Fall has been my favorite season for as long as I can remember. I think it has something to do with growing up in Texas. Sometime in early October, the oppressive summer temps give way to cooler nights, less humid days and brisk air. It is the season of blessed relief and always welcome. I remember getting a lighter feeling my step and a happiness beyond belief at the first signs of fall – the scarecrows in the stores, the pop-up pumpkin patches on corner lots and the magazines on the shelfs – full of oranges and browns and recipes for apple cider and pumpkin delights.
In my early 20's, I took a trip to New England in October and my love for fall was cemented in the bright red foliage of the maple trees and the tributes to witches in Salem, Mass. In fact, were it not for the brutal winters, the fall in the Northeast might be enough to draw me there permanently.
As it is, I now live in Florida. The summers aren't as severe but the falls aren't as delightful either. Our boringly consistent temps simply drop a degree or two each week. There are no state fairs or jacket-worthy mornings. There don't seem to be pumpkin patches on every corner and the surest signs of fall we have are the billboards for Universal's Halloween Horror Nights and Mickey's Halloween Party.
But there is still the food. With the onset of my favorite time of year, I'm obsessed with fall produce, braised meats, stews and soups and things that warm us from the inside out. This week, as our highs slowly dipped out of the 90s, I indulged the fantasy of fireplaces and sweatshirts and hot cocoa. I turned up the A/C, threw on jeans and a sweater and came up with a soup to make us forget the hot sun just outside the door. It's based on a recipe for an Italian Meatball Soup but I was in “quick and easy” mode and opted for simply ground sausage. It was delicious enough that every member of my family ate it joyfully, my youngest even ate the vegetables in the soup with rave reviews. And don't worry about precise ingredients. I threw in vegetables that I needed to use up, your refrigerator might have other things that would be delicious in this soup. Just toss them in!
If you're lucky enough to be in a cool location, enjoy. If not, just turn on the A/C, wrap up in a blanket and fool yourself into thinking you are. Either way, it's still good.
Italian “I'm Too Lazy to Make Meatballs” Soup
- 2 pounds Italian sausage, removed from casting and crumbled (I used a combination of mild and spicy)
- 1 medium yellow onion, finely diced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 3 1/2 cup beef stock
- 2 (14 1/2 oz) cans Italian stewed tomatoes
- 2 cans Cannellini beans, undrained
- 3 carrots, cleaned and sliced
- 3 parsnips, cleaned and sliced
- 1 zucchini, diced
- sliced mushrooms, to taste
- 1 teaspoon celery seed
- 1/2 teaspoon thyme
- 10 oz. baby spinach
- salt and pepper to taste
In a large pot or dutch oven, brown sausage. Add onion and cook until translucent, add garlic and cook an additional 30 seconds or until fragrant. Add in beef stock, tomatoes, beans, carrots, parsnips, zucchini, mushrooms, celery seed and thyme. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until vegetables are soft. Stir in spinach and season to taste. Cook an additional 5 minutes to allow flavors to blend.