Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Couldabeens: Sweet Potato and Squash Soup

It was a beautiful day today, our second day with no doula.  (I joked to N. on Friday, waving and watching her drive down the street as we started out on our own walk, that we'd graduated from "A.'s school of Newborn Care."  Still, I really do need lessons on babywearing.  The doula's one lesson was woefully incomplete.)  I've been trying to make myself "playdates" for March (for myself, of course, not for N.), so that I have regular adult conversation during the day.  Much as I love N., she just doesn't have much to say to me just yet, and I need words.

Yesterday a good friend came to visit, but since we were on our own today, I decided to take a drive.  I'd commented to S. that I've barely been out of the boro since N. was born, and so I thought we'd take a trip to Princeton.  It's not a terribly long drive from where we are, it's very walkable with a stroller (see above on needing more babywearing lessons), and there are lots of places to get ice cream, or rosemary bread, or cupcakes, or whatever strikes your fancy.

As we walked around town, soaking up the sun and warmer weather, it struck me that Princeton reminds me of my old aspirations to become a professor; something about the vibe there, the professors and students co-mingling off campus in the town itself, makes me think back to those graduate school days when I figured that would be my future.  I don't, for a minute, regret the choice I made, but I confess I felt a pang of nostalgia for that life, which seemed somehow intellectually glamorous in a way that the life I lead now does not, breastfeeding in the back seat of my car as I watched faculty members and undergraduates walk by swilling Starbucks, graduate students saunter past holding tattered paperbacks.  I miss my regular contact with smart, engaging, well-read people.

Graduate school was where I learned to cook.  It's not that I never cooked before, but living on my own, alone, in a city, turned the foodie in me loose.  I was impressed by my fellow graduate students who threw fancy parties with wine and elaborate finger food; I was wooed by guys who labored over the stove and produced the kind of meals that are nearly magazine-worthy.  Even on a meager budget, I found myself experimenting with new recipes, saving up during the week so that I could make something special on the weekends.  One of the things I made for the first time then was a soup very much like the one I'm posting here today, but with mushrooms sauteed in cumin and coriander added to it afterward; it was a staple in the winter.  Though I've posted winter squash soups before, each one is unique, and I like to try variations on the theme.  This particular batch was brought to us by a friend of S. from his own graduate school days, who now lives not far from us, and thought we could use another night of not having to think about dinner.  It's a wonderful way to use up the last of the winter squash, and tastes rich, even though there is no cream or butter in it.

Sweet Potato and Butternut Squash Soup

1 small onion, chopped
1 T. minced fresh ginger
1 lb. butternut squash, peeled and diced
1 lb. sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
1 medium-size Yukon gold or russet potato, peeled and diced<
6 c. water, chicken stock, or vegetable stock
Salt to taste

Heat the oil in a heavy soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the ginger and stir together until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the squash, sweet potatoes, regular potato, and water or stock, and bring to a simmer. Add salt to taste, reduce the heat, cover and simmer 45 minutes, or until all of the ingredients are thoroughly tender.

Using an immersion blender, puree the soup (or you can put it through the fine blade of a food mill or use a regular blender, working in batches and placing a kitchen towel over the top to avoid splashing). Return to the pot and stir with a whisk to even out the texture. Heat through, adjust salt and add pepper to taste.

You can make this a day ahead and refrigerate. Reheat gently. The soup freezes well. Once thawed, whisk well to smooth out the texture, and reheat.
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  1. I can definitely appreciate the nostalgia for what could have been. Just remember that the grass is always greener and I can guarantee that some professor walking by you with your adorable kiddos probably had a fleeting thought about the family they should have/could have had had if they hadn't gone the route she/he did. Sounds like an awesome day!

  2. i'm a totaly sucker for squash soup... mmmmmm.....

  3. Ah, getting out in a beautiful day is so refreshing! I hope you get some babywearing instruction soon, wearing L saved my sanity some days!

  4. You need a ring sling!
    I can help you with it!

  5. I agree with manymanymoons. Yo don't know the struggles of the Professors. The grass always looks greener but is usually also covered in dog poo!

  6. So good to hear you had a nice day out of the house!

    By the way, most of those professor people are working really hard to put on a show of being an intellectual to try to impress anyone who might be watching and falling for it... they do it to hide the fact that many of them are complete social losers.

    Wow. I sound so bitter... :)

  7. Yum! It's Autumn here in Aus and soups are definitely on the cards. Keep those delicious recipes coming.

  8. Well. I am sure you know that if I could I would make the perfect play date for you, complete with the most perfect cake!

    Hmmm. One wonders if Princeton is so close whether you could obtain a position there, if you decide to move on from your current one. I am sure there are many universities that would love to have you, but I didn't know you were so close to Princeton. That is if you don't become a wonderful yoga teacher complete with cupcake store, that is :)

    Your soup sounds fabulous, as always.

  9. It sounds like a good day, and there's something so freeing about walking around on a warm, spring day, just taking your time to take it all in.

    It was also in graduate school that I began to admire the very "grown up" (but not fusty) food that other students put together. I was so impressed! It was the first time I'd tried things like coriander or tomatillos. I loved it and it made its mark. Sometimes, I just feel to spent to cook. But on my good days I get a lot of joy out of it.

  10. I love butternut squash soup SO MUCH! Thanks for posting this delicious looking recipe!

  11. Here from the future via Time Warp Tuesday! I always find it interesting to get a window into the you before I knew you, at least the way I feel I do now. I also love that you talked about Princeton, as I have been there and thus could actually somewhat picture you and your experience, since I used to have loved ones who lived there that Bob and I visited years ago and took us on a tour of the campus. I can also appreciate what it feels like to watch people in professions that you once imagined (and still sometimes do) yourself in. Another thing that resonates with me is craving that adult contact/conversation when our children are young. Thank you for sharing! Heading back to the future now to follow the link to your other old post and then to finish the new one. :)


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