There is something so delightfully nostalgic about an old cookbook. Once beloved, long since fallen out of fashion, then dusted off and revived once more. Like finding your childhood teddy bear or an old photo you didn’t realize you’d kept.
I don’t generally go in for nostalgia. It’s usually only fun for a brief moment; a warm memory, a resurgence of feeling, a fuzzy image—suddenly ungraspable and empty, all-too-quickly receding again into the past. The present comes quickly knocking again to remind you of what’s what.
Not so with old cookbooks. It’s been twenty years at least, but I knew exactly where to find New Recipes From Moosewood Restaurant in my library, and exactly which page to turn to.
I learned to cook from Moosewood cookbooks. As a young West Coast vegetarian whose eating habits offended my family of hunters, I was thrilled to learn that books and restaurants and a whole food culture was geared to people like me, because there was a whole movement of people like me. I am no longer vegetarian, due to the pressure of feeding meat-lovers in my house, but I often eat vegan cuisine when I’m home alone. It’s better for animals, the planet and my health. And more vegetables can never be a bad thing.
This is a non-vegetarian take on a vegetarian soup that I made once for my friend Jacqueline. She was delighted to have a soup bearing her name. I’ve upped the cream and switched out the water for chicken stock. Both tweaks make for a richer soup, but honestly, water or veggie stock will do just fine. I’ve upped the ginger, too, but trust me, it’s not overwhelming. It’s a very balanced, still a very French-seeming soup, perfect for transition weather. Gently from summer to fall we go, back and forth, then and now.
The other tweak was the lemon. The original recipe called for a floating lemon slice in the soup, which is a beautiful garnish, but it also was essential to the flavour, but a very uneven delivery method. I didn’t want the acid of lemon juice, and I didn’t want to boil the lemon zest, which would make the soup unbearably bitter. So, I grated so zest—a fair bit—to be blended in with the cream. It makes the sweet potato soup tastier and less insistently healthful.
If you can find fresh bay leaf, please do use it—dried is acceptable but just not the same. Tarragon also makes a lovely garnish. Potage Jacqueline, la deuxième fois.
- 2 tbsp butter
- 2 tbsp oil
- 2 large onions, or 3 small
- 2 stalks of celery, chopped
- 1 tbsp freshly grated ginger
- 6 fresh bay leaves
- 3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
- 4 cups chicken stock
- 1 tsp sea salt
- ¼ tsp white pepper
- 1 cup fresh whipping cream
- 1 tbsp freshly grated lemon zest
- Melt butter in oil over medium low heat. Sauté onions slowly until they are translucent. Add ginger and celery, stirring until celery is soft.
- Add chopped sweet potatoes, salt, bay leaf, white pepper and chicken stock. If you have the leaves from the celery, throw that in too. If the stock doesn’t quite cover the potatoes, don’t worry, they will submerge as they cook. You want them to be almost covered by liquid, not quite. Add more stock or water as needed, leaving about half an inch of potatoes sticking out.
- Bring to a boil, then simmer over medium heat for about 25 minutes, until the potatoes are thoroughly softened. Let cool a little to make the soup easier to handle. Remove bay leaves and celery leaves, if using.
- Blend soup with cream and lemon zest on high until perfectly smooth, about 2 minutes. Reheat gently on the stovetop. Serve with a slice of lemon and some chopped tarragon, if desired.