this recipe from Beyond the Bite I knew I had to try it.
Why sweet potato frosting? There are several good reasons. First, it’s made with local ingredients. Depending on the options you choose, the main ingredients are sweet potato and honey or maple syrup. Other local options include milk and butter, as well as local foods used for color.
Next, it tastes good! I find most frostings too sweet - and fairly tasteless as well. This frosting is sweet enough without being cloying. Also, sweet potatoes lend a little of their taste to this frosting without being overpowering. Flavoring does not mask the sweet potato in some of the recipes, but does tone it down. In a couple of options I made (chocolate, pink with beet juice) the sweet potato was undetectable.
Last, the nutritional value of this frosting is much higher than traditional frostings. It’s still dessert but sweet potato frosting has, per serving, less sugar and more fiber than traditional buttercream frosting. Depending on the type of sweet potato it can even have approximately 25% of the RDA for Vitamin A. Bonus: purple and orange colors are naturally occuring. I easily created pink with beets as well.
I checked out a few other recipes online, but the basic idea is to take cooked, pureed sweet potato and emulsify it with some sweetening and other ingredients, such as, often, but not always, fat.
One of the things that I do not normally care for in purple and white sweet potatoes is what I consider a fruity flavor. It’s mild, but something that I do not want in many savory dishes. It’s perfect in a frosting, though! Zachary said he assumed the pink frosting had raspberries in it (an addition I’ve used in the past) in part because of the color, partly because of the flavor. It’s subtle, though, so it’s not for berry lovers only.
The consistency of this frosting is right for piping and it holds it shape well, with some cautions. First, make sure you blend the frosting long enough. It needs to fully emulsify and this takes several minutes. I found it worked better in my food processor than with beaters, but I think if I had been more patient with the beaters they would have worked as well. I wondered what was wrong with some of my frosting; it looked fine and then broke when I used it. Then I remembered Dana’s post about chocolate chip cookies and the importance of creaming the butter and sugar for a full three minutes. I can get impatient, so I do best if I time it. An unemulsified frosting can be pretty, such as this recipe, but it’s a pretty specific combination of ingredients, and the result is not a pipable frosting.
Next, keep your frosting cool. I thought I had read on one recipe that the frosting gets too hard when refrigerated, and will slide right off a cake when cut. So I kept my frosting room temperature. Well, then my kitchen got pretty hot, and the frosting got quite warm in the piping bags while I was handling it. Then it separated. Next time I’ll keep the frosting I’m working with in the fridge. A long time chilling might make the frosting hard, but I don’t think a short time in the fridge will. And I’m not sure it’s an issue anyway! I can’t find that reference that I thought I remembered. In the photographs you can see the pink and white frostings starting to separate. I was able to blend the pink again, but needed to chill it as well. The purple frosting looks much better, but I realized later I need to blend it a little longer as well. Again, make sure you blend it long enough!
The recipe from Beyond the Bite calls for lemon juice and zest as flavoring. I wanted a vanilla frosting so I chose milk and vanilla instead. There was still a sweet potato flavor and the color is not as white as I would like (I think perhaps the original recipe had some photo editing wizardry going on and my expectations were too high). When I changed up the recipe again, and used the water from cooking beets in place of the milk, as well as butter instead of shortening, the sweet potato flavor was gone, and the color was a nice pink. The purple sweet potato, with milk and vanilla again, was a lovely shade of lavender. I was disappointed that it was not as bright as these, but my potatoes did not start out that bright, either. That is an upside as well as a downside of natural colors: they vary unpredictably.
I did not make a vanilla frosting with orange sweet potatoes (that could be great for fall), but I did make a chocolate one. I’m still working on the right amount of honey and chocolate, though. Most recipes I found called for already sweetened chocolate and I wanted to work with unsweetened chocolate and honey or maple syrup.
There are also low fat versions of this recipe online. Here’s one for purple, and one for white. I assumed they would not hold up as well, but in the near future I plan to give them a try and see which I prefer. One advantage they could have is that they may not dilute the purple or orange of the sweet potatoes as much as the recipes with butter or shortening do.
Whichever option you choose, you have an interesting option for Valentine’s Day or any sweet occasion.
From Beyond the Bite Paleo
1/2 cup non-hydrogenated palm shortening
1/2 cup puréed Japanese sweet potato
1/4 cup raw honey
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest
To make the sweet potato purée, peel, chop, and boil 1 medium sized Japanese sweet potato until fork tender, then place in a food processor, blending until smooth, and setting aside in a container for later use.
Back in the food processor, puree together 1/2 cup non-hydrogenated palm shortening, 1/2 cup pre-pureed sweet potato, honey, sea salt, lemon juice, and lemon zest, until fully combined and creamy.
1.I used baked sweet potatoes. Make sure your potato is well drained if you boil it.
2. Be sure to blend the ingredients for several minutes. Don’t stop early, even if it looks good.
3. For a vanilla frosting use ¼ cup milk and 1 tsp vanilla extract in place of the lemon juice and zest. For pink, use the water from cooking beets in place of the lemon juice. Other fruit or vegetable waters or juices may work well. For purple/lavender frosting use purple potatoes.
Printable recipe here