Warm up to fall

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Ah, autumn. The sweet white corn and red ripe tomatoes of summer will soon be a memory. Two weeks ago, Lancaster County apples appeared at the Reading Terminal Market. Pumpkins, butternut and acorn squash, tiny Brussels sprouts and a variety of pears will make their debut any day. Although summer brings bushels of good things to eat, I always associate harvest time with autumn, which officially arrives Monday.

Cooler weather brings out the cooking frenzy in me. I often like to pull out my pots on an autumn Sunday to prepare soup, a roast and a stew. Sometimes I decide what I will cook while standing in the market, taking in the array of enticing produce. I study the prepared-foods cases in the Reading Terminal Market or in Whole Foods Market (formerly Fresh Fields), buy the raw products and prepare them at home.

Soup is one of my favorite foods to make and eat. Now that the dreadfully hot and humid summer is over (I hope), a pot of soup will soon be simmering on my stove. My repertoire is filled with classics like chicken soup, rich minestrone, mushroom barley and split pea. I usually prepare a butternut squash bisque for Thanksgiving. Still, I like unusual soups, especially when company is coming. One taste and the conversation commences.

Fresh Fields Whole Foods Market arrived in Fairmount nearly six years ago. The store was such a hit, the company decided to build one on South Street. There’s a Whole Foods in Marlton, N.J., as well. Because the chain offers a wide variety of organic foods, a number of other supermarket chains such as Super Fresh and Pathmark have added organic selections.

I was not surprised to discover The Whole Foods Market Cookbook: A Guide to Natural Foods with 350 Recipes, by Steve Petusevsky ($25.95, Clarkson Potter, softcover). Whole Foods in Fairmount is selling the book for $17.95. It is filled with information, tips, definitions and marvelously easy recipes for the whole family. If you’re not sure what tempeh, seitan and quinoa are or how to cook them, this book will be your guide.

I’ve sampled the market’s homemade soups on a number of occasions. Here are recipes from the book.


Sweet Potato, Corn and Kale Chowder

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon canola oil
2 medium carrots, chopped
1 medium red onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 large red pepper, seeded and chopped
1 large sweet potato, peeled and chopped
1 sprig fresh thyme, minced
3/4 teaspoon tumeric
1 medium tomato, chopped
5 cups cold water or vegetable stock
1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
3 cups chopped kale leaves, heavy stems removed and washed
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
Cayenne pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1/2 cup cashew pieces, optional

Directions:

In a large pot, place the canola oil over medium-high heat. Saut� the carrots, onion, celery, pepper and sweet potato for three minutes. Ad the thyme and tumeric. Combine well with the vegetables. Add the tomato and cold water or stock, and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the corn, kale, salt and pepper. Simmer for five minutes. Add the cayenne.

Combine the cornstarch with 2 teaspoons cold water (but see cashew option below). With the soup simmering, stir in the cornstarch mixture, continue to stir and simmer for three minutes. Remove from heat and stir in the parsley.

If using cashews, use a blender or food processor to blend the cashews, cornstarch and 3/4 cup of soup broth. Return this mixture to the simmering soup and continue to simmer, stirring often, for three minutes.

Serves six to eight.


Butternut Squash Bisque

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon olive oil or butter
2 to 3 pounds butternut squash, peeled and diced into 1-inch chunks
3 large carrots, chopped
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger (1-inch piece)
2 quarts vegetable stock or cold water
1/8 cup grated orange zest
1 bunch parsley, chopped
Pinch of ground nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

Directions:

Heat the olive oil or butter over medium heat in a large soup pot. Saut� the squash, carrots, onion and ginger for three minutes until they are lightly browned. Add the stock and orange zest and bring to a boil. Lower to simmer and cook, uncovered, for 35 to 40 minutes, until the vegetables are tender.

Add the parsley, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Puree the soup with a handheld immersion blender or in food processor (work in batches if using food processor) until smooth and creamy.

Serves eight to 10.


Creamy Spinach Bisque

Ingredients:

4 tablespoons butter
2 medium red onions, chopped
2 large leeks, white part only, sliced and washed
1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
4 cups vegetable stock or chicken stock
1 (16-ounce) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed, squeezed of excess water
3 cups milk
1 pint heavy cream or half and half
Slat and freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg

Directions:

Melt the butter in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the onions and leeks, and saut� them until they are soft, about two minutes. Add the flour and cook for two minutes to form a roux. Add the stock. Cook and stir constantly until the mixture is smooth and thickened, about five minutes. Add the spinach, milk and cream or half and half. Bring the soup to a simmer. Cook uncovered for 30 minutes. Add the salt and pepper and nutmeg. Cook for five minutes.

Serves eight to 10.


Panang Green Pea Soup

Ingredients:

6 cups cold water
1/2 cup basmati rice
4 teaspoons green Thai curry paste
6 cloves garlic, minced
1/8 cup minced fresh ginger (2-inch piece)
1 stalk lemongrass, white part only, minced
1 tablespoon lime juice
1/2 cup coconut milk
1 pound frozen peas
1/8 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
1/8 cup tamari
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/8 cup chopped fresh mint
1/8 cup fish sauce, optional

Directions:

Place the cold water, rice, Thai curry paste, garlic, ginger, lemongrass and lime juice into a large soup pot. Bring the liquid to a boil and lower to a simmer. Cook uncovered for 30 minutes. Add the coconut milk and peas. Simmer for five minutes. Add the basil, tamari, cilantro, mint and fish sauce, if using. Puree the soup, in batches, in a food processor or puree using a handheld immersion blender until smooth and creamy.

Serves six to eight.