This is a really simple soup to make, and gently flavored with hints of the Middle East, where I was working until just recently. Za'atar is a spice blend that combines dried hyssop, thyme, and sesame seeds and can be found at Middle Eastern grocers or other specialty stores. I had originally conceived of this as a butternut squash soup, but we had an overload of sweet potatoes in the house and so the recipe was amended, luckily to delicious results. Perfect for an autumnal evening. —Lauren Shockey
Test Kitchen Notes
One of the things we like best about this recipe is how lauren takes a few simple ingredients, adds a couple of exotic touches and manages to produce a dish that's both comforting and thrilling at the same time. The soup itself is silky and hearty, the sweetness of the potatoes tempered by the aromatics; a finishing swirl of zaatar oil (zaatar is a Mediterranean seasoning typically containing sesame seeds, thyme, oregano and salt) and a sprinkling of crumbled feta elevate the soup to sophistication. One cooking note: our soup was a bit thick after we pureed it, but a bit of water brought it to just the right consistency. - A&M —The Editors
6 to 8
plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
za'atar (see headnote)
onion, peeled and diced
carrot, peeled and diced
leek, white part only, rinsed thoroughly and diced
medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1" cubes
In a small pot, combine ¼ cup olive oil and the zaatar. Cook over medium heat until hot, but take care not to burn the zaatar. Set aside for at least one hour to cool and infuse.
In a large pot, heat the butter and remaining olive oil over medium high heat. When the butter has melted, add the onion, carrot, and leek, and cook until softened, about five minutes. Add the sweet potato cubes and sauté for another minute. Add the water, stock, and bay leaf, and bring to a boil. Once the soup begins to boil, lower to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes. Check to make sure the sweet potatoes are completely soft. If not, continue cooking until they are.
Remove the bay leaf and puree the soup using a regular or immersion blender. Check the seasoning and add the salt (you may need more or less depending on what type of stock you used). Ladle out the soup into individual bowls. Crumble some feta into each bowl, and drizzle each bowl with some of the zaatar oil.
Lauren Shockey is a New York City-based food writer and author of the cookbook Hangover Helper as well as the culinary memoir Four Kitchens. Previously the restaurant critic at the Village Voice, she has written for such publications as The New York Times, Travel + Leisure and the Wall Street Journal.