After one of the hottest summers I can remember, autumn has at last arrived in New England. Temperatures have started to drop, there’s a crispness in the air, and days are getting shorter. I’ve even noticed that my fellow New Englanders–typically reserved and quiet–have broad smiles on their faces and are uncharacteristically chatty, initiating conversations with “Fall is here!”
So, along with taking out my sweaters and jackets, and setting the thermostat to warm instead of cool, I’ve pulled out my recipes for robust dishes. Among them is a Tuscan-style white bean soup topped with crusty croutons. A breeze to make, this hearty Italian “zuppa,” assembled with cannellini beans, carrots, onions, celery, and kale plus a hint of bacon, is perfect for the new season.
Hadley, Massachusetts, next door to Amherst, where I live, proudly claims to be the Asparagus Capital of the U.S. In late May (a tad earlier this year) this little town has its moment of fame when the farmers bring their crops to the groceries and outdoor markets, and the locals grab bunches and head for their kitchens.
This annual asparagus harvest has been the inspiration for me to create many a new asparagus recipe such as this one for a creamy asparagus soup topped with quickly sautéed bay scallops and sprinkled with chives and golden breadcrumbs. This dish boasts lovely color contrasts with the snowy white shellfish nestled atop the verdant green puree. The textures too are counterpoints, for the smoothness of the pureed potage and the velvety scallops play off the crunch of the toasted breadcrumbs.
Whether or not you have Irish genes like I do (I’m Scotch Irish on both sides!) you might be trying to figure out what to serve on St Patrick’s Day. This year the holiday falls on a Saturday, making it perfect for an extra special celebration. And, I have just the recipe to begin or anchor a fête.
Corned beef, cabbage, and potatoes–that popular trinity redolent of Irish cooking– each have starring roles in this recipe from Sunday Soup.
|Harriet, Ron, Tina, Philippe, and moi at the Paris table
Since the beginning of the year, I’ve been in a whirl of entertaining frenzy. In January while my husband and I were in Paris, we hosted three dinners (you may remember that I wrote about several of those occasions on this blog), and invited others over for appetizers and wine. Then, right after we returned to our small New England town in February, we planned a Friday night supper for a group of good friends. During the weeks that followed we had three sets of overnight guests, all of whom happened to arrive in time for dinner. Oh, and this past Sunday (just a few hours before the Oscars), I welcomed my book club members for appetizers, desserts, and a lively discussion of the month’s literary selection.
You’d think I’d be tired of having people at my table at this point, but the truth is, none of these social get-togethers was stressful because I followed my two golden rules when
entertaining—keep it simple and make it ahead!
My husband marvels at how easy it is for us to entertain when we’re in Paris. The secret lies in following the “cook some, buy some” philosophy I use here. Take a small dinner that we had for a couple of friends recently. I cooked a delicious winter vegetable and sausage soup topped with grated Gruyère, and prepared the vinaigrette dressing for the salad, but I purchased the rest. That’s right—I made two dishes and bought the other courses. In Paris there’s a fromagerie(cheese shop), boucherie (butcher), charcuterie (deli), boulangerie (bakery) and patisseriewithin walking distance in every quartier.
For appetizers, I set out bowls of Provençal olives, pistachios, and French radishes that were spread with sweet butter and then dipped in sea salt. The glorious main course soup came next accompanied by garnishes of grated cheese, parsley, and a warm crusty baguette. A salad assembled with purchased greens and sliced mushrooms (both cleaned and ready) plus a couple of delectable cheeses followed. Dessert came from a near-by patisserie. Voilà! There was my “make a little, buy a little” menu.
The French potage (based on a recipe for a “soupe du chalet” I had spotted in a French cookbook) was the star of the night.