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The Last of Winter Soups

Wouldn’t you love some Sweet Potato and Spinach Soup to help you stay warm during these last frigid winter nights! Despite an early spring color extravaganza in the Carolinas since the first of February, we’ve been thrust back into the mid 30s every night—which means that hot soup is definitely on the menu!

Whatever the weather, this soup will bring vibrant color and flavor to your dinner table. I’ve tried it a couple of different ways. First, I made it with a caramelized onion, sweet potatoes, and fennel—both the bulb and the stalks—along with herbs and spices. Definitely yummy. Then I asked myself, couldn’t this be even more interesting and delicious?

Yes, of course! The second time I replaced the onion with a large leek, which is not only delicious but cooks much faster than onion (although if you don’t have a leek on hand, you can use a small onion with good results). I decided to add another layer of flavor with a large parsnip and more color and texture with baby spinach.

My regular readers may notice that I’ve been playing with fennel and parsnip recently. This stands out because I’ve cooked with these vegetables so rarely in the past. I find that it’s fun to experiment with what an unaccustomed vegetable can add to vegan cooking.

If one of these flavors doesn’t appeal to you, just omit that item or replace it with something similar that you do like—and you will still have a delicious hot soup. Whatever way you make it, this Sweet Potato Spinach Soup will be an excellent addition to your repertoire of sweet potato recipes and a dish your family is sure to enjoy!

PS And if you especially like sweet potatoes, find more sweet potato soups to try here: Savory Sweet Potato Soup with Mushrooms & Chocolate Swirl, Sweet Potato Soup with English Peas, Sweet Potato Soup with Pecan Butter.

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SWEET POTATO AND SPINACH SOUP

Preparation Time: About 40 minutes
Serves 5 to 6

 As noted above, you can omit fennel or parsnip if you don’t enjoy these flavors.

1 large leek bulb plus an inch of the light-green shank
1 fennel bulb plus stalks
2 tablespoons avocado oil
½ teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon ground coriander
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
5 cups Easy Vegetable Soup Stock, divided
1 large parsnip (optional)
2 large sweet potatoes (about 5 cups cubed)
1 sprig of fresh rosemary
1 to 2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
3 to 5 ounces of baby spinach
1 to 2 teaspoons mineral salt
¼ cup dry-roasted pistachio nuts or chopped pecans

Cook’s Tip: If you don’t have fresh stock, use 5 cups water with ½ teaspoon ground turmeric, 5 fresh basil leaves, and 1 bay leaf.

1. Wash and slice the leek into ¼-inch rounds. Wash and slice the fennel bulb into quarters, remove the hard core, and then cut each quarter into slices about ¼-inch thick. Also, slice the stalks into ⅛-inch thick rounds. (See short video for how to prepare a fennel bulb.)

2. Heat the oil on medium-low heat in a 4-quart or larger soup pot. Add the sliced leek and sauté about five minutes until the rounds turn golden. Add the cumin, coriander, and cardamon, and stir. Add all of the sliced fennel to the pot along with 1 cup of the vegetable stock (or water), and cover to simmer.

3. Peel and slice the parsnip into ⅛-inch thick rounds and add to the pot. Peel and chop the potatoes into ½-inch cubes if you would like a chunky soup; if you prefer to purée the entire soup prior to adding spinach, you can chop the potatoes into larger chunks. Add the potatoes to the soup pot along with the remaining stock (or water with additional ingredients as described in the Cook’s Tip). Add the rosemary sprig and cover the pot. Cook for 10 minutes or until all the vegetables are tender.

4. While the vegetables are cooking, peel and grate the ginger. Once the vegetables are tender, remove the rosemary sprig (and optional bay leaf). Purée the soup until completely smooth, or if you wish, purée about half the vegetables for a chunky version. Add the spinach and cook about 5 more minutes until the spinach wilts. Add salt to taste. Top each bowl with a serving of nuts.

Ayurvedic Note: Sweet potatoes are the best vegetables to ground vata and pitta any time of year, although kapha types may want to eat sweet potatoes in moderation since the sweet taste increases kapha. Cooked fennel and parsnips are fine for all doshas. All the spices and the ginger are excellent digestive aids.

Spring/Summer Variation: Add 2 to 3 mint leaves, and garnish with cilantro, if you like.

Double the cardamom, which pacifies kapha. Add a dash of black pepper or red pepper flakes, if you wish.

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