Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Weird Recipe Wednesday: Nutty Orange Harvest Soup

Weird Recipe Wednesday: Because some recipes are so weird I just HAVE to try them.  My curiosity always gets the better of me.

This orange soup has such a smattering of weird ingredients I wasn't sure if I wanted to post it.  I debated back and forth, snapped a few pictures just in case and finally decided to just go with it.  I've seen orange fall soups popping up everywhere on the blogosphere lately and decided this might not be way too wired after all.  And even if it is, that's exactly what Weird Recipe Wednesday is all about. Since it's Halloween, it seems like as good a time as any for a slightly strange bowl or orange liquid.  Annnnd now that I've hesitated and stalled a little longer I suppose we can get to the soup.

I hesitate because I don't really know how to describe this soup.  It would be easier to just eat and enjoy it than tell you what's going on.  My method isn't one I would necessarily repeat, but more of a "use what you have on hand, adding and tasting as you go until you get what your in the mood for".  That works just fine if you're cooking for yourself, but not so much if you're trying to communicate with words on a page.

I am forever comparing and combining recipes.  I look at recipes until I'm blue in the face and then end up doing my own thing anyway.  I've had my eye on this Carrot Ginger Zucchini Soup and this Carrot Ginger Soup using apples and apple cider vinegar.  Taking ideas from both, I set out to make my own bowl.  I liked the carrot-ginger theme, but also liked the ideas of apple and zucchini.  Seeing as my skin isn't tinted quite orange enough yet from all the squash and pumpkin, I used sweet potato along with the carrots.  The sweet potato adds a subtle sweetness and a touch of creamy texture.  Note that I didn't actually use squash or pumpkin so as to sneak this past my "eating this will only make you look more like a sun-burnt pumpkin" limit.  But anyway, back to the soup.

Along with the carrot-ginger combination I like the pairing of ginger and peanut.  I had almost forgotten about the nutty flavors of ground toasted quinoa and had the inkling to make a batch last week.  I used it in some bars and granola then decided to try it in the soup too.  Initially I wanted to use it to add a nutty flavor and act as a thickener for our soup.  For the amount of liquid I used I ended up not needed a thickener.  I hesitated to add anything else, at this point the soup had an earthy vegetable flavor and a slight bite from the ginger.  I forced myself to continue, adding my toasted quinoa flour and creamy peanut butter to the orange puree.

My last weird addition was apple cider vinegar.  I was intrigued by the use of cider vinegar in the recipe linked above and had to try it for myself.  But adding it to all these other ingredients?  I was almost sure it would ruin the whole batch.  Reminding myself it was Weird Recipe Wednesday, I added a teaspoon and then another.  And then I had to add more peanut butter to get my sweet, nutty flavor back.  I tasted and re-tasted trying to figure out what else, if anything, to add.  A little orange juice? Some basil?  If only I could take ingredients out and re-taste the original.  I was so tired at this point I knew it was a dangerous time to be making decisions in the kitchen.  So I called it quits and decided to see how it tasted the next day.  With some sleep and a clean palate, I concluded the soup had enough crazy ingredients and needed no further tinkering.

Warm and creamy, this robust soup has a subtle sweet-savory balance with just a hint of nutty flavor.  If you want sweet and creamy, add the quinoa, peanut butter and cider vinegar. If you're in the mood for more of savory soup with earthy vegetable flavors then leave them out.  If you don't know what you're in the mood for, then you probably shouldn't be playing with soup.

Nutty Orange Harvest Soup

1 tsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
2 large carrots, sliced
1 medium sweet potato, peeled and cut into chunks
1 apple, peeled and chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 cups firmly packed shredded zucchini*
1-inch piece fresh ginger root, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp paprika
2-3 cups low-sodium vegetable broth, divided (or more as needed to achieve desired soup consistency)
2 Tbsp uncooked quinoa, toasted until golden brown then ground to a fine flour**
1-2 Tbsp creamy peanut butter, to taste
1-2 tsp apple cider vinegar, to taste

* I had shredded zucchini in the freezer that needed to be put to use. If your zucchini isn't already shredded, just cut 1 medium zucchini into pieces similar in size to the sweet potato and carrots.
** Toast quinoa in oven (or in skillet) as you would nuts or coconut. Use a coffee grinder to finely grind.

* In a large pot heat oil over medium-high heat. Add onions and carrots, saute 5-7 minutes or until onions are tender. Add sweet potato, apple and garlic and cook 2-3 minutes longer. Stir in zucchini, ginger, salt, pepper, paprika and 2 cups vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer 25-30 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
* Let cool 10 minutes. Working in batches, transfer soup to a blender and blend until smooth, adding an additional cup or more of vegetable broth (or water) as needed to achieve desired consistency.  Return all pureed soup to pot and stir in ground quinoa, peanut butter and vinegar.  Heat and stir until peanut butter is melted and soup is heated through.

*Variation: For a more earthy, vegetable flavor soup omit the quinoa, peanut butter and cider vinegar.  Including these ingredients will yield a creamier soup with a slightly nutty, sweet-savory balance.

Food for Thought: "The most difficult thing is the decision to act, the rest is merely tenacity. The fears are paper tigers. You can do anything you decide to do. You can act to change and control your life; and the procedure, the process is its own reward." -Amelia Earhart 

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