"I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers," -Anne of Green Gables
Do you love fall as much as I do? I look forward to fall all year long. There is something about the way the character of the natural light changes, the cooler weather, the beautiful colors of fall foliage, the earthy smell that just makes me happier than any other time of the year. Although I am not crazy about the dark mornings fall brings, the dark evenings make me happy to have candle-light once again which adds a certain coziness to out home. It just says welcome. And it's apple season! To a girl raised in Upstate New York where there are orchards galore, this is indeed cause for celebration. I can't wait for the local apples to appear at the farmer's market because as good as some apples are year round, ones fresh-picked have a certain quality to them that trumps all others- extra crunchy and juicy and many more varieties to choose from than I typically can find at a local supermarket. Best of all? No icky waxy finish!
Fall makes me want to nest more, too. I am eager to cook stews and mostly, soups galore. I make really big batches of Bolognese and marinara sauces along with turkey chili to have on hand in the freezer for cozy cold weather meals. Now really is the most bountiful time of the year at farmer's markets, too.. There are still plenty of tomatoes and warm weather produce and the winter squash are now in. The smell of roasted chiles is always inviting at our markets, and I stock up for my freezer and then use them all year long.
Recently I was smitten with some butternut squash, yellow cherry tomatoes and beautiful yellow bell peppers at my local farm stand and came up with a gorgeous soup we will happily eat all season long. Here's the recipe if you care to try it . It can be made with red tomatoes and bell peppers too, and even mushrooms, but let's just say the color won't be as appetizing!
Golden Harvest Soup
1 medium butternut squash, halved and seeded (Carefully!)
1 large yellow bell pepper, halved, seeded and cut into chunks
1 medium onion, skinned and sliced into wedges
1 cup yellow cherry tomatoes (or 1/2 pint approx)
1 1/2 cups baby carrots, or carrot chunks
4- 4 0unce links, sweet italian sausages with fennel
3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
fresh thyme sprigs
1/4 teaspoon poultry seasoning
1/2 cup dry white wine
6 cups chicken stock, plus additional for thinning soup, if desired
kosher salt and coarse ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Brush baking sheet with olive oil. Place butternut squash, cut side down on baking sheet. Place prepared yellow bell pepper, onion, tomatoes and carrots on same baking sheet.
Drizzle everything generously with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss gently to coat. Scatter fresh thyme sprigs on top.
Place tray in oven on middle rack and roast for 30-40 minutes until tender and slightly caramelized. Remove from oven and let cool until squash is cool enough to handle.
Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a heavy bottomed soup or stock pot over medium heat. Once oil is hot but not smoking squeeze little balls of sausage out of the casing into the oil. Saute all the sausage in the oil until evenly browned. With slotted spoon remove sausage to paper towels to drain.
In remaining oil in pot, saute garlic gently until soft and translucent, being careful not to burn. Add in all the vegetables from tray, scooping out all the soft squash flesh with a spoon, being careful not to get any skin. Crumble thyme leaves into pot, discarding stems.
Stir vegetables continuously while adding in wine. Cook, stirring until wine is evaporated. Stir in a pinch of salt and pepper , poultry seasoning and chicken stock. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally , for 20 minutes.
Using an immersion blender, puree soup right in the pot until as chunky or as smooth as you would like. Add in more broth, as desired.
Stir in browned sausage. Simmer soup for another 20-30 minutes. Taste for seasoning and adjust to suit your taste.
Serve immediately, sprinkled with a few fresh thyme leaves for garnish. Serves 4-6. Doubles easily. Freezes beautifully!
Variation: For vegetarian version, omit sausage and substitute vegetable stock for chicken stock.
"Cooking well doesn't mean cooking Fancy." - Julia Child
Yesterday I told you about roasting some tomatoes I bought from my local farm stand. I love to do this because they are really a versatile ingredient to have on hand. Roasting them concentrates the flavor and firms them up a bit, but not so they are leathery and chewy like a sun-dried tomato. No, these still remain supple and easy to chew. I like to snack on them out of the container, but here are a few ways to use them to jazz up other things:
1. Add them to a roasted turkey and avocado sandwich.
2. Substitute them for (or use them in addition to) fresh tomatoes in a BLT.
3. Use them as a topping on a bowl of fresh polenta sprinkled with freshly grated parmesan cheese.
4. As soon as they come out of the oven, toss with a little more Extra virgin Olive oil, some shredded fresh basil, salt and pepper and toss with freshly cooked pasta.
5. Garnish grilled chicken or firm white fish with them.
6. Make the best grilled cheese and tomato sandwich with them
Ok, let's make grilled cheese! For each sandwich take two slices of good quality artisan bread. Lightly spread mayonnaise on one side and Dijon mustard on the other. Top the mayonnaise side with sliced white cheddar cheese (sharp or extra sharp) and add the Roasted tomatoes. Top with another slice of cheese and place the Dijon mustard side facing down on top of the tomatoes. Lightly butter the outsides of each side.
Preheat a frying pan or griddle to medium. Lay the sandwiches in the hot pan, and cook until golden brown. Flip sandwich and continue cooking until the second side is perfectly golden (I like to cover my pan so the cheese melts more quickly). Remove the sandwich from the heat, slice and serve. Yum!
“Home grown tomatoes, home grown tomatoes. What would life be like without homegrown tomatoes
Only two things that money can't buy-That's true love and home grown tomatoes.”
-John Denver, 'Home Grown Tomatoes' (written by Guy Clark)
I recently discovered a little gem of a farm nearby. It is on the site of what I thought was a dairy farm. However one day I was driving by and there was a sign for chemical- free produce and fresh eggs. I had to stop! Inside they had tables stacked high with freshly picked produce, beautiful eggplants, heaps of kale, piles of summer squash and box after box of gorgeous tomatoes of all colors. I bought several pints of the small ones in every color they had. It's true that there is nothing like a home-grown tomato. The flavors are more complex and you can taste the sunshine in them. Puts a grocery store tomato to shame every time. Now that's it's late summer, they are all ripening and it's prime time to grab some.
Last night I decided to roast some of the bounty, which is so easy. I washed and halved the tomatoes and lay them on a parchment -lined baking sheet. While my oven was preheating to 350 degrees, I drizzled them with extra-virgin olive oil, sprinkled them with kosher salt and topped them with fresh thyme sprigs. Then I roasted them for about 40 minutes. They keep covered in the fridge for several days and have lots of uses (that's assuming you don't just eat them right off the tray first)!
When they are done, they look like this. That caramelization is the good stuff-lots of concentrated flavor.
Tomorrow I'll share some ideas on how to use them in your kitchen! Bon Appetit!