Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Creamy Tomato Soup with Edam and Rice...and autumn's footfall

The pleasure of melted cheese in a warming bowl of tomato soup rates way up there and dates from my childhood when my mother would top up a bowl of Campbell's tomato soup with Velveeta.  Quite awhile ago, the creation of this recipe was inspired by the necessity of counting pennies.  A source of discounted, gallon-sized cans of tomatoes in shrink-plastic packs of three became available.

A wall of them slowly grew in my tiny office.  It would take almost as much time for me to get one down from this metal barricade and out of the pack then actually making the soup! Now I use my own home-grown tomatoes which significantly improves the taste of this favourite.

There are several quarts of tomato soup concentrate made with produce from the garden already in the freezer.   To make this soup, I just defrost a container overnight.  Next day, I dilute with water to the thickness I want and beat in a cup of crème fraîche with a wire whisk.  Cooked rice, white or brown, and cubed Edam is added to the pot.  Edam has a robust taste, but it also tends to retain some solidity, adding the delight of encountering softened chunks.

Gently stir and let simmer for a few minutes until the cheese is soft but not melted.  Serve with another grated cheese on top, like  Gruyère or Parmesan.

It is a transitional time in the garden, with autumn slowly unfolding.  I still don't need to put on wellies, and I don't really need my straw hat any longer, so they sit next to each other, keeping each other company.

The shadows have harder outlines and the nights are cooler.  Dayo enjoys the warm days, but he is way easier to round up at night.

The insouciance with which Dayo places his paws gets me every time.

The zinnias making room for Dayo

When twilight approaches, he snuggles up to the back door, waiting to be brought in

Each autumn Madame M buys a mammoth sack of semi-dried, white beans called Coco Paimpol, a Bretagne variety,  for conserving.  She says that one must stock away food for the colder months.  I agree and am delighted seeing boxes of potatoes/garlic and bags of onions in the root cellar; peas, strawberries, beets, herbs, veggie stock, rosewater, and tomatoes in the freezer; jams, fruit leather, and pickles in the fridge; beans in the cupboard.  The biggest joy however is looking out the window to the autumn/winter crops:  broccoli, Brussels sprouts, spinach, carrots, leeks, peas, escarole, and mache.

Broccoli with blue-green foliage and Brussels Sprouts with silver green foliage

I exchanged some of my Mirabelle jam for some of Madame Ms beans.  Her suggestion is to saute minced onions, add tomatoes till they are fondue, that is, melted,  then simmer the beans in this sauce for a short while.

There is not enough room to grow as many beans as I would like,  but I always plant some because I find them hugely attractive--smooth like little pebbles but packing a nutritive content hard to beat.   I chose a variety called soissons nain a gros pied because they can be enjoyed in three stages, fresh and soft, semi-hard, and hard.  Note below how large the fresh bean is, and how green its pod is.  The fresher the bean is, the less time and water is required to cook it.  When fully dried, it becomes small, taking up much less room and allowing for a long storage. 

The same variety of bean and its pods in several stages

The last green beans were harvested a month ago.  Legumes, like beans and peas, fix nitrogen in the soil, so I leave the plants in as long as I can after harvest with some pods remaining for collecting seeds for next season's crop.  Overwintering lettuce is being sowed successively now in this bed, as green foliage thrives on nitrogen-rich soil.

Dried beans can be kept in spice bottles which are lined with paper

Unfortunately, there was no fig harvest.  I lie, there was one fig.   All the others fell off the tree before ripening without even asking my permission to do so.  Fig trees are noted for their unrelenting abundance.  Even Dayo found it hard to believe; at great risk, he perched on a wire fence to see deep inside the tree, to make sure I did not miss one.

The only reason why figs are scarcely seen in greengrocers or if they are, they are exorbitantly priced, is that they do not tolerate the hard knocks of shipping.  Their fragility is the basis why each fig in a case is separately swaddled in tissue paper.

In an effort to make the lone fig look more filling and substantial and somehow lessen the heartache of having no fig jam or leather, I bulked it up with my Mirabelle jam.  However, not my stomach, nor my heart was fooled.

The gold of the saucer and the jam heralds mellow autumnal colours

These tall, small-bloomed asters are a billowy mass of powder-blue softness.  As the wind acts up more at this time of the year, they get whipped around a bit, but show great resilience and gracefulness.

The Chrysanthemums are covered with glowing, crimson buds.

In the front garden, the Box Elder's leaves are beginning to flutter down, scattering their yellow selves on the ground.

Soon, I will be off to a nearby Oak copse with a huge leaf bag to harvest as many precious oak leaves as possible so I can make a moisture-retaining treat par excellence for the garden, leaf mould.

À bientôt.