Episode 23: Allegedly Cuban Sweet-Potato Soup, plus Celery Root and Apple Slaw

October 18, 2009

This week, I make a hearty soup that mixes kale, sweet potatoes and sausage–interesting spices give it a semi-Caribbean flavor. On the side, celery root and apple–both in season now–make an easy, refreshing slaw.


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Shopping list

    Andouille sausage (12 oz.)
    Brown lentils (1/2 cup)
    Chicken stock (at least 3 cups)
    1 small celery root
    1 medium apple
    1 orange
    Bunch fresh parsley
    1 medium sweet potato
    1 small bunch collard greens, kale or mustard greens
    1 medium onion
    4 or 5 cloves garlic
    Ground allspice
    Ground cumin
    Apple cider vinegar

Allegedly Cuban Sweet-Potato Soup

soup 108The original recipe for this soup, which my mom got from a friend, who got it from some Mayo Clinic cookbook (not promising–but proof you can find good recipes almost anywhere), says this is a Cuban concoction. The allspice definitely has a Caribbean vibe, and the orange peel at the end brightens everything up in a surprising way. I’ve strayed from the original recipe–less meat, for one thing, and I leave out the tomato puree, which is, ironically, the one ingredient my expert source says is intrinsic to Cuban cooking.

The lesson, of course, is that this soup is very flexible–actually a nice characteristic of most soups, especially chunkier ones where each bite will be a little different. You can use almost any kind of greens, as well as whatever sausage you like, and the proportions can vary according to your cravings. These proportions, for instance, are heavy on the greens and sausage, but light on lentils and sweet potatoes.

Makes 4-6 servings
Olive oil
1 medium onion
4 or 5 medium cloves garlic
1/2 cup brown lentils
3-4 cups chicken stock
1 medium sweet potato
Half a bunch collard greens (see note)
12 oz. andouille sausage (see note)
Heaping 1/4 tsp ground allspice
Heaping 1/2 tsp ground cumin
Black pepper
Zest from one orange

Drizzle a bit of olive oil in a heavy-bottomed soup pot and set to warm over medium heat. (As I describe in the podcast, alternatively at this point, if you’re not in a hurry, you can slice up the sausage, as below, and fry it while you slice up the onions; leave the sausage in the pan as you proceed with the rest of the recipe.)

Roughly chop the onion into 1/2-inch pieces and add to the pot. Stir and add a pinch of salt. While onions are softening, peel, crush and roughly chop the garlic; add to the onions and stir and fry until fragrant.

soup 095Rinse the lentils and add them to the pot, along with the chicken stock. Place the lid on the pot and let simmer. Peel the sweet potato and cut it into 3/4-inch pieces (roughly), and add this to the pot. Trim and clean the collard greens, then cut them crosswise into large pieces–roughly 3 inches across, or two or three cuts across the leaf, depending on its size. Add these to the pot and stir well to cover all with the stock–it will seem like quite a lot of greens to start with (as at left), but they will soon wilt. Put the lid on the pot and turn the heat to low.

Preheat a small, heavy skillet over medium heat while you cut the sausage into 1/2-inch slices. Fry these in the hot skillet until nicely browned, then add them to the soup. Add a couple of tablespoons of liquid to the hot pan to deglaze it: scrape all the browned bits from the bottom of the skillet into the soup pot.

Add the pepper, allspice and cumin, stir well and simmer on low heat for 15 minutes or so. Just before serving, grate in the orange zest and stir well.

This soup freezes well.

Greens: Mustard greens are also tasty (a little spicy), and they take a bit less time to cook than collards. You can also use frozen collards or mustard greens–one of the 10 oz. boxes is about the same amount as a small bunch. Just add them directly to the soup pot, still frozen.

Sausage: Andouille sausage is great because it’s a little spicy as well as smoky. The smokiness adds instant depth to the soup, and the other spices (and the heat) go well with the other flavors in the soup. You could use any kind of sausage (fresh or cured), though spices/herbs like fennel (found in a lot of Italian sausages) and sage don’t go quite so well with the allspice and cumin.

Celery Root and Apple Slaw

soup 102This incredibly simple winter salad doesn’t even use oil. It’s crunchy, clean-tasting and refreshing, making it a nice counterpoint to the rich, spicy-hot soup, or any other long-stewed dish with strong meaty flavors. If you want to tinker with it, you could add a small amount of crumbled blue cheese and/or a drizzle of walnut oil. Tarragon is another fresh herb that goes well with celery root.

As I say in the podcast, grating celery root on a box grater can be folly–it is very dense and hard to grate. Either run it through a food processor or slice it by hand.

For 2 generous servings
1 small celery root (see note)
1 medium apple
Apple cider vinegar
Small handful fresh parsley

soup 098Peel the celery root and cut off the knotty root ends. Cut into matchstick slices (as at left) or run through the grater of a food processor. Slice or grate the apple (no need to peel)–roughly the same amount as the celery root. Combine in a bowl and sprinkle both with apple cider vinegar and a large pinch of salt; toss well to combine. Rinse the parsley and chop it coarsely, then toss it with the celery root and apple. Serve within an hour or so, as it can lose its crispness.

celeriacNote: If you’re making the salad for only a couple of people but can find only a larger celery root (they’re usually about the size of medium grapefruit), cut off only as much as you need and slice only that. Wrap the remaining intact root in plastic wrap and store it in the fridge. It should stay crisp for at least a week.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Barbara 10.18.09 at 10:32 pm

Only one sweet potato? I’ll have a twiggy forest!

2 Mark 10.20.09 at 5:49 am

Cumin is bossy….nice one.

3 Naomi 10.27.09 at 8:43 am

Damn fine soup Zora. 3 sweet potatoes is my perfect amount. And I used kale, worked beautifully, and the green looks pretty.

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