Margaret Button: Drown winter blues with hearty kielbasa soup

This one-pot stew is a hearty weeknight meal.

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As much as I hate to admit it, summer is over — figuratively and literally, as of yesterday.

I realized summer was gone over the weekend when the heat in the house kicked on for the first time this season. My first thought was, "It's only Sept. 19!" I try not to turn it on until at least Oct. 1, so I ran to the thermostats to turn the set temperature down — and realized they were already at 55 degrees. Fifty-five degrees is perfect for a beautiful first day of spring, but it's a bit chilly for sitting and watching TV in your living room. I pushed the thermostats up to 62.

The heat coming on inspired me to dig out the electric blanket and throw it on the bed. My yellow lab, Sassy, seems to also be enjoying the extra warmth at night — yes, I turn the blanket on on her side of my bed, too. My arthritic joints appreciate it and I'm thinking hers do also. I stopped short of putting on a set of flannel sheets. Indian summer is coming at some point and I don't want to melt during the night it is here.

I cleaned up the garden, which regular readers know is comprised of two horse troughs and several large planters. During the process I picked the final two red peppers, two Poblano peppers and one plum tomato. I ate the tomato immediately, relishing the taste. There is nothing better than a tomato fresh from the garden — and it will be about 10 months before I get a tomato that is so good.

I also put in a call to the pool guy to have the pool closed. I have to go out and put all the pool equipment away in the shed. Nothing is quite as depressing and says "winter" quite like looking at a covered swimming pool!

I wanted to make a soup and this one checked all the boxes — it was hearty, it appealed to my German ancestry, and I had almost all of the ingredients, save the cabbage and creme fraiche, on hand. I did cheat a little and didn't serve it with the creme fraiche and dill (not a big fan unless it's pickles).

KIELBASA, POTATO AND CABBAGE SOUP

(From www.foodnetwork.com)

INGREDIENTS:

2 tablespoons olive or vegetable oil

1 1/4 pounds kielbasa, 1-inch dice

1 pound starchy potato, peeled and chopped

1 tablespoon paprika, 1 scant palmful

1/2 tablespoon coriander, half a palmful

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

2 carrots, chopped

2 ribs celery, chopped

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 onion, chopped

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 head savoy cabbage, chopped

Few grates nutmeg

1 cup lager beer, room temp

4 cups chicken stock

2 cups tomato passata or puree

1/2 cup creme fraiche

3 tablespoons fresh dill, chopped

1 handful parsley leaves, chopped

1/2 lemon, juiced

DIRECTIONS:

Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat, add the kielbasa and brown. Remove the kielbasa to a paper towel-lined plate. Add the potatoes, paprika, coriander, allspice, carrots, celery, garlic, onions and some salt and pepper. Cook, partially covered, 5 to 6 minutes. Then wilt in the cabbage and season with a little nutmeg. Deglaze the pan with the beer. Add the stock and passata, then slide the kielbasa back in the pot and simmer to combine flavors, 15 minutes. Cool and store for a make-ahead meal. Reheat over medium heat. Finish the soup with the creme fraiche, herbs and lemon juice; serve in shallow bowls.


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