Today was one of our favorite kinds of days: we call them ‘farm days’. Getting up early, a hearty breakfast, a brisk ‘constitutional’ around the property in the fashion of Thomas Jefferson. And a long, productive day of meaningful tasks, either working together or blowing kisses in passing as we delve into whatever projects have been slated for the day.
This morning, my gentleman farmer opted out of the walk because he was eager to get to work. His big undertaking was to burn a bunch of old wood and debris down in the barnyard in anticipation of our cows coming home. Yes, Flora, Fauna and Meriwether will be joining us soon, ‘the good Lord willing and the creek don’t rise’, and we are in the final stages of preparation. The last real hurdle—other than locating and purchasing the girls themselves—will be to track down a few vintage cow bells. I can already hear them dingling down across the pasture…
So Caspian and I walked without him. It was evident that Caspian’s every sense was awake to the freshness in the air. He frisked ahead on his leash, darting off to the right or left without warning after some fascinating scent, prancing along with a new liveliness in his step. (He could certainly tell you why they call them the ‘dog days’, or, at least, he thinks he could.) As we came down under the walnut trees a light breeze scattered golden leaves on our way and bore the scent of wood smoke from the bonfire. My heart leapt—it was a moment of pure joy, and potent enough to make me believe that autumn is really coming. I love the burnished season ahead. I love fires and big pots of soup on the back burner and baked apples on frosty mornings. With the coming of each season I always feel at the outset that I’ll be sad when it goes, with all of its unique pleasures and beauties. But autumn is the only one that I really do mourn. And thus, my delight in its appearance is a thing apart. A ripe, golden-hearted joy that just seems to intensify with each passing year.
It made me happy on that almost-cool morning to think of the lentils I had sprouting in a colander in the kitchen in advance of a hearty soup for our dinner that night. Lentil soup is one of the ultimate comfort foods, and so full of amiable associations for me that the very making of it is a joy, simple as it is. And paired with hot carrot muffins, it makes for the perfect early autumnal meal.
Here’s my recipe:
Early in the morning, rinse 1 pound of dried lentils in a colander and cover with a paper towel that has been soaked in warm water. Every hour or so, rinse them again with warm water and replace the wet paper towel. By five o’clock they should be sprouted.
In a large stock pot, sauté one onion and two or three garlic cloves in 2 tablespoons olive oil. Add the lentils and cover with water, up to about 4 inches above the surface of the lentils. Stir in 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons salt, pepper to taste and 1 big tablespoon of cumin. Bring to a boil and simmer gently for an hour or so. Before serving add a nice splash (okay…1/2 cup or so?) red wine.
You can add sliced carrots to the soup, as well, but I prefer to serve them on the side as muffins.
1 ½ cups all purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
2/3 cup vegetable oil
1 cup sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup grated carrots
Preheat the oven 350 degrees. Sift together the dry ingredients and set aside. Combine the oil, sugar and eggs in a large bowl and mix by hand until blended. Gradually add the dry ingredients and mix well; stir in the grated carrots. Spoon the batter into greased muffin tins and bake 20-25 minutes until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.
The only real trick with these muffins is keeping your husband out of them until dinner’s on the table. 😉