Comfort Food from the Fall Garden

October 18th, 2011
Comforts

If you’re like me, having to wait until November 1st before the kids (or, in my case, the grandkids) will allow me to process the pumpkins, making simple but delicious meals out of what’s still coming in from the garden at this late date can be a challenge. There’s not much out there right now, mostly the last of the peppers, some scraggly red kale still struggling along as the fall kale is just now coming up, the herbs still being cut and slowly dried for winter, the potatoes still safely stashed underground to be dug as needed. Oh, and those pesky but delicious cherry tomato volunteers that become tolerated weeds depending on where they grow (and I’ll allow).

Nights are decidedly chilly now, though there hasn’t yet been a freeze. Days are gorgeously mid-October, the reds finally kicking in to add their richness to the yellows of the fall leaf color scheme, all but the oak leaves will be gone before Thanksgiving. The grandsons have been spending their school weeks in town since the semester started at the Community College due to a shortage of motorized gad-about(s) since the pickup died last spring. That leaves hubby and I with four actual days a week just to ourselves, something we’ve never enjoyed at any time in the 40+ years of our lives together. It can be quite a challenge to suddenly go from a lifetime of cooking for a fluctuating hoard to making dinner for just two light eaters.

Took me quite a long time to learn how to make a large spread where everything manages to get done and ready-to-serve at the same time. That’s enough trouble that I’ve never tried too hard if it’s not Thanksgiving. Usually the family can handle meals served in ‘courses’ where they eat whatever’s done now and then eat whatever gets done then. For just hubby and me having any more than two or three kinds of food at a time just seems like too much. So I’m not bothering at all with that. Tonight, for instance, I’m going to make “Comfort Food” out of what’s coming in. I’ll no doubt make more than the two of us can eat, but I’m not nearly as averse to leftovers as he is, so that’s okay.

What’s “Comfort Food?” For us it’s simple, tasty, warming and satisfyingly home-grown. The kids harvested a big bowl of ripe cherry tomatoes this past weekend which will have to be composted if I don’t eat or preserve them. And I’ve got so many ‘tomaisins’ at this point that it’s not worth the trouble to produce more. So it’ll be good ol’ tomato soup, using some of the late bells. Combine that with grilled cheese on fresh whole wheat sourdough from the bread machine, and baked red kale crisps. Should take about 30 minutes total to prepare – not counting the bread, of course – and most of that will be cooking time instead of dedicated prep.

Roasted Tomato Pepper Soup

• ~1 pound of ripe cherry or grape tomatoes
• 2 fresh leeks
• 1/4 red onion, chunked
• 1/2 cup chunked bell pepper
• 3 largish cloves garlic, peeled
• 1 tbsp freshly dried basil leaf
• 1 tsp. coarse sea salt
• 2 cups tomato or vegetable broth
• 3/4 cup whole milk
• 1.5 tbsp. olive oil
• fresh chopped chives for garnish

Wash and remove calyxes from tomatoes, place into an oven roasting pan. Add garlic cloves, chunked peppers, leeks sliced 1/2″ thick and onion to the pan. Drizzle with olive oil and mix well to coat all the vegetables. Roast at 500º for 20 minutes, stirring well after 10 minutes. When soft and slightly browned, put the vegetables and basil into a blender with some broth and puree to smooth.

Put the puree into a saucepan and stir in remainder of the broth and the salt. When it begins to bubble add the milk, stirring well. Don’t let it boil. Serve hot garnished with chives or shredded parmesan cheese, season with table salt and freshly ground pepper as desired.

Baked Red Kale Chips

These are easy and very tasty. Just wash and trim the stems from the kale, spin-dry or blot with paper towels. Put into a cake or roasting pan and toss with about a little olive oil to coat lightly. When you remove the roasted tomatoes from the oven, turn the temperature down to 400º. By the time you’ve processed the vegetables for the soup the oven should be cooled to that temperature, so pop the kale into the oven as you finish the soup. Bake for 8-10 minutes until the kale is quite crisp.

I figure we all know how to make a grilled cheese sandwich, so I won’t bother detailing that. The baked kale chips would work nicely as a side to baked winter squash too, or with pumpkin soup for other comfort food ideas once it gets to be November. Then there’s the old standby of potato-leek soup my family seems to live on all winter, or navy bean soup from dry. Your basic soup and sandwich with a tasty side, all hot and tasty and most welcome on chilly evenings.

What’s your favorite “Comfort Food?”

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