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November 4, 2010

Not everyday can be a good day. Sometimes you wake up feeling a bit off, you know, wake up on the wrong side of the bed or something. Sometimes that “off” feeling can perpetuate the day and make little occurrences or mishaps seem like major day breakers. On a normal day, a little spilled coffee is a small blunder and an easy clean up. On an off day, it can cause a fit of rage, “how the EFF did that coffee spill?? It’s HOT. Where are the paper towels? How come no one EVER refills the towel basket???” On a normal day, a printer jam is a small nuisance and can usually be fixed in a few seconds. On an off day, this printer jam can send your hands into shakes and steam from your ears, “I HATE this printer. It NEVER works. I wish I could throw this thing OUT THE WINDOW.” By the time this type of day is over and you have turned the key into your apartment, your shoulders feel tight, the frown lines are deep in your face, and you are teetering on the edge of either a fit of rage or an explosion of tears. Whichever comes first, really.

Throw in an excursion to Shaw’s on a day like that and you might as well just jump off that ledge.

Last Monday, my whole day was bit off and not quite right. I was tense, frustrated, a little moody from the dreary weather and ready to end my day with a soothing meal and an early bedtime. What is better to sooth the soul than a nice pot of soup? After a little searching on my favorite food blogs, I found Luisa’s post on a sweet potato, corn, jalapeño bisque. It looked warm and satisfying, and easy enough that it would be perfect to accommodate my sleepiness. It needed so few ingredients, I thought I would just pop into Shaw’s, grab what I needed and be out in a jiffy. Except, it didn’t really work that way. Per usual, Shaw’s was packed with people all trying to get in and get out just like me. Great, just what I needed, I just wanted to go home. I found most of my ingredients fairly easily; if you call weaving in and out of packed, narrow isles, sneaking your arm in through the crowd to grab a few sweet potatoes and tripping over people dragging their baskets behind them easy, than yeah, it was easy. After 15 minutes of playing what felt like capture the flag/produce in enemy territory, I looked down my list and needed only two more ingredients- I had located and stashed 4 local sweet potatoes, an onion, a head of garlic, a bag of frozen corn, some green onions and an especially green jalapeño. Not so bad I thought, just need some cayenne pepper and a jar of molasses. I was slowly inching my way towards a hot bowl of soup, some cozy sweatpants and a rainy night in. Except, those last two ingredients turned out to be impossible to find. Would you ever think that cayenne pepper and molasses would require a search party? Would you ever think that Shaw’s would sell out of EVERY jar of cayenne pepper? And that the only alternative would be a whopping 9 dollars? Would you ever think that three Shaw’s employees would point you in the wrong direction to find molasses three different times? Do they even know what molasses is?? Needless to say, I did kind of find everything. I hit gold in the organic section even if it was twice the price.

When I finally made it home, later than I had hoped, more wet that I would have liked, and in a worse mood than expected, I was ready to put my soup-sweatpants-sleep plan into action. That’s all I had wanted to do all day. Things were going smoothly enough, there is something about hacking a mound of sweet potatoes, onions and garlic into nice small pieces that really helps release some pent up frustration. When it came time to blend the soup, I transported a few cups of the mixture into my blender (I don’t have an immersion blender) before realizing we had somehow misplaced the lid, but a pot lid seemed to fit nicely enough to prevent any escaping broth and sweet potato mixture. WRONG. As soon as I hit the middle button to whirr it all together, a tidal wave of orange flew into the air, landing all over the counter and myself. A hot tidal wave. Are. You. Kidding. Me. Really universe?? I just want to make some soup! This really wasn’t my day. What had started as an off day, has now quickly turned the corner to an awful day. I took a few deep breaths, held back a scream and cleaned the whole mess up. Once I managed to carefully blend everything into a nice bubbling pot of bisque, I added in the molasses, cinnamon, cayenne and corn. The smell was divine- sweet, spicy and soothing, just what I needed. All that was left was to add that green, fresh kick of the Jalapeño. I dug through the refrigerator, my bag and even the trash. No. Jalapeño. Somehow, someway, it wasn’t bagged when I paid for my groceries. No. Jalapeño. I looked at the jalapeño-less bisque and my sink and for a few seconds contemplated throwing it all down the drain and getting it over with. The tears I had been holding back since earlier in the day threatened to spill and the frustration I had tried to keep under wraps was about to break free. I couldn’t believe it. No. Jalapeño.

Lucky for me, I had someone there who volunteered to clean up my entire mess, pack the soup up for tomorrow when a jalapeño can be purchased, and urged me to take a shower to relax and calm down….and to get the orange goop out of my hair. Once I was able to pull it together and make a trip to trader joes to purchase jalapeños (the next day, I skipped the soup that awful evening), the soup turned out great. All issues aside, it was easy to pull together. I loved the pairing of the sweet potato with the sweet pops of corn and the nice bite of heat from the jalapeño. The molasses, as noted on the Wednesday Chef blog, was the key ingredient here: it made the soup taste rich and enhanced the sweet potato flavor. A perfect soup for a rainy, sleepy day….just be careful.

Sweet Potato, Corn and Jalapeño Bisque
From The Wednesday Chef

1 tablespoon peanut oil
1/2 cup chopped onions
2 teaspoons minced garlic
3 medium sweet potatoes (about 2 1/2 pounds total), peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1 medium jalapeño, seeded and finely chopped
1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
2 tablespoons molasses
1/2 tablespoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
Scant pinch ground cinnamon
Finely chopped scallions, green parts only, or minced parsley

1. In a large saucepan or soup pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions and garlic and sauté until just soft, 2 to 3 minutes. Add sweet potatoes and stock and bring to a boil.

2. Reduce heat and simmer until potatoes are soft, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Using an immersion blender or a food processor (or blender with a lid), purée contents of pot, in batches if necessary, until smooth.

3. Reheat soup, stirring in jalapeño, corn, molasses, salt, cayenne, black pepper and cinnamon. Taste, adjust seasonings and serve, topped with scallions or parsley.

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