Roasted tomato and garlic soup.

I have to warn you, I may start waxing sentimental over fall during the next few weeks. I love this time of year — early fall — when I can still get tomatoes and corn but pears, squash, and figs are also in market.  The stress of the holidays hasn’t kicked in, an evening walk is comfortable in a long sleeve shirt, and the windows can be left open all night to enjoy the chilly breeze.  It’s the specific time of year when seeing a pumpkin on someone’s steps isn’t just another pumpkin and when thoughts of ghouls and wicked witches are delightfully wholesome.

The leaves start to turn—but aren’t taking over the yard—and the idea of spending the weekend snuggling on the couch with my fiance seems just right.  And then there’s soup.  Soup shines in fall; I’m not conflicted about it, like I can be with summer soups.  Roasted tomato and garlic soup, in particular, is  suited to early fall, when roasted garlic is wholly, utterly, in my thoughts again.  Sticky, sweet, and slyly pungent, roasted garlic will turn you on your head, and combining it with its true love, the roasted tomato, is even better.

You’ll have to act quickly to make this soup.  At least in the Northeast, tomato season is coming to a close, which is a sad, sad thing.  So sad, you know, that I think it’d be okay to make this soup with tomatoes that are a little less-than, if you don’t catch any before they are gone.  Or, as I know I will this winter, try making this with canned whole San Marazanos by just taking them out of the can and washing off the excess sauce before continuing with the recipe (you can leave the tomatoes whole, here.)

If you like tomato soup, you’ll love this one; it tastes like tomato soup should taste, not too salty like the processed varieties, nor too sweet.  The garlic adds background depth and a touch of caramel sweetness, but isn’t going to prohibit anyone from kissing strangers later in the day.  And, at least for me, this soup epitomizes the beginning of fall even more than meatloaf.  I may be a little biased, though, since this soup is also a part of my livelihood.  I’ve started a little project, the Stockton Soup Lady.  I’m selling soups about town and this is one of my favorites.  Homemade Soups, Hand Delivered is my slogan, and I’m a wee bit proud of thinking it up.  It’s a teeny-tiny project now, and I rather like it that way: I can spend lots of time going from farm to farm, choosing my ingredients, and I don’t have to bribe friends for freezer space to store all the chicken stock I’m making.  It’s really a lot of fun.

Roasted Tomato and Garlic Soup

adapted from Gourmet

4 lb tomatoes, halved lengthwise
8 garlic cloves, left unpeeled
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano, crumbled
2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade
1/3 cup heavy cream

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat to 350°F.

Arrange tomatoes, cut sides up, in 1 layer in a large shallow baking pan and add garlic to pan. Drizzle tomatoes with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast tomatoes and garlic 1 hour, then cool in pan on a rack. Peel garlic.

Cook onion, oregano, and sugar in butter in a 6- to 8-quart heavy pot over moderately low heat, stirring frequently, until onion is softened, about 5 minutes. Add tomatoes, garlic, and stock and simmer, covered, 20 minutes.

Purée soup in batches in a blender (use caution when blending hot liquids), then force through a sieve into cleaned pot, discarding solids. Stir in cream and salt and pepper to taste and simmer 2 minutes.  Serves 6-8.

Old-fashioned meatloaf.

I still have a peck’s worth of peaches on my counter.  The temperature shot up today and we’ve got the air conditioner rumbling on low.  I sun-tanned this morning.  And ate an ice-cream for lunch.

But despite all that, I’m officially in fall mode.  There’s no going back after you’ve had a few mid-September rains and some cool weather, and the thought of butternut squash soup and apple pies and long, slow braises all enter your head.  I may even be swimming in the bay next weekend if this hot weather keeps up, but I’ll be doing so in fall mode; smores will be required afterward.

To enter fall-mode properly, I made meatloaf.  Not a fancy one, like this French loaf I’ve been eyeing, or one with un-meatloafy ingredients, chiles or what-have-you.  No, I made an old-fashioned meatloaf, with good ol’ Heinz ketchup, store-bought breadcrumbs, and locally smoked bacon.  Because you see, when I say old-fashioned, I mean it.  There was a butcher shop involved.  And ground beef made from the cattle that graze out back.  The vegetables were from the local farmer markets, the eggs from our friends Carla and Harry; only the ketchup and breadcrumbs were, well, nationally produced (is that what we call things that aren’t local?).

Obviously not everyone can buy all local ingredients to make a meatloaf, but getting good meat (preferably from a butcher) will certainly make your meatloaf taste better.  A few things to look for:  you want meat that is not ground to bits but looks like thick, loopy strings of meat.  You want to see bits of white fat throughout.  If possible, try to buy it from a butcher (you can try to find a local butcher here) so you see the meat in the butcher’s case instead of having to buy it pre-wrapped.  The color should either be purple or bright red.  If it’s bright red outside but gray inside, that means that it’s not as fresh as can be, but okay in a pinch.  If it looks gray and dull all over, don’t buy it—it’s about to spoil. If you can’t find good ground meat, buy chuck and ask the butcher to grind it up for you, or bring it home to do yourself.

When it comes to topping, I’m a line-of-ketchup-down-the-middle type of gal, but we had some perfectly smoked bacon and I guarantee that if you do too, it’s impossible not to use it.  I didn’t miss the ketchup at all and I think the bacon kept everything extra juicy.  And we had bacon on the side, a serious plus.

On the side went fingerling potatoes, turnips, and carrots, braised in chicken stock, browned butter, and a pinch of cinnamon.  And boy, oh boy, it declared fall.  Root vegetables will do that.  Cinnamon, too.

If you’d like to celebrate the beginning of fall with this meatloaf, I really hope you’ll make the veggies alongside.  The carrots speak to the subtle tomato sweetness in the meatloaf.  The turnips are both sweet and starchy.  And potatoes and meatloaf are eternal partners; one cannot exist without the other.  And I’m beginning to believe that fall cannot exist without meatloaf.


Old-fashioned Meatloaf

adapted from Gourmet

2 cups finely chopped onion
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 celery rib, chopped fine
1 carrot, chopped fine
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2/3 cup ketchup plus additional as an accompaniment if desired
2 pounds ground chuck
scant 1 cup store-bought bread crumbs
2 large eggs, beaten lightly
1/3 cup minced fresh parsley leaves

4-6 slices bacon

Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a large heavy skillet cook onion, garlic, celery, and carrot in butter over moderate heat, stirring, 5 minutes. Cook vegetables, covered, stirring occasionally, until carrot it tender, about 5 minutes more. Stir in salt and pepper, Worcestershire sauce, and 1/3 cup of ketchup and cook, stirring, 1 minute.

In a large bowl combine well vegetables, meats, bread crumbs, eggs, and parsley. In a shallow baking pan form mixture into 1 10-by 5-inch oval loaf and lay bacon slices over the top.

Bake meat loaf in oven 1 hour, or until a meat thermometer inserted in center registers 155°F.

Printable Recipe

Braised Carrots, Turnips, and Potatoes with Cinnamon

2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 pounds potatoes, washed and halved
chicken stock
salt, pepper
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 pound baby turnips, peeled and halved
1 pound carrots, peeled and cut into thick coins

In a large skillet, heat butter and olive oil over medium-high heat until the butter foams and begins to brown.  Add potatoes and saute for one minute.  Add chicken stock to reach halfway up the potatoes.  Add 1 and 1/2 teaspoons of salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and cinnamon.  Bring to a boil and cover.  Cook for 5 minutes, then add the turnips and carrots.

Cook, covered, for another 15-20 minutes.  Uncover and continue to cook until the liquid boils down and the vegetables caramelize and brown, stirring gently throughout, so that most pieces brown without breaking apart.  Serve with a sprinkling of chives.

Printable Recipe

A wonderful hiatus.

Hi there.  I haven’t been posting much lately.  I hope we’re still friends.

The thing is, I’ve been having a wonderful hiatus.  Filled with walks down curious paths.

And trying to play fetch with a tree.

And sitting on a rock in the middle of a stream taking photos of my new haircut.

And not expecting the stream to be so deep right next to the shore.

And tiny baby feet.

And watching this one grow and grow.

And otherwise enjoying ourselves.

There’s been dinner parties, and lots of cooking, but there was also a moment when I thought my camera was totally broken.  And then there was a bunch of tears and a bit of a tantrum.  And the decision that it was time for vacation.

So we’re off to sit on the beach for a few days, then to visit Cambridge, and Ten Tables, and to eat some lobster.

I expect to be back refreshed, with lots of pictures.  Have a great labor day.