Sunday, March 7, 2010

Putting Away Winter: Sweet Potato, Corn, and Kale Chowder

I've written a few times about the snippets of spring we've seen recently here in Jersey.  This weekend, though, it was like the fever broke.  We took a long walk to Mine Brook Park this morning and skipped rocks into the gurgling water.  I pulled on my sneakers and went for a five mile run, feeling at the end that if it hadn't been for the hamstring I've been trying to be gentle with, I could have easily run five more.

Though I was making soup again, I spent the afternoon putting away winter: washing and folding snow pants and gaitors; collapsing the winter clothes drying rack, where wet mittens and muddy boots live; washing the towel near our back door that keeps the worst of the salt puddles from drying on the wood floor; sweeping out the tiny bits of driveway gravel that inevitably travel in with our winter gear.  Unlike putting away Christmas, which makes the house seem bare and empty, putting away winter makes me feel like the house is open again.

There was another pregnancy announcement today from one of our friends, who is due in July, joining the Great Birthing that (while I really am happy and excited for these people) is feeling a little like a party to which I wasn't invited.  I discovered the other day that one of my students is writing a thesis about infertility, and I think I'm going to write to her to thank her for doing what she's doing; the fact that it is so taboo to talk about difficulty getting pregnant or keeping a pregnancy makes the experience somehow shameful, and lonely, which is doubly weird, I'd argue, for those women who had a picture-perfect pregnancy the first time around.

I wish that putting away this kind of winter was as easy as putting away the cross country skis on the porch and sweeping the gravel and salt out of the hallway.  Thankfully, spring does always come, eventually.  And March winds are strong, blowing new life into everything.

Sweet Potato, Corn, and Kale Chowder (from Terry Walters' Clean Food)
I like this soup because it's sort of a mix of spring and winter; the sweet potatoes and kale are even available at our winter farmers' market, but the sweet corn reminds me that summer will, really, eventually show up.

1 Tbsp. grapeseed oil
1 small onion, diced
3 stalks celery, diced
3 carrots, diced
3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and diced
3 cups corn, fresh or frozen
2 tsp. dried thyme
2 cups vegetable stock
2 cups milk (regular or rice milk), plus more if needed
2 Tbsp. cashew or natural peanut or sunflower seed butter, dissolved in ¼ cup hot water
1 bunch kale, chopped into small pieces
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a large pot over medium heat, sauté onion in oil until soft (about 3 minutes). Add celery, carrots, sweet potatoes, corn, thyme, and stock. Simmer 5 minutes. Add enough rice milk to cover the vegetables. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until vegetables are soft (about 20 minutes).

Remove from heat and add dissolved cashew butter. Partially purée using a handheld blender. Add kale, return to heat, thin to desired consistency with water or stock, and cook until kale is tender. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.

(I ended up thinning this soup quite a bit with extra broth; you may prefer it thicker.)
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