EARLER TONIGHT, I FOLLOWED TIM OUT OUR KITCHEN DOOR and down the driveway to the garage, where we both got in the car. He turned the key in the ignition, looked at me and asked, “Where are we going?” and I shrugged with a “Anywhere you want!” So he backed out passed the chain link fence where our neighbor’s flowers grow and the giant bush sprouts a spider’s web longer than my height, pointing the car anywhere and nowhere, warm Tennessee air flowing through our open windows.
We followed I-24 West to Shelby, which is a confusing thing to say because Shelby is East Nashville, and we live in South Nashville, but to get there you take I-24 West. In East Nashville, we cruised down Gallatin and eventually down the street where I used to live, passed my old yellow bungalow that I already have a hard time remembering, just over two years after I left. And somewhere between the piece of pumpkin vegan cake we ended up sharing from Wild Cow on the Jeni’s patio and the soup bones we ended up buying at the grocery store in Green Hills, I turned to Tim and said the thing to which a lot of you will probably relate. “I have to tell you something,” I said to him in the now-darkness of this September Thursday night. “I’m just not sure what’s true about health anymore.”
As anyone who knows Tim will tell you, my husband is a patient man, and what followed was little more than a nodding head and an “I understand that” and a short discussion while he parked the car. He knows, like I know, that the thing about nutrition and health is that the deeper you go with it, the more questions that arise. Our bodies are complex. Everybody’s is different. We’ve all been through different things, gone through different things. The way something affects you might not be the way that something affects me. There are a million and one experts about the a million and one issues, and most of us who care at all about the power of food on the body have seen enough people contradicting each other to want to throw our hands up in the air. And in our particular case, because of the nature of Tim’s work, friends often come to us, with a cold or a breakout or a spot on their feet, and want to know, casually over coffee or lunch, what to take or do to fix it. Most people want a quick cure, a pill to pop, but the answers that come from whole foods don’t work that way. Our bodies are complex. Healing them takes time.
All of that is mostly to say that I’m amazed by the way we’re made, and I’m amazed by the way my husband talks to me, and, also, I’m grateful for the things that don’t feel confusing. Why one person gets cancer when another doesn’t may seem random, but the effect that switching to real foods has on the body doesn’t. I am sure, both by study and by experience, that eating whole foods makes you feel better and makes you think clearer and is fairly addictive.
I am also sure that taking a bunch of vegetables, cooking them together in a pot to create a rich and flavorful stock, and eating it for lunch is a pretty good way to spend a September afternoon.
We first made this soup last week, when I was a little under the weather and wanted something comforting to eat. We were after a sort of pho-like stock, the kind of thing so flavorful it’s easy to slurp down, and I think what we achieved came pretty close. I made it again this afternoon, switching up some of the vegetables, and it was just as nice. Instead of traditional pasta noodles, we used the spaghetti squash that keeps popping up in our CSA, and I think now that soups like these are my favorite way to have that sort of squash.
Sweet and spicy spaghetti squash noodle soup
Makes six to eight hearty servings
The vegetables you use in this soup are very flexible. The first time, we nixed the onion and green pepper in the beginning and instead added 1/2 pound of chopped green peppers and 1/2 a chopped tomato with the broth, letting the mixture cook a little longer all together. Either way works. Add any vegetables you want to sauté in the beginning step; any any you want to boil in the second. As written below, all the vegetables cook together. Feel free to adapt and adjust based on what you have on hand.
1 large spaghetti squash
1 tablespoon coconut oil for roasting squash
1 tablespoon coconut oil for soup
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
2 stalks of celery, chopped
1 onion, peeled and diced
1 green pepper, seeded, stem removed, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, grated
1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste at the end
1/4 teaspoon pepper
4 to 4 1/2 cups of vegetable stock
1/2 teaspoon green curry paste
a squirt of sriracha (optional, but we like a little kick)
1 to 3 tablespoons coconut sugar
1 to 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Preheat oven to 375F. Cut spaghetti squash in half; scoop out and discard the seeds (or set aside to roast them if you like). Rub the inside flesh with a tablespoon of coconut oil, and place the squash on a baking sheet, cut-side down. Bake for 45 minutes to an hour, or until a fork easily pierces the squash’s flesh. When finished cooking, set aside. When cool, scrape out noodles of squash with a fork.
In a three-and-a-half to four-quart stock pot, warm a tablespoon of coconut oil over medium heat on the stove. Add the chopped carrots, chopped celery, chopped green pepper, grated garlic cloves, and generous shakes of salt and pepper. Let cook until the onions are translucent, the vegetables are fairly soft and the kitchen is fragrant, but before everything starts browning.
Add four to four-and-a-half cups of vegetable stock (we always have some in the freezer, ever since I started using this method). Add half a teaspoon of curry paste and, if you like, a squirt of sriracha. (At this point, you could also add additional vegetables if you like, such as green beans or tomato or frozen broccoli or whatever you like. ) Add a tablespoon each of coconut sugar and balsamic vinegar.
Let pot cook over medium-low until all the vegetables are soft. If you didn’t add vegetables in the second step, this will only take 15 minutes or less. Taste and adjust seasonings (it will likely need a lot more salt) as you like. Add up to two more tablespoons each of coconut sugar and balsamic, depending on how the blend of vegetables tastes. You want the stock to be slightly spicy and slightly sweet.
Last, add the spaghetti squash noodles and cook for about two minutes more, just long enough to warm the squash.