Harvest Bounty

One of my fellow bloggers, Ahu of Ahu Eats, mentioned in a comment the other day that autumn is her favorite season. And, while I love all seasons - winter for its cozy fireside evenings, spring for renewal, summer for its intense sun - , autumn will always hold a special place in my heart.

For one, it is a season of vegetable bounty. I wrote about this a couple of weeks ago when I made the apple crostata. Squashes, root vegetables, apples, pears, cider, and roasting peppers all show up at our weekly farmers market.

And fall’s temperatures are just right for comfort foods - soups, stews, roasts, pies, cobblers, crisps, that warm body and soul and the kitchen too.

Here in the low desert, these cooler temperatures also signal the onset of outdoor dining - in the evenings, at first, when the days have cooled, then, as winter progresses, at midday in a spot of sun, surrounded by pots of cheerful annuals.

Fall also includes my favorite American holiday - Thanksgiving. For those who have never celebrated Thanksgiving, it is a time when we give thanks. It merges the British harvest-home of feasting and sports imported by the Pilgrims, and the later solemn Puritan holy day of giving thanks for God’s bounty.

Today we gather with family and friends to give thanks for all that we have in our lives: the roof over our heads, plentiful food, clean drinking water, and, of course, family and friends - all things we too easily take for granted.

I also like Thanksgiving because its harvest-home element is about food and sharing. No gifts, no commercialism - just good homemade food and loved ones. And sharing that food with others is on of life's greatest pleasures. Julia Child summed it up beautiful when she said, "Dining with one's friends and beloved family is certainly one of life's primal and most innocent delights - one that is both soul-satisfying and eternal."

For many, tradition is the key for Thanksgiving - it revolves around a roast turkey, but beyond that, it varies family to family, culture to culture. What are your Thanksgiving "gotta haves?" Lasagna? Sushi? Pumpkin pie? Are there items that need to be at your table to make it a traditional Thanksgiving?

For the past five years, we have gathered a miscellany of friends and family around our small table. We managed - at most - to squeeze in 12 last year. We provided the turkey, stuffing (my family never called it "dressing"), gravy, cranberry sauce, and apple pie.

Our friends each brought a dish to add to the buffet - something from their tradition. Patrician brought the world's best turnips - a New England tradition as she, too, hails from the Northeast. Mashed potatoes were walked across the wash by our neighbors Yvonne and Allan. Eric and Donn brought a beautiful dish of green beans, while Connie, from across the street, brought moussaka for those who didn't want turkey. Barb brought the requisite pumpkin pie. Our friend Susie, then 89 and a woman who gleefully disliked the kitchen, brought abundant wine.

Although traditions are strong at Thanksgiving, new traditions are born each year. One year, when I was young, my mother tried a new soup recipe to begin our Thanksgiving dinner and, ever since that first time, it has been a family favorite. We all demanded it be served at Thanksgiving, and again at either Christmas or New Year's Day.

As was her way - and thus genetically my way, too - my mother changed the original recipe to suit her tastes. She used fresh herbs rather than dried, took out the garnish of cheese, as it confused the flavors, and then puréed the soup and added some light cream to make it smoother and more luscious. Truthfully, luscious is one of the best ways to describe this soup.

I hope you enjoy the recipe. Whether you celebrate Thanksgiving or not, I am truly thankful that you are in my life, and I wish you and yours a safe and happy holiday - one filled with love and laughter.

~ David
Autumn Harvest Bisque

1 onion, chopped
2 leeks (including 2” of green), washed well and chopped
1 stick celery, thinly sliced
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
1 carrot, thinly sliced into coins
1½ pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed
1 small turnip, peeled and chopped
2 large tart cooking apples, peeled, cored and chopped
4 cups chicken stock
3 tablespoons flour
1 cup apple cider, preferably not filtered
¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon freshly chopped rosemary (two small sprigs)
1 teaspoon freshly chopped sage (about 5 large leaves)
salt and pepper to taste
1 cup light cream

In a kettle cook the onion, the leeks, and the celery in 3 tablespoons of butter over moderate heat, stirring, for 5 minutes, or until they are softened. Add the carrot, the squash, the turnip, the apples, and the stock, bring the stock to a boil, and simmer the mixture for 45 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft. In a small saucepan melt the remaining 3 tablespoons butter over moderate heat, add the flour, and cook the roux, stirring, for 2 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat, add 1 cup of the liquid from the soup mixture in a stream, stirring, and stir this mixture back into the soup. Add the cider, nutmeg, rosemary, sage, salt, and pepper and simmer the soup for 10 minutes. In batches, purée the soup in a blender (or food processor, though a blender purées better) and pour into a clean pot. Stir in the light cream, return to a simmer, ladle the soup into heated bowls, and serve.

Makes about 9 cups.


  1. Not only is the soup comforting and perfect for fall, but your whole post is full of warmth.
    Isn´t it wonderful to give thanks? Things can´t be but great if we give thanks for what we have. I too feel thanksgiving is a good time because it doesn´t involve commercial `garnishes´. And getting so many friends together, that´s quite an accomplishment David. Good for you guys! Have a great week and a very happy celebration!

  2. Thanks to a local farm share, I have all of these ingredients here today. So easy to create,but I like the spice of apple and cider with the sautéed vegetables! Yum!
    Now......if only I could make my table as attractive as you've made yours! Happy Thanksgiving!

  3. Dear David,

    If your table weren't inviting enough, the soup would be the clincher! What time are you serving? It sounds wonderful and our bounty of fall vegetables from our CSA covers them all. We just have to get the cider. We will add this to our Thanksgiving menu.

    Thanksgiving blessings to you and yours. Cathy and Heather

  4. I found my soup for Thanksgiving! Do you think I could make it in advance, up to the puree, and then heat and add the cream? We will think of you two and your early family holidays as we gather around the table.

  5. Paula - someday, you must come for Thanksgiving! It would be a joy to have you up from Buenos Aires!

    Deenie - you hit the nail on the head - the cider and apples really make the soup! So hard to find really good cider like you can get in Vermont! Sigh...

    Cathy and Heather - hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving planned. Is your mother coming? It is the one time of year we actually yen for some of your cooler weather... much love to you both, and enjoy your feast!

  6. Susan - yes you can definitely make it ahead to the point of adding the cream. In fact, it freezes really well, too! Happy Thanksgiving - hope you all have a wonderful day!

  7. This sounds wonderful! A Happy Thanksgiving to you, Mark and all who sit around your table!

  8. My Oma always started Thanksgiving with soup too! Hers was the same every year (and wonderful) - an elegant cream of mushroom. Happiest of Thanksgivings to you and Mark (and by the way, your table look GORGEOUS and what a treat to eat out on your patio!)XO Karin

  9. Thanks, Karin - loved your non-turkey Thanksgiving post! The cream of mushroom sounds great, too... maybe next year at our table....

  10. Beautiful post - I totally agree - I just love going to the market this time of year and being inspired by all the great seasonal produce! Thank you for the shoutout and have a wonderful Thanksgiving :) I may give this recipe a go this week! Looks delicious!

  11. I will, sooner or later, for thanksgiving or any other moment, take you up on that offer David...

  12. We made it for Thanksgiving and everyone raved about it! With your blessing, I made it in advance, up until the point of cream which I added just before serving. Worked perfectly and was terrific!

  13. Ahu - hope your Thanksgiving was wonderful and that, if you tried it, the soup came out well!

    Paula - just keep us posted!

    Susan - glad you all loved it! Such a great combination of flavors, isn't it?


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