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From the Field: Curried sweet potato soup with spinach, kale

Addie Broyles
abroyles@statesman.com

Earlier this month, I subscribed to a community supported agriculture program.

It’s been about three years since I was an active CSA subscriber. I tried a number of local options, usually splitting a box with a neighbor, but the sharing arrangement always seemed to fall through and we were on a budget and couldn’t afford to sustain a membership for long.

To be honest, money was always one of the reasons we never re-upped our subscription. Most CSAs cost about $30 a share and include a bounty of all kinds of produce, usually more than our broccoli-and-carrots family could eat in two weeks. We’d still spend $15 or $20 at the farmers market at least once a month so that at least some of our vegetables were coming from local farms, but the rest came from the grocery store and, when the chickens weren’t eating it, our backyard garden.

But with the new year, I wanted to challenge myself in the kitchen and revisit the community-supported model, of which I’ve always been a supporter if not an active user, to see if I could make it work for our family of four.

Last weekend, we picked up our first box, one of the new smaller sizes from Johnson’s Backyard Garden. (The lower cost and smaller box size was definitely a factor in deciding to subscribe.) In it, I found a beautiful bunch of carrots with their leafy tops still attached, four (super sweet and crisp) apples, a head of green cabbage, a few sweet potatoes and a bunch of kale, which I traded for even more sweet potatoes because our garden is currently exploding with kale.

One of the sweet potatoes, pictured at the top of this post, was one of the largest I’ve ever seen. I weighed it when I got home: 1 pound, 9 ounces.

With what seemed to be a thicker-than-normal skin, it didn’t seem suited for peeling and roasting, which is what I usually do with sweet potatoes, so I decided to try a technique in a soup that reader Devon Bijansky sent me earlier this week. Instead of chopping up the potato into small pieces and then sauteeing them to soften, the recipe called for microwaving the whole sweet potato until the flesh softens, and then scooping out the insides and mixing with coconut milk.

I added my own twists to the recipe, amping up the greens, adding black beans and topping with avocado, to come up with a comforting vegetarian winter soup that used ingredients both from my CSA box and the garden.

Now, I better get home and cover those beds so tonight’s wintery mix doesn’t get to the garden before I do.

Curried Sweet Potato Soup with Greens, Black Beans and Avocado

1 large sweet potato, scrubbed well

3/4 cup canned coconut milk

1 kaffir lime leaf (optional)

1 1/4 cups vegetable or chicken broth

1 1/2 tsp. curry powder

1 (15-oz. can) black beans, rinsed and drained

1 cup coarsely chopped spinach

1 cup coarsely chopped kale

1/2 tsp. sea salt

Sliced avocado, chopped cilantro and lime wedge, for garnish

Microwave sweet potato on high for 4 to 6 minutes or until very tender. Cut potato in half with a knife and, using a pot holder to hold each half, scoop out the insides into a saucepan.

Add coconut milk and mash with a potato masher or fork until mixture is fairly smooth. Stir in broth, curry powder and kaffir lime leaf. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 10 minutes.

Stir in beans and heat all the way through. Stir in greens and salt and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove kaffir lime leaf, and ladle soup into four shallow soup bowls. Top with cilantro, avocado and a squeeze of lime juice. Serves 4.

— Adapted by Addie Broyles from a recipe submitted by Devon Bijansky