Marian Burros's Squash and Cheese Pie
Jim Lahey's No-Knead Pizza

Sweet Potato, Corn and Jalapeño Bisque


I don't know about your pantry, but mine is stuffed to the gills with root vegetables these days. Turnips and rutabagas and celery root and, most of all, sweet potatoes. Sweet potatoes upon sweet potatoes upon sweet potatoes. My farm is churning them out at an alarming rate. And while I'm grateful for my winter CSA, I find myself quite daunted at sheer number of knobbly roots knocking around my crisper drawer, my butcher block, my waking hours. Coming up with ways to get rid of them has become my winter sport.

But I don't have the stomach for complicated recipes these days, for exotic ingredients, or a lot of new bottles to crowd my cupboards. I'm in the mood to use what I've got, to be resourceful and sparing, to purchase little that I don't truly need (pomegranate molasses, I'm looking at you). So when the NY Times published a recipe for a sweet potato soup a few weeks back for which I needed to purchase only one extra ingredient, a jalapeño, I felt like it was divine providence.

And wouldn't you know, I made this recipe not once but twice in one week. It may be hard to believe, but that's the first time in the history of this website that I've ever done such a thing. This soup is good. Not only good, but cheap. Not only cheap, but fast. Not only fast, but healthy. Okay, I'll stop now. But I like it; I really, really like it.

Imagine, sauteed onions and a pile of cubed sweet potatoes, cooked until soft in some stock. Then a quick blitz with an immersion blender and the pot fills with a swirling, creamy, orange puree. In goes a shake of cinnamon, a glug of inky molasses, a spoonful of rusty cayenne, a shower of minced jalapeño and the rat-tat-tat of frozen corn hitting hot liquid. The flame heats the soup pot for a few minutes longer while you salt and pepper to taste. Pull out the soup bowls, the silver spoons, a few slices of bread. Slice a quick handful of green onions or parsley, as I did, for a grassy bite, and drop them into the soup. Dinner is ready.

And what a revelation it is. The first spoonful of soup is sweet and mellow and then comes the heat, just the right amount, from the jalapeño and the cayenne. Warming and bright, it provides a little spot of sunshine in a run of cold months. It takes less than half an hour to make from start to finish and makes me feel endlessly resourceful as I eye my dwindling stash of sweet potatoes. I wish satisfaction always came this easily.

Sweet Potato, Corn and Jalapeño Bisque
Serves 2 if that's all there is for dinner, or 4 as a first course

1 tablespoon peanut oil
1/2 cup chopped onions
2 teaspoons minced garlic
3 medium sweet potatoes (about 2 1/2 pounds total), peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 medium jalapeño, seeded and finely chopped
1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
2 tablespoons molasses
1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Scant pinch ground cinnamon
Finely chopped scallions, green parts only, or minced parsley

1. In a large saucepan or soup pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and sauté until just soft, 2 to 3 minutes. Add sweet potatoes and stock and bring to a boil.

2. Reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are soft, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Using an immersion blender or a food processor, purée contents of pot, in batches if necessary, until smooth.

3. Reheat soup, stirring in jalapeño, corn, molasses, salt, cayenne, black pepper and cinnamon. Taste, adjust seasonings and serve, topped with scallions or parsley.