Right around this time of year I start trying to figure out what I am going to serve for our Thanksgiving Day feast. As I explained in my post about Thanksgiving 2009, my guests include a bunch of vegetarians, so this is a big challenge for me. So I thought I would take that old holiday standby, sweet potatoes, and make something different with them this year. Not that I don’t cherish my memories of those canned, sticky, sweet, orange chunks baked with brown sugar and miniature marshmallows. I do. My Mom made them every year throughout my whole childhood. They sat right next to the Green Bean, Cream of Mushroom and Fried Onion casserole. But I think I’m going to go the whole Southeast Asian route this time. Sorry Mom.
This is a great starter with the pureed sweet potato and coconut milk soup flavored with red curry paste and topped with a dollop of Thai pesto, which is chunky with peanuts and minced basil, cilantro and mint. I love this pesto because it is flavored with palm sugar, fish sauce and lime juice, the quintessential triumvirate of Thai cuisine. Plus grated ginger, green chile and garlic. Oh man. When the pesto is swirled into the orange soup, the melded taste is just sublime. Ok, I talked myself into it. This is definitely going on my Holiday menu.
Sweet Potato and Coconut Soup with Thai Pesto
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/4 pound sweet potatoes (3 ea), peeled and cut into ¾-inch pieces, 5 ½ -6 cups
1 red onion, chopped, about 3 cups
1 tablespoon Thai red curry paste
2 cups chicken or vegetable broth, low sodium
1 can (13.5 fl.oz) coconut milk, about 2 cups
2/3 cup unsalted dry roasted peanuts
2 garlic cloves, sliced
2 teaspoons finely grated fresh ginger with the juice
2 long green Thai chiles, seeded and chopped (I used fresh cayenne chiles)
1 small bunch fresh cilantro leaves (about 1 packed cup), stems discarded
1 large handful of fresh mint leaves
1 large handful of fresh basil leaves (rough chop)
1-2 tablespoons soy sauce or Thai fish sauce (to taste)
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lime juice (2 limes)
1 tablespoon brown sugar or palm sugar
1. Heat the olive oil in a large heavy saucepan or Dutch oven. Add the sweet potatoes and onion. Partially cover and cook for 15 minutes, stirring often, until soft and just starting to turn golden.
2. Increase the heat to high, add the curry paste and stir-fry for 2-3 minutes so the paste cooks and becomes fragrant. Add the broth and coconut milk and bring to a boil, stirring to incorporate the curry paste into the liquid.
3. Transfer the mixture to a food processor with the feed tube open (so steam can escape) and whizz until almost smooth. There will still be some small chunks. I did it in two batches. Return the soup to a clean saucepan.
4. To make the pesto, put all of the ingredients in a food processor or blender and whizz, occasionally scraping down the sides of bowl, until you have a chunky paste and the ingredients are all evenly chopped.
5. Gently reheat the soup, ladle into warmed serving bowls and top with a generous spoonful of Thai pesto, which is to be swirled into the soup. Serve with additional Pesto on the side.