I caught the scent of fall in the air for the first time last night. It was a little overcast and big clouds rolled over the hills as I tried to wrangle my children into the house to slog through our nightly chores.
The kids were running free, somehow energized by the cooler weather and gray skies. I couldn’t help but be pulled outside myself, temporarily abandoning my list and wandering out to the chairs in the backyard. I watched the sky, then the animals lazily eating and ambling about the pasture. The kids were happy and bubbling in my peripheral.
And there was that smell. The faintest scent of wet leaves and cool air. Ready or not, fall is here. Even if the temperatures spike one more time, there’s no denying it: The seasons are changing.
And with it comes a subtle transition in the way we eat. Meat braised in the oven for a few hours doesn’t seem so daunting with cooler temperatures. A big pot of soup seems the most natural thing in the world to make. Instead of salads and plates of ripe tomatoes, vegetables get a drizzle of olive oil and go into the oven until they’re crispy and tender.
My children love tomato soup. They beg and plead for it, and often at least one of them will request it for their birthday dinner. I’ve played with a dozen recipes over the years with varying levels of success. Many times I just buy a can or box of soup at the store and call it good.
But I have a recipe that checks all the boxes: tastes great, extra vegetables sneaked in for optimal healthy factor, kid-approved. Give this easy recipe for tomato bisque a try — and don’t forget the grilled cheese sandwiches.
• Andrea McCoy writes the column Kitchen Captivated for Yakima Magazine and at The Salt and Stone, a home cooking blog. The Salt and Stone is a nod not just to the essence of cooking, but also to the Yakima Valley. Read more at www.thesaltandstone.com.
3 tablespoons salted butter
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 medium sweet onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups vegetable stock
2 cups cubed butternut squash
1 cup cauliflower rice
3 28-ounce cans fire-roasted diced tomatoes
1/3 cup fresh basil leaves
1 1/2 cups half and half
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon black pepper
In a large Dutch oven, melt butter over a medium-low heat. Add the onion and stir occasionally until onion is slightly translucent and soft. Stir in garlic and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly.
Add flour to the pot and, using a whisk, mix the flour so the vegetables are well-coated. Add the stock and whisk until the flour dissolves. Add butternut squash, cauliflower rice, canned tomatoes and fresh basil. Stir in 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon sugar and a sprinkle of black pepper.
Set heat to simmer, stirring occasionally. Simmer for 25-35 minutes with the pot uncovered until butternut squash is soft and falls apart easily when pierced with a fork. Turn the heat off to the pot and, using an immersion blender, blend soup until smooth. If you don’t have an immersion blender, work in batches, transferring soup to a blender or food processor to blend until smooth. Transfer soup back to the pot.
Once soup is smooth, stir in half and half. Taste and add a pinch more salt if needed. To serve, ladle soup into bowls and garnish with shredded Parmesan cheese, a tiny pinch of kosher salt and a generous sprinkle of black pepper.