Obsessed with Soup (spinach, sweet potato and chickpea stew)
When I was in third grade or so, all I did was arts and crafts. Names on my assignments would be written in cursive that then looped into a picture of a butterfly or flowers. I’d order craft sets to go along with the books I read, constructing paper dolls to re-enact the scenes from the book. When walking through a park, I’d pick up untold numbers of odds and ends to use as found objects for some art project yet to be conceptualized. And the painting, oh the painting. It was unceasing.
All this is to say that when I latch onto something, I latch on good and hard. One might say I have a somewhat obsessive personality, but I like to think driven is a better term than obsessive. Let’s go with driven. It sounds less likely to end me up in years of therapy.
As is no surprise given this blog, for the past couple of years cooking has been my passion. I’m of course the picture of focus and diligence at school, but during boring seminars on the shuttle rides to and from meetings or school, I think about whether to use the broccoli in my fridge for a veggie cobbler or in a roasted side dish. Or what to add to this weekend’s cooking party menu. Diversion, driving force, obsession, passion – whatever you call it, it takes up all remaining brain cells not devoted purely to science.
That is, until science decides to spread like a wildfire and demand that every single neuron in my brain fires singly and wholly for the purpose of learning about protein interactions and membrane biology. Yes, when I have deadlines I tend to obsess just as much as I used to over a watercolor painting. So for the past couple of weeks, cooking and writing about cooking has only happened in the tiniest of spurts. As in, let’s thaw out the dal I made a month ago. Or let’s jot a quick comment on the brilliant posts of my diligent (and better at time management) blogging buddy.
But before and after the dark weeks of science, there was cooking. And I mean lots of cooking. This is a recipe I fell in love with while I was still at my parent’s house earlier this month. It’s a stew perfect for this time of year – in fact my accompanying text could have been entirely about my hatred of January sidewalk slush or the huge health benefits of a soup with greens, veggies and legumes. But I’m much happier thinking about childhood memories of sunny park days or about the not-so-healthy cookies at home waiting to be iced. So forget the fact that this soup matches the dismal weather or your January resolutions, and just make this because it tastes amazing. The ginger and coconut milk give it a little kick that takes it beyond your standard-fare stew and gives you a touch of something tropical while still warming your core above freezing. A mid-winter trip to the beaches of the South Pacific might not be feasible, but allowing your taste buds to feel like they’re on vacation somewhere with palm trees and sunshine seems like the best kind of compromise.
Spinach, Sweet Potato and Chickpea Stew
Adapted from A Couple Cooks (which is quickly becoming my go-to veggie idea blog), serves 6-8
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, chopped
3/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)
3/4 pound spinach, roughly chopped
2 large sweet potatoes or yams, diced into 1/2- to 3/4-inch cubes
15 oz cooked chickpeas (preferably from dry peas, but canned works)
5 cups (1 1/2 quarts) vegetable broth
1 cup unsweetened coconut milk
salt and pepper, to taste
2 cups rice (we used Basmati, whole grain is another good option)
Bring 4 cups water to a boil and add rice. Simmer for about 25 minutes, or until rice is cooked. You may need to add more water.
In a large pot or skillet, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add onion and cook over medium heat until translucent, which should take about 5 minutes. Add in garlic, ginger, turmeric and crushed red pepper, if using. Cook for an additional minute.
Add sweet potatoes and 5 cups vegetable broth. Mix and bring to a simmer. Add spinach and chickpeas and simmer for 20 minutes. Sweet potatoes should still maintain their shape, but be very tender when poked with a fork at this point.
Remove from heat and stir in coconut milk. Season to taste and serve immediately over cooked rice.