It’s officially Autumn in the Northern Hemisphere, my favorite season of the year because it means summer is 9 months away, and I detest hot weather. I’d take a wintry wind over summer’s humidity, were I ever given the option. But, since that option is never offered, I savor the chilly nights of early autumn, knowing that ultra hot days are so far off, I don’t need to think about them.
And oh, the soups!
Brother Victor-Antoine d’Avila-Latourette (currently recovering from a stroke in a nursing home in upstate New York — all good wishes for a speedy recovery, Brother Victor-Antoine!) provides a lovely list of soups in September, from Cream of Celery to Escarole. Since I’m trying to cut back on the ultra-rich soups (anything with “cream” in the title!), I passed on the Celery, the Russian Cream of String Bean, and Cream of Corn (so tempting, with fresh corn available at local farmers’ markets), and chose instead two hearty and simple ones: Red Bean and Rice Soup, and Tomato Soup Florentine Style.
Red Bean and Rice Soup is exactly as you’d imagine from its name: sautée onions, carrots and celery; add water, beans and rice; simmer until beans and rice are done. I spiced it up with chili powder, chipotle pepper (in adobo sauce), and some left-over hot salsa, and added a garnish of chopped cilantro.
Perfect on the day, and even better over the following week, as the heat of the chilies and salsa intensified. It goes well with a bit of cheese melted on corn tortillas, making a Mexican-style meal without a trip to the local restaurant (which, I’m happy to report, is quite good).
The Tomato Soup Florentine Style combines tomatoes, vegetables, and spinach wonderfully (especially now that farmers’ market tomatoes are in — there is no flavor like that of field-grown tomatoes, harvested the previous day and looking so gorgeously red and ripe in the market stall).
I added some chili flakes and a can of cannelloni beans, and garnished with chopped parsley and a grating of parmesan. That’s a piece of my own cornbread next to the bowl, but almost any crusty bread will complement this soup.
Make this soup in large batches and freeze for the cold days ahead. Which reminds me: add “lots of tomatoes” to my shopping list for the next farmers’ market.
As with the soup recipes, Brother Victor-Antoine’s collection of salads for September ranges wide, many featuring vegetables that would be peaking just now, or near the end of their growing seasons, especially tomatoes. Of the 21 recipes, 7 include tomatoes among their ingredients. Seven opportunities to eat my favorite vegetable. Yet I decided to pass them up, looking for something that didn’t include beets, jicama, or black-eyed peas. The Salad Savoyarde and Berried Smoked Salmon Salad met that qualification and did not disappoint.
Salad Savoyarde is basically coleslaw: cabbage, carrots and shallots in a yogurt + mayo sauce. This particular recipe includes tart apple for a bit of sweetness to counter the uncooked cabbage.
“Savoyarde” recipes generally have lots of cheese in them, yet there’s no cheese in this one. Perhaps it’s the apple that gives it a flavor of Savoie. Coleslaw itself is Dutch (from koolsla, or “cabbage salad” — so don’t let anyone try to tell you it should be called cold slaw!), so it may just be that d’Avila is getting very fanciful in his names. (For more information about the etymology of “coleslaw”, check out this article from the Merriam-Webster website; and don’t miss this article from Etymonline. Bet you weren’t expecting a linguistics lesson in this post.)
The vegetables maintain their crunchiness for at least a week, while the apple, although still sweet, becomes a bit waterlogged from the sauce after day 3. Still tasty, but this is a salad that won’t keep long.
As for the Berried Smoked Salmon Salad, I consider this the star of September’s recipes. I’m a sucker for smoked salmon, and must limit myself to two packets of it per month. Otherwise, I’d be eating it every day, and although that would be highly enjoyable, it strains the bank account. But as soon as I spotted this recipe, I knew this would use my September ration of my favorite seafood.
Because it required fresh raspberries, blueberries and blackberries, I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to make this recipe at all. Would any berries be available? And then, at my local farmer’s market, I found some. Pound-for-pound, more expensive than the salmon, but that seemed appropriate. This will go on my list of recipes for special occasions.
Cut the smoked salmon into bite-sized pieces, add berries, chopped fresh orange, and scallions, serve on a bed of lettuce and drizzle with a citrus and honey-mustard vinaigrette. It’s a meal in itself. The berries cut through the salmon’s smoky flavor, and the orange pieces and lemony sauce counterbalance the fish’s oiliness. Needless to say, there were no leftovers to store: I made one huge serving and ate it all, happy that I had no one to share it with.
That’s it for September. Three quarters of the year have passed, Autumn will move along at a brisk pace, and before you know it, the Yuletide season will be upon us.
But, for now, let me just say, WITCH WEEK IS COMING.