I have always loved the start of fall - and I even welcome the realization that flip-flops can no longer be my default choice of footwear and I have to reach for a sweater instead of a tank top. To me, there's something so renewing and enticing about the change in seasons. Ripe summer berries are no longer present in my grocery bag and instead, I'm creating meals that are based around root vegetables and at least once a week, a big pot of soup or stew is simmering away on my stove.
Oh soup. How I love thee.
I've always thought that the trick to a really great soup (besides ample simmer time and seasoning it properly) is to add at least one surprising ingredient or component to the mix. Bonus points if there are two, but it shouldn't be much more than that. Soup, after all, should be kept simple, but that doesn't mean that it has to be boring. I find that the addition of a few surprise ingredients is what keeps things interesting and begs people to ask the question, in between hearty slurps and satisfied grins, what is in here?
With this soup, the two elements of surprise are purple sweet potatoes, which taste like regular sweet potatoes but are purple (fun!), and Harissa, a spicy paste of mixed peppers and spices that hail from Africa. (For the locals: both of these items can be found at Russo's in Watertown.) Fear not if you can't find these two ingredients though, a regular sweet potato will do just fine and you can swap the Harissa for another spicy component - chipotle or any hot sauce you may have on hand. But if you can find this duo, give them a try. Not only are the colors fantastic, but the flavors are really something.
This soup gets it's hardiness from a wide array of vegetables - sweet potatoes, leeks, carrots, parsnips and spinach, its richness from two sweet Italian sausage links and its body from lentils that were thrown in at the last minute to help thicken it up. When making this soup, I suggest you make extra; you'll want to enjoy the leftovers.
Purple Sweet Potato Vegetable Soup with Sausage
- 2 Sweet Sausage Links, casings removed
- 1 purple sweet potato, peeled and cubed
- 3-4 parsnips, chopped
- 1 large carrot, sliced into thick rounds
- 1 leek, white part only, washed and thinly sliced
- 3/4 cup lentils, rinsed
- 1/2 bag baby spinach
- 1 sprig fresh rosemary, finely chopped
- Harissa - to taste
- Extra Virgin Olive Oil, for drizzling
- Salt and Pepper to taste
Heat a large stock pot on medium-high heat. Drizzle olive oil and add sausage. Allow it to brown on all side and break it up into small bits. Add all of the vegetables (except the spinach) and cover generously with water and add the rosemary. Season the water with salt and add the Harissa to taste, cover and let simmer (do not boil). Just before the vegetables are done, add the lentils and let them simmer until just done. Add the spinach, check for seasoning before serving.
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