Roasted sweet potato + red pepper soup with coconut milk and maple-cayenne pumpkin seeds


Today was one of those crazy late-October days that felt like three seasons in one 24-hour period.

It started out feeling like a balmy June morning, and by early afternoon the temperature had reached 75 degrees – perfect weather for lounging on lawns in Central Park and dining al fresco — and also calling for the re-installation of our living room air conditioner, which has now been in and out of the window four (yes, four) times this month (next year it stays put at least through Thanksgiving!).

After a late lunch at one of our favorite cafes on Columbus Ave (gotta make the most of rosé weather while its lasts) we strolled down to Joe for a couple of cortados. As we walked south, the sun shining on our faces, we soon noticed menacing, dark grey clouds rolling in from the west. This was going to have to be one really fast coffee stop!

Cups in hand, we made it to 3 blocks from home when the sky opened up, and a whipping wind pelted us with rain until we arrived, drenched, in the vestibule of our building. Humbled by the New York City weather gods, once again, but luckily we missed the worst of the storm, which we watched from the dry oasis of our third-floor window.

Now in the early evening a more seasonally-appropriate, chill breeze is coming through the open windows (air conditioner has returned to its neglected state) and we’re back to soup weather.

Luckily, with a couple of roasted sweet potatoes in the fridge this deliciously cozy soup comes together in no time. If you’ve never made a roasted sweet potato soup before, it’s a revelation – with a silkier texture and richer flavor compared with a soup made with cubes of raw sweet potato.

With spicy fresh ginger, earthy turmeric, and bright coriander playing supporting roles, and creamy coconut milk for an extra luscious texture and a hint of tropical flavor, this is one of my all-time favorite soups for a cool night. Sweet and spicy maple cayenne pumpkin seeds are the perfect crispy complement to the velvety, earthy sweetness of the soup. Just add a simple green salad and some crusty bread for dipping, and a colorful, delicious and healthy dinner is ready to go!

Roasted sweet potato + bell pepper soup with coconut milk maple cayenne pumpkin seeds

Note: if you do not have time to roast the sweet potatoes, peel them (raw) and dice into 1/2-inch cubes, adding them to the soup after you have added the coconut milk and water. Simmer for about 20 minutes, until the sweet potato is tender. The soup will not be quite as rich as it would be with roasted sweet potatoes, but it will still be delicious!

Gluten-free, grain-free, dairy-free

for the soup:

2 large sweet potatoes, roasted, cooled, peeled and cut into large chunks

2 tablespoons coconut oil

1 medium onion, chopped

1/2 fennel bulb, chopped

1 small red bell pepper, stemmed/seeded and chopped

1-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander seed

One 13-ounce can coconut milk (I like Native Forest Simple Organic Coconut Milk, which does not contain guar gum or preservatives)

1 to 2 cups water

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

freshly ground black pepper

chopped fresh herbs, such as tarragon, cilantro, parsley, and/or chives, for garnish

for the maple cayenne pumpkin seeds:

1/2 cup green pumpkin seeds, aka pepitas (these soaked/dehydrated seeds are my favorite)

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 tablespoon pure maple syrup

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Heat coconut oil in a heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium heat. Add onion, fennel and bell pepper and saute until vegetables are softened and beginning to caramelize, 6 to 8 minutes. Add ginger and garlic and saute for 1 minute. Add turmeric and coriander and cook for another minute to toast the spices.

Add coconut milk and roasted sweet potatoes to the pot (if using raw sweet potato, add it now). Add water to cover vegetables. Add salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Simmer until vegetables are tender and soup has thickened, 10 to 15 minutes (20 to 25 minutes if using raw sweet potato). Puree with an immersion blender (or regular stand blender) to your desired level of smoothness / chunkiness, adding a little more water if the soup is too thick. Keep warm over low heat, and serve sprinkled with leafy herbs/chives and candied pumpkin seeds (see below).

To make the candied pumpkin seeds, heat a skillet over medium heat. Add pumpkin seeds and toast, stirring often, until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add cayenne pepper and maple syrup and stir until bubbling subsides and most of the liquid has evaporated. Transfer to a parchment-lined plate and sprinkle with salt. Allow seeds to cool for 10 minutes before using (they crisp up as they cool). Store any leftover seeds in an airtight container for up to 2 days.

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