My mom is having knee surgery today, you guys! Poor girl. My grandmother, my mother, and I all have terrible knees. Mine have bothered me since I started rowing crew in high school, and since moving to New York, they’ve only gotten worse. We walk everywhere here, as I’m sure you know; to work, to the grocery store, to bars, up and down the subway steps…it really takes a toll on your joints! I always wonder how old people do it, when I see them hobbling around New York as a snail’s pace, people not hiding their annoyance as they breeze past the canes and walkers. I understand it now, though, because I think it every day: “My body be damned! I live in New York.” Well, my mom can no longer do that. She’s always been an active person. When I was a kid, she used to love to ice skate. I remember her dragging my brothers and I to the ice skating rink when we lived in Chicago on weekends or during school breaks. She always figured out the best times to go (i.e. when nobody else was there) so that she could put her CD on and skate away. My brothers and I did not inherit this talent. I went ice skating in Bryant Park last winter and could barely get around the circle without falling. Anyway, I remember her falling and really hurting her knee back then, so then she switched to running with my dad (who is a crazy person and goes for who-knows-how-many-mile-long runs on a daily basis – he loves running and I do not get it), but after a while, her knee prohibited her from doing that, too. When we moved to Arizona, she discovered hiking, which is excellent in Scottsdale, where she lives. Kramer’s dad and his girlfriend, Jill, are quite the hikers, too (although Jill, like my father, is crazy and is known to run – yes, run – these hiking trails). So, my mom routinely hiked 7 or 8 miles by herself or with my dad (and the occasional brother or me, when I was home), until she recently discovered yoga, which she’s been doing constantly and is probably great for her knee. All of that, though, and she still has to get her knee replaced today. Her body is basically saying, “Nice try, but this knee is history.” My mom likes to play tough, but I know that deep down she is nervous about getting anesthesia and the surgery in general. I promise you will be fine, Mom! It’ll probably be the best sleep you’ve had in years! Everyone wish my mom luck, as well as a speedy recovery, as she’s going to India with my dad at the end of February, and she needs to get better so she can do some yoga while she’s there.
I’m sure that my mom is going to try walking around and doing things her doctor tells her she shouldn’t very soon after the surgery, and that includes cooking. I’d make this for you if I were there! Maybe my mom can get one of my brothers to make it for her, minus the bacon, of course. I know she’d love this soup. It’s loaded with butternut squash, fingerling potatoes, garlic, and shallots, then roasted together with just a touch of agave to bring out the sweetness of all of the vegetables, plus smoked paprika, ancho chile powder, coriander, and just a pinch of cinnamon. I could have gone back for thirds of this soup, it was so warm and comforting. I love adding a touch of heat to sweeter root vegetables, which I did with the chile powder. I think that it elevates an ordinary soup and brings out a whole different dimension of flavor. I pushed this through a sieve for an ultra-creamy texture, and while the soup itself is vegan, I couldn’t help but add some crispy bacon, in addition to scallions, for a bit of a crunch. That’s totally optional though, obviously. Kramer and I ate this alongside a big, thick slice of my homemade white bread, but oyster crackers or saltines are classic soup sides that would be a welcome addition to a big bowl of this.
Coat your squash, potatoes, shallots, and garlic in olive oil, salt, pepper, paprika, ancho chile powder, a pinch of coriander and cinnamon, and agave nectar. Roast at 400 degrees F for 30-40 minutes, until tender.
- 1 butternut squash, peeled and cubed
- 2 handfuls fingerling potatoes (or a similar small, buttery potato), halved or cubed (depending on the size)
- 2 shallots, peeled and quartered
- 6 cloves of garlic, peeled and left whole
- ⅓ cup olive oil, plus more as needed
- 1 tablespoon agave nectar
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon ancho chile powder
- ¼ teaspoon ground coriander
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- pinch of ground cinnamon
- 7 cups vegetable stock (or chicken stock)
- 1 cup water
- 4 scallions, sliced thinly (for garnish – optional)
- 4 slices of bacon, cooked until crisp (for garnish – optional)
- Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Wrap your peeled and quartered shallots in a foil pouch and drizzle with about 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Do the same with your garlic in a separate foil pouch, but with about 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Set these aside.
- Line a tray with foil, and spread your cubed squash and potatoes onto it. Drizzle with your ⅓ cup of olive oil, agave, salt, paprika, ancho chile powder, coriander, pepper, and cinnamon. Toss to combine. Place the tray in the oven along with the packets of shallots and garlic. Roast for 30-40 minutes, until the squash and potatoes are fork-tender (but remove the garlic after 30 minutes).
- If you are using a food processor, puree your vegetables in batches, depending on the size of your machine, adding a cup of vegetable stock at a time, until the mixture is smooth (you can finish adding the stock when you’ve transferred the mixture to a pot to make everything hot again). If you are using an immersion blender, use a large bowl or just straight into your pot and puree until smooth, adding a bit of stock as you go. I like to strain my soup through a mesh sieve to get a smoother texture, but that is totally up to you.
- When you’ve pureed your vegetables, finish adding in your stock and water and place everything in a large pot. Bring the soup to a simmer, taste, and adjust any seasonings as needed. When the soup is hot, ladle into bowls and sprinkle with some scallions, bacon (if you like), salt, and pepper. This will keep well in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 5 days, or frozen and thawed out later for up to 3 months.