When the leaves begin changing colors and the temperatures start to drop, I get the urge to cook! I abandon my kitchen for most of the summer. Summer is salad time, and grill time. But with the arrival of the fall season, I am ready to get back in the kitchen and pull out my favorite recipes.
It’s time for warm kettles full of soup or chili. One-pot dishes are my favorites because I love prepping ingredients, chopping onion, celery, and carrots for a hearty chicken soup. Or dicing up red and green peppers for a vegetarian chili. Cooking is meditation for me. It’s therapy. A good pot of soup not only nourishes the body, but its creation nourishes my spirit.
My local farms are bursting with pumpkins, squash, and apples. October is the beginning of the best cooking months of the year, with Thanksgiving and Christmas right ahead of us. The house fills with the aroma of baked pumpkin loaves and apple cobbler. My daughter and I have made a tradition of baking and decorating Halloween cut-out cookies. And, of course, we must roast our pumpkin seeds the same night we carve our Jack-o-lantern.
I’ll be getting my Thanksgiving Day assignment soon. My favorite contributions are home-made cranberry sauce and wild rice stuffing. What wondrous treats will my brother-in-law concoct this year? He has upped the ante on Cope’s corn, all creamy and sweet, with chewy chestnut pieces and a secret blend of seasonings. It’s blue ribbon! And if we are all really lucky, my niece’s friend Lindsay will show up with a pecan pie.
Then it will be Christmas-cookie baking day. We’ll converge on my sister’s kitchen with a slew of batters. We’ve been doing this annually since my Mom was still alive, well more than 20 years ago. Mom and Grandma started this tradition, and our children have grown up with it. My Dad attends every year and helps roll those chocolate snow-caps in powdered sugar. There will be tins stacked full of chocolate chip, soft sugar cookies, ice box nut wafers, chocolate snow caps, peanut-butter kisses, and white chocolate macadamia nut. It’s baked love.
To quote one of my favorite chefs, “Food is everything we are. It’s an extension of nationalist feeling, ethnic feeling, your personal history, your province, your region, your tribe, your grandma. It’s inseparable from those from the get-go.” Anthony Bourdain
And now, for today’s therapy session: Minestrone Soup.
4 slices bacon – about ¼ C chopped
1 C chopped onion
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 pound ground beef, or more
1 C chopped celery – I like mine sliced on the diagonal
1 C chopped carrots
2 C tomato puree
2 (14.5oz) cans stewed tomatoes – may need to cut into smaller pieces
1 (14oz) can beef broth
1 (10.5oz) can condensed French onion soup
Water – 2 to 5 Cups (to taste)
¼ C red wine
1 t dried oregano
1 t dried basil
Salt and pepper to taste
1 C shredded zucchini – a great way to hide a veggie from the kids
1 C spinach, rinsed and sliced
1 C or more small pasta – shells or elbows, cooked separately
1 (15oz) can garbanzo beans, drained (or any you prefer)
¼ C chopped parsley
In a large stock pot, cook bacon and drain off fat. Add onion, garlic, and beef. Break up beef and cook until no longer pink.
Add celery, carrot, pureed tomatoes, stewed tomatoes, broth, condensed soup, wine, oregano, basil, salt, and pepper. Simmer until carrots and celery are tender. Add water until soup reaches desired consistency (taste test). Stir in zucchini, spinach, beans, parsley. Simmer until spinach and zucchini have cooked.
Add cooked pasta and simmer a few minutes longer. Serve topped with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
© Vulnerable Path, 2014