Makes 6 cups - 6 servings
Tart apples and a sweet yam, ginger and curry are the magical components of this soup. In addition to the sweet and salty pecans, top servings with colorful pomegranate seeds if you make this in October, November, and December.
For the pecans
Vegetable oil cooking spray
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon light-colored corn syrup
2 teaspoons water
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup (4 ounces) whole pecans
For the soup
1 tablespoon canola oil
1 carrot, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
1 leek (white part only), halved lengthwise, rinsed, and cut into ¼-inch slices
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons minced fresh ginger
2 teaspoons curry powder
5 cups vegetable stock (make using stock cubes, concentrate, or powder)
1 medium orange-fleshed sweet potato (about 10 ounces), peeled and cut into ½-inch chunks
2 Granny Smith, or other tart apples, peeled and cut into ½-inch cubes
½ cup dry white wine
Salt and ground white pepper to taste
Pomegranate seeds or dried cranberries for garnish
To make the pecans, preheat the oven to 250° F. Line a jelly-roll pan with aluminum foil and spray it with vegetable-oil cooking spray. Melt the butter in a small nonstick saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the corn syrup, water, and salt. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Remove the pan from the heat. Add the pecans and stir until completely coated. Spread the nuts in a single layer on the prepared pan. Bake, stirring occasionally, for about 60 minutes, or until lightly browned and dry. Transfer to a plate and allow to cool, then coarsely chop. (Whole pecans will sink to the bottom of the soup bowls.)
Meanwhile, prepare the soup. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the carrot, celery, leek, garlic, ginger, and curry powder; cook, stirring occasionally, until the leek is softened, about 5 minutes.
Stir in the vegetable stock, sweet potato, apples, and wine. Increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat; cover and simmer until the vegetables are very tender, about 25 minutes.
In several batches, purée the soup in a blender until smooth. Pour the soup into the pan and reheat to serving temperature. Season to taste.
Garnish each serving with a sprinkling of nuts and pomegranate seeds or dried cranberries.
This soup will keep for up to 3 days in a covered container in the refrigerator. Store the nuts for up to 3 weeks in an airtight container at room temperature.