Let’s not mourn the end of summer. It’s been a great run and such a spectacular season deserves a fitting sendoff. Today is about celebrating where we live.
Creamy roasted beet and sweet onion soup
Earthy but sweet from the late summer beets, this soup would make a great first course or a satisfying lunch. It is so rich this amount easily serves eight or 10 people, but it’s great to have in the freezer for a quick but elegant meal. If you do that, don’t add the sour or fresh cream until the soup is reheated and you are ready to serve.
6 medium-to-large beets, scrubbed
4 large sweet onions, peeled and quartered (Vidalia are by far the best variety for this.)
1 stalk celery, quartered
1 thumb-sized piece fresh gingerroot, peeled and quartered
2 sprigs fresh thyme
2 cloves garlic, peeled but left whole
1 whole orange, scrubbed and quartered
1 tbsp. olive oil1 tsp. each ground cumin and coriander
1/4 tsp. each salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 cups vegetable or chicken broth (divided)
1 cup dry white wine (drinking quality)
2 fresh or 4 dried bay leaves
1/4 cup whipping cream
3 tbsp. sour cream or plain yogurt
Trim away most of the tops from the beets, leaving one inch behind. Please don’t throw away the beet greens. Even if they look a little limp and weary from the store they will taste great as a side dish with anything you plan to serve.
Place beets in a large baking dish — a heavy-duty foil lining will make cleanup easier. Add onions, celery, gingerroot, thyme sprigs, garlic and orange. Combine olive oil, cumin, coriander, salt and pepper and stir into beet mixture. Cover or seal the foil and roast at 375 F for about one hour or until a paring knife slides easily into the beets.
Allow the beets to cool slightly, just until you can handle them. Rub off the peel — use rubber gloves if crimson fingers for a couple of days will bother you. Cut beets into chunks and put in a blender or food processor. Rescue from the baking dish and add to the blender, the roasted onions, celery, gingerroot and garlic. Add any liquid left in the pan, as well, along with one cup of the broth. Puree until smooth. Strain through a fine sieve and discard any solids. Place remaining broth, white wine and bay leaves in a pot and bring to a boil. Stir in beet and onion puree and simmer together for 10 minutes, just to boil off the alcohol. Turn off the heat and stir in whipping cream and sour cream. Discard bay leaves and serve immediately. Crunchy croutons and a little chopped fresh parsley or dill would be wonderful on top of each bowl.
Squash and sausage fry-up
This all-in-one dish is a great simple supper for an impromptu weekend gathering. Even the pickiest eaters won’t complain about these vegetables. I took the flavours from butternut squash ravioli, which is adorable, of course, but quite fussy and not at all what I want to do over the summer’s farewell weekend. This amount makes plenty for 4, with leftovers if all goes according to plan. Stretch even further by adding two or three cups of cooked rice at the end.
1 butternut (or other) squash, peeled and cut into a 1/2-inch dice
1 tbsp. each vegetable oil and butter or margarine
4 to 6 hot (or mild) Italian sausages (as lean as possible)1 large onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup water
6 fresh sage leaves
1/2 lb. brussels sprouts
1 large green apple, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Fry squash in oil and butter in a large frying pan or Dutch oven until golden brown and starting to soften. Remove sausage from casings. Break up the meat with your fingers and add the bits to the pot. Add onion and bring it up to a good sizzle. Fry until sausage is just about cooked and onion is starting to turn brown. Add water and sage leaves, reduce heat to low, and cook 10 minutes, covered, stirring often. Trim any nasty bits off the Brussels sprouts and quarter them lengthwise so the core holds them together. Add to pan along with apple and garlic. Cover and cook 10 minutes longer — all the vegetables should be tender. Remove cover and fry until moisture has evaporated. Discard sage leaves, stir in pepper and serve.
New potato and tomato grill
Potatoes and tomatoes have a natural affinity for one another, and this dish is the perfect way to highlight the best qualities of both at the very best time of the season. About a pound of potatoes should serve four, but it doesn’t work that way, at least not for me. Maybe you will have better luck.
Serve this dish with a good steak or chop, or alongside chicken or fish — it is delicious enough for this end-of-season celebration but easy enough for a laid-back Saturday afternoon.
2 lbs. new potatoes, white or red
1 lb. cherry or grape tomatoes
3 tbsp. olive or vegetable oil (divided)
1 tbsp. champagne, sherry or white wine vinegar
1 tbsp. finely chopped fresh rosemary
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 tsp. each salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley
Boil potatoes in lightly salted water until barely tender. Drain and cool enough to handle. Press each one down on a flat surface to break the skin and push out the white flesh, but don’t flatten it completely. Combine two tbsp. of the olive oil with the vinegar and toss with potatoes and tomatoes. Place in a grill basket and barbecue over medium high (or in a roasting dish and bake at 400 F in the oven) 15 minutes. Combine remaining one tbsp. olive oil with rosemary, garlic, salt, and pepper and stir into potato-tomato mixture. Return to grill or oven for 10 more minutes. Stir in parsley and serve hot or allow to cool almost to room temperature.
Cynthia Stone is a writer, editor and teacher in St. John’s. Questions may be sent to her c/o The Telegram, P.O. Box 86, St. John’s, NL, A1E 4N1.