Sweet Potato and Orange Soup with Smoky Pecans

In the latest DC Dish video, newly minted cookbook author Joe Yonan joined me to demo his fabulous sweet potato soup with orange and smoky pecans from "Serve Yourself: Nightly Adventures In Cooking For One."

In his new cookbook, the Washington Post food editor has a brilliant tip for whipping up soup bases to freeze into individual portions when you have some time, say on the weekends, and then "finessing" them into flavorful variations so you don't have to eat the same soup again and again — a common conundrum when cooking for one.

Here he shares his sweet potato soup base that gets amped up with the addition of orange juice and zest, creme fraiche and pimenton-spiced pecans. Trust me, you're gonna want to make this. And check out Joe's book, perfect for city-dwelling singles.

Sweet Potato Soup Base
Serve Yourself: Nightly Adventures in Cooking for One by Joe Yonan

makes about 4 cups

2 (10- to 12-ounce) sweet potatoes
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
1 celery stalk, thinly sliced
1 small leek, white and pale greens, thinly sliced
2 sprigs thyme
Kosher or sea salt
Pinch of curry powder
2 cups light chicken or vegetable stock, warmed

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Use a fork or sharp knife to prick the sweet potatoes in several places. Place on a piece of aluminum foil and bake until the sweet potatoes are tender and can be easily squeezed, 60 to 75 minutes. (Alternatively, to speed up the process, microwave the pricked sweet potatoes on High for 1 minute, then carefully transfer to the oven on a piece of foil. Bake until the potatoes are tender, 30 to 45 minutes.)

Pour the oil into a 3-quart saucepan over medium heat. When it starts to shimmer, add the carrots, celery, leek, thyme, and a pinch of salt. Stir to combine well, then decrease the heat to low, cover the pot, and allow the vegetables to sweat in their own juices until very soft, 10 to 15 minutes. (Take care not to allow the vegetables to burn.)

Scrape into the saucepan the soft flesh from the roasted sweet potatoes, add the curry powder, and stir to combine, mashing the sweet potato flesh with a spoon. The mixture will be chunky. Stir in the stock and combine well. Bring the mixture to a boil, then decrease the heat so the mixture gently simmers, and cook, covered but with the lid slightly ajar, for about 15 minutes to let the flavors meld. Allow the mixture to cool slightly, then remove and discard the thyme.

Use a handheld immersion blender to puree the soup base, which will be very thick. (Alternatively, you can puree it in a blender or food processor. If using a blender, be sure to remove the center cap on the lid and cover with a dish towel to let steam escape, and work in small batches to avoid splattering the soup.) Taste and add salt if needed.

Let the soup base cool to room temperature. Divide it into 4 portions and use immediately, refrigerate for up to 2 weeks, or freeze in small containers or heavy-duty freezer-safe resealable plastic bags, pressing as much air out of the bag as possible before sealing. It will keep frozen for several months

Sweet Potato and Orange Soup with Smoky Pecans
Serve Yourself: Nightly Adventures in Cooking for One by Joe Yonan

makes 1 serving

1 cup Sweet Potato Soup Base, defrosted if frozen
1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/4 cup water or vegetable stock, plus more as needed
Kosher or sea salt
2 tablespoons pecan halves
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 teaspoon pimenton (smoked Spanish paprika) or ground chipotle chile
2 tablespoons creme fraiche or sour cream, whisked until smooth
Finely grated zest of 1 orange

Pour the soup base into a small saucepan over medium heat. Whisk in the orange juice and water, adding more water if you want a thinner consistency. Cook until the soup is bubbling hot, 3 to 4 minutes. Taste and add salt if needed. Decrease the heat to low, cover, and keep it hot.

Heat a small skillet over medium-high heat. Add the pecans and cook, stirring occasionally, until they are fragrant and start to darken, 2 to 3 minutes. Pour in the oil, stir in the pimenton, and cook for another 30 seconds to dissolve the spice. Use a heatproof spatula to scrape the spiced oil and pecans into a small bowl.

Pour the soup into a serving bowl, dollop the crème fraîche in the middle, and top with the pecans and spiced oil. Sprinkle the orange zest on top, and eat.

Reprinted with permission from Serve Yourself: Nightly Adventures in Cooking for One by Joe Yonan copyright © 2011. Published by Ten Speed Press, a division of Random House, Inc.

Cover photo credit: Ed Anderson © 2011

Soup photo in video by Ezra Poundcake