Thursday, September 24, 2009

Soups and Spaghetti Squash: Hooray Fall!

Fall is easily may favorite season. (Favorite!) Not only because I love the cooler weather and changing leaves, but because it is the best season for being with family and eating some tremendous food. As part of my ongoing efforts to celebrate the beginning of Fall, I decided to indulge my wistfulness with a Italian Sausage and Tortellini Soup. Initially, I liked the recipe because it is similar to my mother's meat sauce recipe, (which will be making an appearance at some point), but in soup form. My thought was that if I made my mother's sauce, my delicate sensibilities would be completely overwhelmed with nostalgia; Thanksgiving is just too far away to start getting homesick now. My hope was that this soup would fill my current flavor needs, while allowing me to continue developing some new recipes and cooking traditions of my own.

Unfortunately, this soup only got me about halfway there. As I have repeatedly written, I am rookie in the kitchen.  I couldn't make stir-fry until I was a sophomore in college, and only then under supervision. One thing I still have to learn is to trust my instincts. If I did, I might not have used the full 2 tablespoons, each, of dried basil and oregano which was called for in this recipe. As I was adding my ingredients I read the recipe four times before I could believe I was reading it correctly. I stood over my steaming pot, holding my full measuring spoon thinking: No, no. Surely not. I pulled out my mom's meat sauce recipe as a reference; Hmm. Significantly smaller amounts of herbs. I even checked the online recipe reviews, a valuable resource for identifying recipe deficiencies. Only a few reviews mentioned reducing the herbs. Really? OK. I tipped my herb-laden spoon with the rapidity of pulling off a Band-Aid and quickly stirred the herbs about, attempting to blend in what I immediately knew was a mistake Damn!

However, this experience demonstrates a very good lesson. If something in a recipe seems off, especially when it is far off from your normal relationship with your most common ingredients, chances are it is a misprint. Or, even if it is not a misprint, I know what I like. If you know you prefer fresh herbs to dried, trust yourself enough to say, "Gee, I am not wild about a mouth full of dried herbs. Maybe I should change this recipe a bit."

The soup wasn't ruined, it was generally good, but it did have a canned, processed taste. Not to dis canned soup, but the whole point of making soup at home is to have a really fresh taste. Bygones. I only have four more servings left to go. Riiight. In its defense, this recipe does have what I like to call, a lot of wiggle room. The dried herbs could easily be replaced with fresh or cut in half or even to one-third, but the ratios of broth to meat to veggies are good, so you can safely experiment with your favorite vegetables or other ingredients if zucchini isn't your thing. (But seriously, if you don't like zucchini, you should really reconsider). In the end, I managed to accomplish what I wanted; I wanted a way to harness my warm and familiar Fall flavor memories, while learning a little more about myself as a cook and, hopefully, developing a few new recipe ideas of my own.

And just because I can't bear to have my first Fall post be a bit of a fiasco, I'll leave you will a Fall favorite that is absolutely rookie-proof.

My first spaghetti squash of the season!

Coming up on the Cranberry: sadly, my cooking class this weekend was cancelled, but I will be baking the ever-popular Pistachio Cake for a friend's housewarming. Get excited.

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