Firstly, I am the worst and I am sorry it has taken me so long to write. There have been kitchen experiments, like this pumpkin beer bread, which I found to be…underwhelming. It was lacking in both spices and pumpkin. I wanted it to be more moist (sorry) and for the flavor of the beer to come out more. Mostly it turned out like basic bread with a few spices.
More successfully, I made some of my friend Kim’s potato leek soup after a trip to the Saint Paul Farmer’s Market last weekend. You’ve probably read this recipe before, but here it is again for posterity’s sake (copy-pasted from Kim’s original message):
“2-ish T butter
3 leeks, white/light green parts chopped (fairly fine slice)
1 small white onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped finely
2-3 carrots, chopped
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 shallot, chopped (not really necessary, but I have fun shoving onions in this soup)
4 or so red potatoes, peeled (if you feel like it) and diced
4-ish cups veggie broth
roughly 1/3 to 1/2 c heavy cream
some herbs if you feel like it (I like dill or chives or both if I have any on hand)
BACON, cooked and chopped
In dutch oven or large sewp-making pot or whatever, drop the butter in and let it melt. When the butter has gotten all nice and melty, drop in the leeks and let them cook for a minute or two until they soften. Add the garlic, onion, carrot, celery and shallot, stir it around and let
it hang out for about 5 or so minutes so that all those veggies start to soften and start smelling yummy. Then dump in the potatoes and the veggie broth (and any extra water you might need to make the broth level just cover the potatoes) and any dry herbs you might want to use. Bring it to a boil, drop the heat and let it hang out on the stove for about 45 minutes – an hour or so until everything is nice and soft and falling apart.
When it’s hit that stage, remove it from the heat, dump in any fresh herbs you might want to dump in (chives are awesome) and let it cool for a few minutes,
and then blend it either in batches through a blender or with an immersion blender or what have you (you could probably mush it to bits with a potato masher,
honestly). When it’s all blended, stir in the cream and adjust the seasonings. I usually serve with a handful of bacon and a handful of cheebs thrown on top, but you could probably mix that in too and it would be good.”
I almost never follow the amount of vegetables precisely, tossing in whatever I have lying around. This time I added in some hot Thai chilies (also from the farmer’s market) and seasoned it with smoked salt and smoked paprika.
It was definitely worth the injuries I sustained cutting the potatoes.
Anyway, it’s the best soup ever. Filling, delicious, smoky, and autumnal. Plus any opportunity I get to use my immersion blender is a good one.
The other thing I’ve been doing a lot of lately is making bacon in the oven, a trick I picked up (somewhat to my shame) from Pinterest. Basically, you line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and lay out the strips of bacon. Put everything in a cold oven and then turn it to 350°F. Give it 20-40 minutes, you can usually smell when it’s done.
I don’t know if this necessarily yields tastier bacon than doing it in the skillet does, but it is easier and less messy (let the bacon fat congeal on the parchment paper and discard, then you usually don’t even need to wash the cookie sheet).
I’ve also found that this works better with normal-thinner cut bacon. I tried it today with some thick cut bacon (also picked up from the farmer’s market-why are farmer’s markets the best things ever?) and the result wasn’t quite as satisfying. Also, did you know free range bacon is a thing? I was not aware. I know “free-range” is a kind of loose term and can basically mean the animal in question just has a large yard as opposed to a stall or pen, but I like the idea of pigs running around eating whatever before they become my delicious breakfast.
I am not a good person.
Anyway, fall is here too (obviously), and while Midwestern fall may not be quite as thoroughly pretty as New England fall, it’s still pretty great.
The other thing I have to report is that it is time for my annual trip to Minnesota’s Largest Candy Store:
This place is basically a giant yellow barn full of candy. They also sell pies and baked goods (made on site), tons of weird soda, local hot sauces and jams, and, weirdly enough, puzzles.
I will take pictures and report back!
Miss you lots!