I confess―this is a time of year when I begin to feel a bit gloomy. Summer, with all its warmth and sun-kissed glory, naturally gives way to autumn. As the flowers wilt and vegetable gardens go to bed for the winter, loss pervades my spirit, and I think of people who I have lost along the way in life, to death; or because in the natural course of things, we simply moved on.
But I look out my window on this rainy day and I am humbled by what I see. It’s nothing new to note the glory of the colors in the changing leaves, but today I see them not so much as the death of a season, but a natural stage, a process. The trees themselves revel in their own beauty. Like a goodnight story, they gift us this burst of energy before they sleep peacefully and await the dawn, the rain drops tears of contentment, not sorrow.
This season begs for soups and baked items. Here are two versatile dishes to carry you through. The Potato Soup with Spinach is rich in the earthy flavors of fresh potatoes blended with stock and rich green spinach. Accompanied by Parmesan Cheese Muffins, some spiced cider and a thick wedge of your favorite cheese or plate of cured meats, move toward the warmth of an evening fire as you look out your own windows to the glorious world that surrounds you. I look forward to seeing you in my kitchen, gathering flavors, soon. Dena
POTATO SOUP WITH SPINACH & PARMESAN CHEESE MUFFINS
Yield: About 6 Servings
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped finely
- 1 large yellow or white onion, peeled and chopped roughly
- 4 large potatoes, peeled, rinsed and chopped into large chunks
- 2 quarts stock (vegetable or chicken)
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 cups fresh spinach, rinsed and stems removed
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1/2 cup fresh spinach, rinsed and slivered (for garnish)
- Heat the oil in a large soup pot.
- Add the chopped garlic and onions. Sauté until the onions become translucent. This should take about 5 minutes when done over medium heat.
- Add the potatoes, stock and bay leaf. Mix through with a wooden spoon. Bring the stock to a boil, then lower the liquid to a simmer.
- Simmer until the potatoes are fully softened, 20 to 30 minutes, depending on the freshness of the potatoes and size of the cubes when placed in the stock.
- Add the 2 cups spinach and stir. Continue cooking until the spinach has become fully softened, about 5 minutes.
- Remove the pot from the stove and allow the soup to cool slightly. Using an immersion blender, purée the soup entirely.
- Return the pot to the stove and heat the soup through.
- Taste. Add salt and freshly ground pepper, as needed.
- Serve garnished with fresh spinach slivers.
Parmesan Cheese Muffins
Yield: 12 Muffins
Ingredients and Equipment:
12-cup muffin tin, lightly oiled with olive oil
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 whole wheat flour
- 1/2 cup cornmeal, preferably stone ground
- 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 2 eggs
- 1 cup whole milk
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, preferably Parmigiano Reggiano
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Place the prepared muffin tin in the oven while you assemble the batter. (You want the oil to heat through, this will take about 5 minutes.) Carefully remove the muffin tin from the oven (the oil may splatter when hot). Using a pastry brush, spread the heated oil evenly in each muffin cup.
- In a large mixing bowl, toss together the dry ingredients.
- In a large, spouted measuring cup, beat together the eggs, milk, olive oil and honey.
- Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients. Pour in the wet mixture. Stir to combine.
- Add the grated Parmesan. Stir to combine.
- Pour the batter into the prepared muffin tin, dividing it evenly.
- Bake until golden, about 15 minutes.
- Allow to cool slightly before removing the muffins from the tin.