Photos by Amy Davis
Sweet potato corn chowder (recipe here)
One of my favorite musical discoveries last year was Lost in the Trees, a classical-inspired folk group from North Carolina. Their most recent album All Alone in an Empty House is sad and beautiful, telling the somewhat autobiographical story of frontman Ari Picker’s family. There’s death, fighting, pain and depression, but also hope. It’s a warm, comforting album perfect for fall, and perfect for healing (this, perhaps unsurprisingly, is likely going to be a theme with most fall music featured here). In the album’s centerpiece, “Fireplace,” the shouted chorus goes, “So surround yourself with good people/ I know it’s painful but we can stand.”
I chose soup because, well, as far as I’m concerned, soup heals everything. But it’s also an ideal dish for big gatherings/communal eating in general: sharing with other people and being together in both good and not-so-good times. As for the flavor, the sweet potatoes and corn are for the band’s southern roots and comfort food in general. (Sidenote: While thinking about corn, autumn, and being “lost in” anything, I couldn’t help but remember the time my cousin and I got lost in a cornfield in northern Michigan when we were toddlers.)
This is easily one of my favorite soups I have ever made; it’s sweet and savory, and can be eaten warm or cold (I prefer it warm, but a friend at work loved it cold). However you eat it, though, I can tell you this stuff was amazing. I said soup is great for sharing, and this one was tasted by my roommates, my friend Amy (who took the accompanying photos), and three coworkers — and they all approved. This soup requires quite a bit of veggie prep work, but it’s well worth it, I promise.
Adapted from It’s Not Easy Eating Green
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 small onions
2 stalks of celery, chopped
2 small carrots, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons thyme
1/4 cup flour
4 cups vegetable broth/stock
2 medium sweet potatoes or a combination of sweet potatoes and squash
5 ears of corn (see preparation directions below)
1 cup coconut milk
Salt and pepper to taste
Corn prep: For two ears, cut the kernels straight off and set aside in a bowl. Do not discard the cobs. For the other three ears, use a grater to grate the kernels off into a separate bowl. This will create a milky-looking pulp. Also grate the cobs from the first two ears of corn. Then use a knife to scrape off any extra pulp and juice.
• Heat olive oil in large pot. Add carrots, onions celery, and a pinch of salt, and cook until tender and translucent.
• Add garlic, thyme and flour, and cook until the flour is well mixed in and doesn’t really look like flour anymore.
• Gradually stir in the vegetable broth.
• Add the potatoes (and/or squash) and the grated corn pulp. Bring to a simmer and cook on low, stirring frequently, until the potatoes are soft, about 15 minutes.
• Add the coconut milk and kernels, bring to a simmer and add salt and pepper as needed.