Roasted carrot and sweet potato bisque (and more Eliza)

Roasted sweet potato bisque

I feel like I’m in slow motion moving through a fog. I don’t know what’s wrong with me. I have so much that I want to do, that I’m not doing any of it, and I frequently find myself on the couch with a soft warm puppy rather than attending to my important tasks. I blame it on the power failure, dammit!! I used up all my batteries, apparently, and now I’m blinking and stuttering like a machine about to lose all power. Well…I’ll catch up eventually, or realize that none of it matters. In the meantime, here’s a recipe for soup and another installment of the serialized drama known temporarily as Eliza and Hyssop. (For previous episodes, click here.)

We have ten pounds of sweet potatoes at the moment, from our CSA! And two huge bunches of beautiful carrots. What better way to use them then roasted in this smoky spicy bisque? It’s a very simple soup – just a few ingredients and spices. So it’s quite light, though satisfying. The warm sweet flavor of the vegetables really shines through.

Could be a spoonful of diamonds, gold, or sweet potato bisque!! Here’s Etta James with Spoonful.

And here’s Eliza, after the jump. When last we left her, she had raced to the top of the stairs, looking for the boy who had come to enlist her help in healing his brother…

…And then she heard a muffled snore, and she turned to find the stupid boy, exactly where she had left him, but curled on the cushions, with blankets tucked around him. He was fast asleep.
“Oh, how could he? At a time like this!” She shook the boy’s shoulder, and Hyssop peeped noisily in his ear, and he sat up at once, looking confused, sleepy, and more tousled than ever. “OK. We’ll go with you. We must leave at once.”
“Wait a minute now. One moment you don’t trust me at all, and are really rather rude about it. And the next you’re ready to follow me anywhere? I’m not sure that makes sense. I’m not sure I can trust your motive.”
“I still don’t trust you. And I certainly won’t follow you anywhere. I’ll follow you to my grandfather, and that is all. Sadly I have no other choice at the moment. You represent my only option.”
The boy smiled and shook his head. “Okay then.” He yawned, noisily. “Gather your things and off we’ll go.” Eliza didn’t have much; most of it could fit into the large pockets of her cloak. And she had a small case, made of wood, with a handle on the top. This opened to reveal many rows of shelves, which held many small bottles, which contained medicines, herbs and potions. She had been gathering these over the years, while she traveled with her grandfather and worked as his assistant. There were two narrow drawers on the bottom for instruments, papers and pens, and she kept her small stash of money in here, as well as letters and any other small precious thing she owned. She also had a book, bound in marbled paper. It was thick and worn, and she carried it with her everywhere, and wrote all of her ideas and sketched any interesting thing that caught her eye. She slipped this into a secret pocket inside her cloak, grabbed her portmanteau and her owl, and, with one last, regretful look around, closed the door on her apartment.
“Where are we going?” she asked, as they stomped down flight after flight of stairs. “Where are you taking me? How long will it take? How will we travel? I don’t have very much money. I’m sure I could not afford a coach.”
“Oh, we’re not going far at all. We can walk there in no time.”
“Thank heavens!”
He led her through dark twisted streets at a fast determined pace. She had to struggle to keep him in sight. She’d lived here all her life, but he took her to streets she had never seen before. More than once he would stop, look about him quizzically, seem, almost, to sniff the air, and then he’d turn and travel in the opposite direction, back along ground they had already covered. Hyssop squawked in protest when a fine freezing rain began to fall, so she slipped him into a warm, softly lined pocket of her cloak.
“STOP!” she cried, finally, as they passed down a certain street for the third time. The boy stopped so fast that she nearly bumped into him. He turned to look at her, eyebrows raised and rain dripping down his nose. “You don’t know where we’re going, do you?”
“Of course not. I’m new here. I’ve never been here before. How could I possibly…”
“We’re lost?” Eliza’s heart sank. Her feet were wet and sore, she was anxious and tired, and for some time now they had been traveling further and further down streets peopled with shady characters, who seemed to look at them with greedy questioning eyes.
“I suppose you could say….Wait a minute. No…Here we are. Exactly what I was looking for.” And without another word, he passed through a low door beneath an indecipherable sign that squeaked miserably on its hinges in the damp breeze. Eliza stood a moment in the wet street, angry and afraid. A tall figure in a dark cloak moved in her direction, and she jumped across to the door the boy had just passed through.
She found herself in a small, cramped, extremely pungent room, with bright warm colors and more people than could comfortably fit into the space. The crowd and the smells were almost dizzying, and for a moment, she could not find her boy. But then she spotted him sitting at a table near the end of a long bench. He had saved a space for her, and he patted the seat next to him, his homely rosy face like a beam in the center of the dark damp crowd.
“This is where my grandfather is?” She asked. “Where is he? I must go to him.”
“No. No, I’m sorry. Sit down.” She did, and looked anxiously for answers. “Your grandfather is not here. Dinner is here. I’m hungry. I cannot start on the long journey ahead of us without a meal. I’ve ordered something for you, too. You look as though you haven’t eaten in weeks.” Ordinarily, this slight on her ability to look after herself would have angered her, but she was so disappointed she could barely speak.
“You…I….what….I thought…” she spluttered in frustration and despair. Luckily, at that moment, lured by the smell of food, Hyssop pushed his way out of Eliza’s pocket, past her hand and tried to hop onto the table.
“You see, Hyssop is hungry, too.”
“He’s likely to get eaten in a place like this.” responded Eliza, trying to keep the little owl from hopping onto the table. “Hold still, little one, I will give you some food.”
“We can use this time to know each other better. Surely you have some questions about…well… about everything.”
“Certainly not! I may have to travel with you; I see that I have no other choice. But there is absolutely no need for conversation. I don’t have any questions about you at all.”
The boy chuckled. “Of course not about me…I meant about the trip, about your grandfather. But if you’re not the least bit curious, it’s fine by me. I’ll just concentrate on this.” Two big bowls of stew had been set before them, and a small round loaf of bread. The boy tore the bread in two and pushed one half towards her. She had not intended to eat at all, but the stew was surprisingly fragrant, and she pulled it towards her, and felt the pleasure of warming her hands on the bowl. It was thick with beans and potatoes and once she started eating, she realized just how hungry she was, and just how long it had been since she’d had a hot meal. A pinprick of pain on her finger reminded her that Hyssop was waiting for his dinner. She passed him beans and small pieces of bread and potato, which he managed to take from her hands without too much injury. She used her last crust of bread to soak up the last of the broth in her bowl, and turned to find the boy watching her with an amused smile on his face. He held out a piece of bread to her, but she shook her head and pushed her bowl away, rosy with embarrassment.
“What’s your name?” she asked, without looking at him.
“Toby.”
“Of course it is. And how old are you?”
“Same as you.”
“How old am…”
“Twelve.”
“How did…?”
“Your grandfather told me. He told me all about you. He never tired of talking about his Eliza. I think he may have missed you.”
“Of course he did!” Eliza replied hotly, before realizing how arrogant this might sound. “Of course we miss each other.” She sat quietly for a moment, watching Hyssop clean his beak. In truth she had so many questions she did not know where to begin. “Why is it so important that your brother get well?” He didn’t reply, and the second she glanced at his hurt, surprised face she realized how her question must have sounded. “Oh, no. I didn’t mean…I’m so sorry! Why does everything come out wrong when I try to talk to you? Of course it is important that your brother get better. But why … why so important that they sent for my grandfather, and why couldn’t he tell me where he was going?”
“Well, he’s a prince. And he’ll be king someday. Someday soon, actually. At the moment we have a regent, until my brother comes of age. But the regent is not a good man…he’s corrupt, although nobody seems to see it, and he won’t allow any criticism of his actions. If, for some reason, my brother cannot become king there is little doubt that the regent will find a way to claim the title for himself.”
“But what about you? Are you not next in line, if you are the younger brother?”
“Ah! She would ask…” He looked down at his empty bowl and trailed into an incoherent mumble, from which the words “half-brother” and “scandal” were clearly to be heard.
“Ah, I see.”
“Yes,” he said, with a wry smile. “Explains a lot, doesn’t it?”
“No, I only meant…”
He leaned towards her, pretending to adjust his coat, and said, close to her ear, “Hush, I fear we are not the only ones interested in this conversation. And we have a ship to catch.”
“A ship!”
“Yes, but hush.”
Eliza scanned the crowd around them. Back into the chill wet night they went. Eliza, though fortified by the meal, felt more confused and worried than ever.

DOT…DOT…DOT…

THE RECIPE!

2 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch dice
5 carrots, washed or peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
olive oil to coat
2 T olive oil
1 t rosemary
1 t red pepper flakes (or to taste)
1 t smoked paprika
1 clove garlic, minced
1 large shallot, minced
1/2 cup white wine
1 t balsamic
1 t tamari
1 T butter
salt and plenty of freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 425. Coat the sweet potatoes and carrots with olive oil, and spread in a single layer on a large baking tray. Bake for about half an hour, till they’re soft and starting to brown and caramelize on the outside. Set aside.

In a large soup pot, warm the olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallot and cook for about a minute until it starts to brown. Add the garlic, rosemary and red pepper flakes and cook for another minute. Add the roasted vegetables. Stir to coat with oil and herbs. Add the wine and cook until it’s reduced and syrupy.

Add the tamari, 1 t salt, smoked paprika, and enough vegetable stock or water to cover by about an inch. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until the vegetables are completely soft and everything is hot – about 15 minutes. Add the butter and balsamic, and blend in small batches until nice and smooth. Return to the pot to warm, and taste for salt. Grind in lots of pepper.

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