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I’m ashamed at the gap between my last blog entry and this one.  It appears even more dramatic when summer falls away so quickly and fall seeps its way in, as has happened this year.  How do we apply such fast change?  I’m not ready to cut down the garden and reap so little from my morning harvest, but there’s also that mid-western spirit engrained in me that’s already making soups and braises.  Alright, fall, let’s do this thing.

That’s my daughter, Riley, above.  She’s quickly becoming my sous-chef and takes pleasure in making her own pretend breakfast spreads in her own short, plastic kitchen.  But her favorite thing to do with me in my kitchen, besides stealing produce from the counter basket and taking juicy bites, is to measure flour.  Give her my flour bucket and she could work there all day spooning flour into the 1-cup measure back into the 1/2-cup measure, back and forth, sometimes spooning some onto the passing-by cat.  As well, she never tires of my spice basket, of smelling all the jars, and then building skyscraper towers with them.

But let’s reflect (since I’ve gotten to you so late, that we can no longer call this summer):

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Here’s a photo of an August harvest in our garden.  I’m proud to say that my garden’s first year has really been something to brag on.  To brag: I feel it to be true that I am a tomato whisperer.  We grew twenty heirloom tomato plants and they each kept their health and happiness all season.  My herb garden, my prize, is still glad to be around and I am still gathering, for my clients and my own family, bunches of basils, thyme, lavender, sage, marjoram (my favorite), rosemary, chives, and parsley.  The cilantro and dill pooped out a while ago (not to mention all of my peppers and eggplants) but such is life.  Overall, the garden grew and faired well.

Now that it’s late summer into fall, it’s certainly time to keep the soup pot on the stove for supper.  This week it’s smooth butternut squash soup with coconut milk and lemongrass (and don’t forget to shred extra ginger in to perk it up and keep the sniffles away) and a quinoa chowder with greens and feta cheese.   Soup is quite possibly one of my favorite foods because it is genuinely versatile (depending on what’s in season or what’s in your cupboards), and has great potential to be nutritious, economical, filling and warming, and besides that it freezes beautifully.

Speaking of soup.  Now that it’s getting a bit cooler out, I encourage you to head to Lowertown in St. Paul and visit my old kitchen at Tanpopo, where they are famous for their Japanese homestyle noodle soups.   If you’ve never been there before, I suggest the Nabeyaki, a steaming crock of soup (straight from the stovetop) with udon noodles, egg, fish cake, spinach, chicken, and  a single tempura shrimp.  (As well, I just noticed that they have a new happy hour with specials from 5-6pm; don’t forget to order tuna rolls and a draft beer.)

Soup will be on the agenda this fall for my hush-hush rogue cooking classes in my own home.  I’ve begun teaching small-scale, cozy-like courses in my kitchen and they have been fantastic.  In a nutshell, I can only take 4 persons at a time in this intimate setting, but I plan on holding one class per month based on subjects such as soup, salt, eggplant, and more broadly, a forgotten skills course.  Don’t get me started now, but I’m entirely excited and hope you’ll have time to join me for one. I will send out more information on these classes and my thinking behind them with my upcoming fall newsletter.

Here’s a recipe for the week, now that apples are falling.  As a matter-of-fact, I taught this recipe in one of my recent classes.  So delicous, swift to make, and uses what fruit you have on hand.

Caramelized Fruit Skillet Tart

Serves 8

3 ounces (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter

½ cup packed dark brown sugar

3 cups fruit (chopped into 1/2 inch cubes) such as pineapple,

apple, pear, nectarine, mango, banana or any berries

¾ cup all-purpose flour

¾ cup whole wheat flour (or additional all-purpose flour)

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon baking powder

¾ cup white sugar

1 large egg

¾ cup plain, whole-milk yogurt (or buttermilk)

Turn on the oven to 375 degrees and position a rack in the middle.  Melt the butter in a large (10-inch) skillet, with an ovenproof handle, preferably nonstick, over medium heat.  Swirl the butter in the skillet until it turns nut-brown, then pour it into a medium-large bowl.  Without wiping out the skillet, sprinkle the brown sugar evenly over the bottom.  Top with the fruit in an even layer.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flours, salt, baking soda and baking powder.  Add the white sugar to the browned butter and whisk until thoroughly combined.  Whisk in the egg, then yogurt.  Pour the wet ingredients into the bowl with the dry ones and stir only to combine.

Pour the batter evenly over the fruit in the skillet.  Slide the skillet into the oven and bake about 35 minutes, until the tart is golden brown and springy to the touch at the center.  Remove and let cool 10 minutes.

Invert a plate over the skillet, then, holding the plate and skillet firmly together with towels or pot holders, invert the two in one swift movement.  Remove the skillet, and the tart is ready to serve.

Eat well and Be well,