Welcome to austinagrodolce … My family and I garden with more intention and enthusiasm than allocated budget or overall design plan. It shows. Wildlife populations don't seem to notice our lack of cohesive design, they just like the native plants here. It seems by growing local we've thrown out a welcome mat. Occasionally, we're surprised at who (and what) shows up.

Saturday, October 27, 2007


There is just something about this time of year. It has started to feel like Fall, even here in Central Texas. The cooler temperatures in the early morning and once the sun sets in the evening, are invigorating. We may not have an abundance of fall foliage to enjoy, but there are shifts in the coloration to appreciate, and the cooler temperatures are soooo welcome.

It brings out something industrious in me, and it whets my appetite for rich, hot, savory soups and stews.

One of our favorites over the years has been a rather ambitious recipe I adapted from Emeril Lagasse, courtesy of the Food Network. It is a Butternut Italian Sausage soup with fried sage leaves as a garnish.

Delicious, and although I refused to whip and then strain before serving - we like hearty soups at my house - I'd stayed pretty close to the original recipe all along. Drawbacks were the time and effort it takes to prepare.

When an Emeril Lagasse recipe is classified as "medium" difficulty - they aren't kidding around. For home cooks, that kind of time and energy, even for a retired type like me, can be hard to come by.

So when recently I found a laughingly simple recipe for a pumpkin soup that is more heating and combining than actual cooking, I figured - why not try a blend of the two recipes?

As opposed to my Ham Kedgeree fiasco, I knew I had a reasonable shot at a happy outcome this go-round. For starters, I know what the original soup is supposed to taste like. I've played with this recipe a bit already, and it is a forgiving blend of flavors.

As a little fun on the side, I made peppered parmesean cheese crisps to float on the soup. My husband isn't crazy about butter fried sage leaves as called for in the original recipe, so I know he'll be happy for a substitution.

For my bowls, as the recipe calls for, I will fry the sage leaves, and serve the finished soup garnished with green. For my husband's bowls - a flotilla of peppered cheese crisps.

That's the great advantage of home cooking at times - you can customize to your heart's - and your sweetheart's -content.

Having a lovely homemade soup for Saturday lunch to enjoy while the football games distract the rest of the world is one of nicest ways I know to settle in for an afternoon. In case you agree - here's the blended recipe:

Texas Deb's Pumpkin Italian Sausage Soup - Serves 4
1-15 ounce can pureed pumpkin
3 cups chicken stock
1/2 onion, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
1 teaspoon garlic, chopped
1/2 pound Italian sausage, casings removed
1 teaspoon sage
1/2 teaspoon marjoram
1/4 tsp cumin
1/2 cup heavy cream
teaspoon cider vinegar
salt, pepper, to taste
8-10 fresh sage leaves for garnish (optional)
2 tbs butter

In a large saucepan over medium high heat, brown Italian sausage in olive oil, breaking up into small pieces. After about 6 minutes, add the chopped onion, and then as the onion becomes translucent, the chopped garlic. Reduce heat slightly to prevent scorching as needed.

Add chicken stock, sage, marjoram and cumin, stirring well to scrape pieces off bottom of pan. Add pumpkin, stirring well. Salt and pepper to taste. Simmer 30 minutes.

While soup simmers, in a small separate saute pan, heat 2 tablespoons butter over medium high heat until edges brown. Add small whole sage leaves and cook until crisp, 1-2 minutes. Drain on paper toweling. If using unsalted butter, sprinkle leaves with salt while hot.

After soup has simmered 30 minutes, add cider vinegar, stir to combine. Add heavy cream to soup, stir again, and correct seasoning as needed.

Serve soup in bowls garnished with crispy sage leaves.

Or crispy parmesan cheese crisps.

Bon Appetito!

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