I love the clarity of a recipe, but I happened to marry a creative cook. I first realized the extent of his interest in culinary experimentation in the mid-1980s, when Zach was preparing a chicken dish for a small dinner party. Dissatisfied with the sauce, he found a jar of blueberry jam in our fridge. Why not? The chicken dish tasted delicious, but “Why is the chicken that odd blue-grey color?” our friends wondered.
In the fall of 1993, we were living in the suburbs of New York with our five-year-old daughter and infant son. It was the idea of a baby in the house that helped us remember when Zach invented the Orange Thanksgiving Soup. “Why else would he have thought of adding banana baby food to the mix?” we recalled. The flavorful, vibrant soup was a big hit at the time, and we’ve improvised on it in many ways since. Zach became a vegetarian, so we now substitute vegetable broth for the chicken broth. There’s no more baby food in our pantry, but a piece of mashed banana is easy enough to come by, or you might want to substitute a different flavor and add some sautéed onions. Be bold and have a happy Thanksgiving!
Cut squash into quarters, remove seeds, and place on a baking sheet flesh-side up. Spoon maple syrup into the squash cavities and bake in the preheated oven for 1–1½ hours or until very soft.
Poke holes into sweet potatoes and either microwave 10–20 minutes on high until soft or place on a baking sheet in the oven along with the squash to bake until soft, 30–60 minutes.
Combine broth and banana baby food (or mashed banana) in a large pot and bring to a boil. Add carrots and garlic to broth and bring to a boil, then simmer 10–20 minutes until carrots are soft.
When sweet potatoes are fully baked until soft, remove from oven and let cool enough to touch so you can peel away and discard skins. Add the flesh to the simmering broth.
When squash is fully baked until soft, remove from oven and let cool enough to touch so you can scoop flesh from skin and add to simmering broth. Add ginger and spices, then purée soup using an immersion blender. Simmer approximately 30 minutes until flavors meld.
Garnish with fresh fennel fronds (optional). Enjoy!