Les Feuilles Mortes

Okay, this is the first and last post with a French title. I promise! (maybe one can only hope wouldn’t rule it out?). Fall is in the air, folks. Don’t worry! I’m not going to go all sissy, sappy, American-Beauty-oh-the-electricity-in-the-air-can’t-you-see-it-in-the-plastic-bag on you. I do want to talk about autumn, though.

It starts.

If you’re from Texas, “fall” doesn’t really mean anything to you. It means that less painful time between sweltering and sort of cold and leafless. I have to tell you, though, these New Englanders have got something on us when it comes to autumn. (If you’re scratching your heads, silly Texans, fall = autumn, that mythical season between summer and summer, where Hocus Pocus takes place.)

First of all, it is far more colorful than you can imagine. Literally, the trees are flames. People GO APPLE PICKING, and there are pumpkin patches where the pumpkins are still attached to the ground. By stems and roots and stuff. Let that wash over you. Now remember your sad Halloween costume from Target. Okay, sorry about that last part.

A quaint little cottage that was next to someone’s real house! #dreamchildhood…AHH! I’ll never hash tag again. I’m truly sorry.

Secondly, fall is much shorter than you imagine–the leafy part anyway. As soon as the early leaves begin to go, you feel the bittersweet brevity of it. Already, leaves are swirling around your feet and the oaks haven’t even turned. It’s the season of nostalgia. I said I wasn’t going to get sappy (ha, sap, trees, get it?), so I’ll stop there.

Of course, I’ve only been here for one year, but when I asked a local about the general trajectory of the season, his response was, “I’m not really a big foliage guy.”

Unimpressed.

Most importantly, there’s Oktoberfest(s) in fall. I was at the Harpoon Oktoberfest this past weekend.

It was shiny inside, and I had never been surrounded by so much beer at once. Outside, it was a madhouse. There was a river of rain runoff mixed with beer. Literally, beer was pooling on the ground. I’ll spare you those photos. And they had this guy! He played till the cows came home–where did they find this band?

Next weekend it’s the Redhook Oktoberfest in New Hampshire. Then, you know, apple picking, and after apple picking (After Apple Picking! I got to use it in a sentence!), we’ll hit up the pumpkin patch, then we’ll buy handmade mittens from a woman in Newton. Now I’m just rubbing it in.
Here’s something you can replicate in Texas — your first fall soup. This one is like chicken an’ dumplins, only without the chicken. I used these tomatoes, which aren’t as sweet, but they’re still growing somewhere, and they’re good to cook. Plus, some late green beans (you can always use frozen). Oh yeah, and some baby kale. I made parmesan pepper dumplings. The parmesan is a delicious, nutty one from Russo’s (where else?), and you HAVE TO use fresh-cracked black pepper.
I used self-rising flour, and I’m prepared to admit it. All of you real chefs out there are probably judging me right now, but if you use it enough, it’s so much easier. Okay, it’s not that much easier than mixing a few ingredients, but it means fewer measuring cups, and that’s always worth some people (cough, me).You can use this dumpling recipe to make biscuits, too. You just have to play with the proportions. I learned how to make biscuits from this awesome lady in Louisiana with hair that defies gravity. She measures things by capfuls, and stirs until “it kinda sticks to the spoon, the bubbles are gone, and your arm hurts too much to stir anymore.”

Best eat this one up right away–it doesn’t keep well with the dumplings in. You can always eat all the dumplings, store the soup by itself, and make more dumplings when you reheat.
Veggie ‘n’ Parmesan Dumplin’ Soup
Serves 4Soup
1 Tablespoon olive oil
½ white onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 bay leaf, dried
1 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced lengthwise
1 cup fresh green beans, ends snapped off, sliced in 1-inch pieces
4 cups baby kale, no prep necessary (grown up kale works in a pinch, just cook it longer and make sure you remove the huge stalks, or sub spinach)
6 cups vegetable broth (I like I thought of broth in my soup–as little as 4 cups could work)
5 fresh basil leaves, julienned (that means sliced in skinny ribbons–do it your way, beauty is in the eye of the beholder?)Dumplings
2 cups self-rising flour (look, just do it and thank me later)
½ cup grated parmesan
½ teaspoon fresh-cracked pepper
¾ cups milkGarnish
Fresh Lemon
Olive Oil1. Heat olive oil in a Dutch oven or other heavy soup pot.
2. Sauté onion until translucent and sweaty (about 3 minutes). Add garlic, cook for one more minute. Add green beans. Cook for 3 more minutes until a lovely bright green.
3. Pour in broth. Add bay leaf. Bring to simmer. Let alone for a while.
4. Make dumpling batter. Mix cheese, flour, and pepper in a medium mixing bowl (give yourself room to stir). Pour in milk and whip as vigorously as possible with a large metal spoon. It should grow smooth eventually (smoother than the photo). If it is too dry, add more milk, but be careful. It should be extremely sticky — like, it shouldn’t come off the spoon without your finger, and it should not really come off your finger without soap and water. It’s really just trial and error with these. If the first one sucks, change up the batter.
5. Back to the soup. Add kale and tomato halves. Cook for another 3 minutes.
6. Dumpling time! With the soup at a high boil, drop little walnut-sized dumpling blobs into the soup. They should flower and swell up to almost double their size. If the whole top of the soup is covered with dumplings and you aren’t finished dropping them in, then save the rest of the batter for later. Let the dumplings cook for about 3 minutes at a high, rolling boil. If your water temperature goes down too much, you’ll need to cook longer.

Tips: Make one dumpling first, taste it, and then consider your batter. If you aren’t sure if the dumplings are done, break one in half. The inside should be fluffly like a cloud…well, like a biscuit.

To serve, put 3-4 dumplings in each bowl, depending on zeal for dumplings, and pour soup in. Squeeze with a lemon wedge and drizzle with olive oil (olive oil puddles! yum!).

They don’t recognize dumplins up here, kids, but don’t worry, I’m-a learn ‘em some knowledge. 🙂

And a song:

6 comments

  1. Alyssa Gomez · · Reply

    Daaang girl, that looks delicious. Hmm, I think I use “delicious” in every comment I leave. Well, I can’t help it! It really does look insanely tasty! 🙂

  2. Girl! I quoted your grandmother in this one! It is tasty–and super easy.

  3. That looks really good Randi. Wish I were there to go apple picking and Pumpkin patching???? with you. Makes me the of Pumpkin the kitty. I am working on Michael and his lack of adventurism (again?????) when it comes to food. Alas!

  4. cassyburleson · · Reply

    OK. Like the song at the end and the excellent writing. Have already saved the recipe to make the first time I re-light the fireplace in my 1891 house in Lorena. My grandmother would be proud I selected a recipe with dumplings.

    1. Thanks, Cassy! I’m so glad you like the blog. Do you really have a house from 1891? That’s older than mine/the one I rent (1907). Tell me how it goes when you try the recipe!

  5. […] Other kale recipes on Crandlecakes: Kale salad with Pecorino and Toasted Hazelnuts Kale Salad with Pickled Peppers and Shallots and a Soft-poached Egg Italian Kale and White Sweet Potato Soup Kale and Dumpling Soup! […]

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