Technically, we have until September 22. This, I keep telling myself so as to remind that summer isn't actually over. Easy to think otherwise what with the first day of fall semester and Labor Day already past. But I look at the weather forecast, and, aside from nightfall arriving earlier that it did mid-summer, the string of coming daytime conditions are still very much in the summer range.
And so, I accept: It's still summer, a blessing not lost on me. All the better for finishing up the outside tasks that are better done with clear skies and balmy temps. Speaking of which, that major purge and reorganization I spoke about? It's now in full, deep swing in the shed; the larder will follow. It's all very messy at the moment (and very exciting), because we all know that first you have to make a mess even messier before you can set it to rights. Thus the emptying of the contents of the shed into the yard. Not the best look, to be sure (that's coming). But here's the thing, there's a certain liberation to recognizing where you're at in life, then trimming the possessions to reflect and support that. A bit of time spent with a measuring tape, pencil, and notepad in a near-empty shed can spill inspiration for best space-planning ideas, which in turn produces a shopping list for needed supplies. And, (maybe the very best part) at surprise intervals along the way, new ways often appear to use what you already have. Bonus. In the end, after the last purged item is loaded into the truck, bound for donation, we'll have 126 square feet of shed space that works with us instead of against us. In it will only be what we need, what we use, what we love. And? All of it will be easily accessible.
Which brings me to Late Summer Soup. When there's a production such as the above going on, or any time-gulping feat, for that matter, there needs to be solid characters in supporting roles, such as pre-made dinner. You need food that will unabashedly deliver heaps of soulful nutrition without taking much of your time to prepare. This soup is that. It's the kind of meal that can be prepped in tandem with breakfast one morning, and feed your family for the following two nights in a row. Could there be a better feeling, come 6:00 p.m. than putting a pot of soup on the stove, lighting a low flame underneath, and toasting some garlic bread to go with it?
In it's original version, it was called Winter Soup, and was the only recipe I saved from a community cookbook we received as a wedding gift nearly 23 years ago. But when I looked at my late summer garden, with its fresh herbs and tomatoes, carrots, and zucchini, then at the recipe that would be amazing with a new interpretation, I didn't hesitate for a moment to combine them together and create Late Summer Soup. I definitely think you should try some.
Late Summer Soup
1/2 lb pork sausage (spicy Italian would be delightful here)
1 onion, sliced,
1 large clove garlic, sliced
2 quarts water
1 cup dried lentils, washed
1/4 cup tomato sauce
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon fresh chopped basil
1 tablespoon fresh chopped oregano
1 teaspoon fresh chopped thyme
2 stalks celery, sliced
3 carrots, sliced
6 mushrooms, sliced
2 red potatoes, chunked
4-6 fresh tomatoes, chopped (If you want skins removed, score and X in the botton of the tomato with a sharp knife, drop them directly into the simmering soup for one minute, then plunge them into a bowl of ice water. The skins will slip right off. Chop skinned tomatoes, and return to pot.)
1-2 small zucchini, sliced
1/3 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon butter
In a heavy-bottomed 4 quart soup pot, brown sausage over medium heat. Remove to a plate. Into the pot add a tablespoon of olive oil and the onion. Saute until translucent, approximately 5 minutes. Add the sliced garlic and saute for 30 seconds. Add water, lentils, tomato sauce, salt, pepper, basil, oregano, thyme, celery, carrots, mushrooms, and potatoes. Bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits of sausage from the bottom of the pot. Turn the flame down to low, put a lid on the pot and let the soup simmer for about an hour. Test veggies and lentils; they should be nearly tender. Add tomatoes, zucchini, and sausage. Simmer for 15-30 minutes longer. Add parsley and butter, stirring into soup. Sprinkle each serving with freshly grated parmesan cheese.