While Los Angeles experiences the hottest day on record, we here in Toronto are steadily sliding into the dim, crisp days of Autumn.
It seems like mere days ago that we were sunning ourselves at the cottage, tossing back gin and lemonade, BBQing steaks and dunking ourselves in the lake. How quickly things can change. Now we've settled into an ample TV schedule, red wine, and socks instead of sandals. The sticky days of summer are a distant memory, the coolness of a new season suddenly feels welcome, though really just a defense mechanism against a reality over which we have no control.
And all of this means sweaters and overcoats, root vegetables and soup. Delicious, hot soup.
Tonight I made rustic chicken noodle. Chunky. A soup that requires a knife, just in case. Full-size carrots and big potatoes, hearty stalks of celery and bunches of thyme and sage, wrapped in twine and tossed into the pot while the flavours work their magic, but plucked before serving. I cut the last of the local corn from the cob and added lots of fresh ginger. It was seasonal and robust, simple and unfussy.
Snag some nice bread (I chose onion and rosemary) and some good cheese. Slice a few pears on the mandolin and layer it up before placing in the pan. The gruyère and brie benefit nicely from the sweetness of the fruit. And, really, what's soup without a sandwich?
Rustic Chicken Soup
1 medium white onion, chopped
A good-sized knob of ginger (I obliterated mine into a paste with my microplane)
Several cloves of garlic, minced
4 cups of chicken stock
3 cups of water
Fresh sage, thyme, rosemary, and several bay leaves
12 medium-sized heirloom carrots in various colours
8 small purple potatoes (These make the broth turn purple!)
8 stalks of celery
3 cobs of corn
Salt and pepper
One pre-cooked chicken (You gotta cut corners somewhere.)
In a large oiled pot, soften onions, garlic, and minced ginger. Smell it. Love it. Prepare your carrots and potatoes by chopping loosely. Leave your carrots large and intact, but perhaps chop them in half lengthwise. Cut the corn off the cobs and prepare your celery.
Add the stock and water to the onions/garlic/ginger. Add the herbs and allow to simmer away for a moment or two. Add the carrots and potatoes and bring to a boil for a few minutes. When they've softened a bit, add the corn, celery and the chicken you've pulled from the bones. Toss in a cup or two of any small pasta you enjoy (I used adorable little O's!) Lower the heat and let the flavours meld for a while, until all the components have cooked. Toss in a handful of fresh-chopped parsley before serving.
Enjoy this big soup, all its bits and pieces poking up out of the bowl. Your spoon should carve through most of it, but keep the knives handy. It really eats like a meal, takes more time than the average, you might even call it a stew.
But by any name, it feels like Fall.