Heidi's Farro Soup with Curry Powder, Black Lentils and Salted Lemon Yogurt

I consider myself a soup aficionado and a connoisseur. I love it chilled, hot, spicy, thick and stew-like and yes, even consommé. For a long time my favorite soup was Black Bean, heavy on the cumin. I made it several times a month and even large batches seemed to disappear within a day or two of being made. Then Heidi Swanson's Summer Squash with Thai Curry Paste and Tofu Croutons got into the mix. Only to be followed by a Cauliflower Soup with Mustard Croutons and my perennial favorite, Pesto-MinestroneNow I've got a new soup in my rotation

It's another Heidi Swanson recipe- one for Farro Soup with Curry Powder, Lentils and Salted Lemon Yogurt. It's delicious, so don't let my photograph fool you because I don't think it does the soup justice!  The soup is incredibly easy to make and it took me under 20 minutes to prepare. The soup simmers for 45-50 minutes, but that's hands-off time. And when it's done simmering, you'll probably agree that nothing is nicer on a chilly night than this soup...and a glass of wine.  

On a totally unrelated note, I read an interesting piece in the New York Times last week. The article questioned whether cookbooks would survive the rising popularity of digital media like e-books and recipe apps (applications, not appetizers). Would cookbooks go obsolete? I don't have the answer and only time will tell. But I can tell you that I am getting that seasonal-itch. You know the one that surfaces right around the holidays and compels you to buy another 10 cookbooks because, well, who doesn't need more cookbooks? 
I love looking through great cookbooks--the ones with gorgeous photographs and tantalizing recipes. I like to dog-ear the pages, scribble in the margin and get sauce marks on the page. Know what I mean? 

But back to Heidi's soup, which comes from one of my favorite cookbooks, Super Natural Every Day…

Farro Soup with Curry Powder, Lentils and Salted Lemon Yogurt (Courtesy of Heidi Swanson, Super Natural Every Day)
Serves 8
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for serving
2 large yellow onions, chopped
1 cup peeled, diced sweet potato or winter squash
Fine-grain sea salt
1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons Indian curry powder
2/3 cup semi-pearled farro
1 1/4 cups green or black lentils, picked over and rinsed
6 cups vegetable broth or water (I went with low-sodium broth)
1 cup plain yogurt of Greek-style yogurt or creme fraiche (I've used both)
Grated zest and juice of 1/2 lemon, or to taste

Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat. Stir in the onions and sweet potato. Add a big pinch of salt and saute until the onions soften a bit, a couple of minutes.
Add the curry powder; stir until onions and sweet potatoes are coated and the curry is fragrant, a minute or so.
Add the farro, lentils and 6 cups of the broth broth. Bring to a boil, lower heat, and simmer, covered, for 25 minutes. (I used semi-pearled farro and it took me 45 minutes for the soup to cook.  Then I let it sit in the dutch oven, covered, and off-heat for another 15 minutes.)
Taste and season with more salt, if needed. (Don't under-salt or the soup will taste flat.) While the soup is cooking, in a small bowl, stir together the yogurt, lemon zest and juice, and 1/4 teaspoon salt.  Serve each bowl of soup topped with a dollop of lemon yogurt and a drizzle of olive oil.

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Happy Thanksgiving! 

Curried Sweet Potato Latkes with a side of Dreidel!

The holiday season is in full swing.  Some of you will put up a Christmas tree or dust off your Kwanza kinara.  Others will lament the holiday season and put their head in the sand until January. But for me, I get out my dreidel and start rolling gimmels. I'm not a religious person (not at all), but I do like cultural celebrations that revolve around light and food.  
And I'm really excited about Chanukah this year because: 1. I like lighting the menorah 2. I just received the gift I sent myself (the Baked cookbook) 3. I really like to eat latkes and 4. *and most importantly* I like having people over to our teeny-tiny living space (only a few at a time) and celebrating the holidays with close friends.
This recipe for Curried Sweet Potato Latkes came to me by way of Jane, the mother of our very close friend.  We got to taste these last year and they are a wonderful alternative to your standard potato latke.  And they have a little kick due to the curry powder and cayenne.  Bring these to your next Hanukkah party and you'll be a real hit!  
(In case you aren't familiar with latkes, they are a shallow-fried pancake, usually potato, that are traditionally eaten on Chanukah.)
Happy holidays.
CURRIED SWEET POTATO LATKES (Adapted from The New Prospect Cafe by Jewish Cooking in America)
Serves 16 2-inch pancakes
1 pound sweet potatoes, peeled
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon brown sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 teaspoons curry powder
1 teaspoon cumin
salt to taste
freshly ground pepper, to taste
2 large eggs, beaten
1/2 cup milk
peanut oil for frying
Grate the sweet potato coarsely.  In a separate bowl, mix the flour, sugar, brown sugar, baking power, cayenne pepper, curry powder, cumin, salt and pepper.
Add the eggs and just enough milk to dry ingredients and make a stiff batter.  (I used less than the 1/2 cup of milk.) Add the potatoes and mix.  The batter should be moist but not runny; if too stiff, add more milk. 
Heat 1/4 inch of peanut oil (I used a bit less) in a saute pan until it is barely smoking.  Drop in the batter by tablespoons and flatten.  Cook several minutes on each side until golden. Drain on paper towels and serve.
Note: I think next time I make these I will cook the sweet potatoes and mash them, then follow the rest of the directions as written.  I guess it comes down to this: do you like your latkes smooth or stringy?  I think I'm a smooth type of gal.  
Also, I made another batch of these latkes tonight.  They were so good.  I left the batter and sweet potatoes in the fridge overnight, and the potato was really soft and all the spices were absorbed beautifully.  But either way, the make a nice holiday treat.
So eat those latkes, light that menorah and spin that dreidel.  

Old Fashioned Sweet Potato Pie

Oh lord, this sweet potato pie is fantastic. It's an absolute winner! It's sweet, quintessential southern cooking that just screams "Thanksgiving" and "The Holidays." One piece of pie is like tasting a little slice of heaven. Should I go on?
I used three sweet potatoes, which I picked up at farmers market yesterday afternoon- the day before Thanksgiving. In order to cook 2 cups of sweet potatoes, I peeled them and cut them into rounds and then quartered each round. I put a very small pat of butter in a sauce pan and then added the sweet potatoes. I added 1/2 cup of water to the pot and then covered it. I repeated this step as necessary, basically each time the water evaporated or was absorbed. The steam and water cooked them perfectly...within about 15 minutes they were ready for mashing. For other suggestions on how to cook sweet potato- click here
Once the pie was half way done baking in the oven, I started working on the meringue. It was a cinch to whip up. I topped the pie with little peaks of meringue and put it back in the oven for 10 minutes.   
When I took the pie out of the oven the whole house smelled sweet and wonderful. It's one gorgeous looking pie, if I do say so myself! I served it for dessert and while there were only three of us, there was almost nothing left in the pie pan by the time we were done.  
Enjoy and happy holidays!

Old Fashioned Sweet Potato Pie (Courtesy of Paula Deen)
  • 2 cups peeled, cooked sweet potatoes
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1/2 stick melted butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or 1 to 2 tablespoons bourbon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 cup milk
  • 9-inch unbaked pie crust
  • 3 egg whites


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

For the filling, using an electric hand mixer, combine the potatoes, 1 cup of the sugar, the butter, eggs, vanilla, salt, and spices. Mix thoroughly. Add the milk and continue to mix. Pour the filling into the pie crust and bake until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean - the original recipe says it takes 35-45 minutes, but my not-so-great oven took about 1 1/4 hours). Place the pie on a rack and cool to room temperature before covering with meringue.

For the meringue, using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form; beat in the remaining 1/4 cup sugar 1 tablespoon at a time. Continue beating until the sugar dissolves and the mixture is glossy and stiff, but not dry. With a rubber spatula, spoon the meringue onto the pie, forming peaks. Make sure the meringue touches the crust all around. Sprinkle with a pinch of granulated sugar. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, or until delicately browned. Cool and serve.