OK time to freak outttttt! I’m back! (and just in time for Thanksgiving).

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve cooked something in the past few months and thought “I should take a picture of this” and just didn’t. I didn’t have my camera for about a month, but that’s no excuse, since I do have my iPhone camera after all. I also no longer have a computer at home, which complicates things…but I’ve just gotten a new work laptop that I think I’ll have with me a lot more (mostly because I have to work more, but let’s just pretend it’s because I like the computer). All that to say, no more excuses, I’m going to try to post at least a couple times a week. I mean, it’s baking season and Thanksgiving season and I’m drooling just thinking of all the pies I’m going to make and I hate just leaving this thing languishing out there in the vast internet wasteland.

So what started out as “I’m sick, I’m going to make soup” turned into a fall feast — don’t worry, this was a couple weeks ago, so not totally competing with Thanksgiving’s feastiness. When Gemma and I cook, we COOK if you know what I mean. I made a tomato fennel soup (a variation on one I’ve made many times before), and she made a fall panzanella salad from smitten kitchen, and then I made a sweet potato buttermilk pie, also courtesy of Deb. Seriously, when I feel too crap to go outside, sometimes whisking is the only thing that makes me feel better. This pie is incredibly light and fluffy, like a souffle. It’s tart and not too sweet thanks to the buttermilk, and the spices hearken back to my favorite of all pies, pumpkin. This is a great option for Thanksgiving, and the lightness would be an added benefit on a day when your stomach usually feels like it’s full of bricks by the time it’s all over.

I also FINALLY just watched Julie & Julia, so I am feeling a bit more motivated to blog (look, I’m under no illusion that Amanda Hesser is going to come knocking on my door any time soon, or that I’ll be in the New York Times, but a girl can dream about a book advance right?). I’m also not going to be deboning a whole duck either, but that’s ok. I’ve actually returned (mostly) to my vegetarian roots lately for a plethora of reasons that I won’t go into here, so this entire meal is vegetarian. And, did I mention, totally awesomely delicious?? The garlic parmesan croutons in the salad alone are enough to make me weep with joy. Recipe for the soup after the jump, salad here and pie here.

Simple Fennel Tomato Soup
Serves 4

1 bulb fennel, quartered and thinly sliced
1 small onion, thinly sliced
1 leek, white and light green parts thinly sliced and rinsed well
3 cloves garlic, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and diced
1 15-0z. can diced tomatoes
3 c. vegetable stock
1/4 t. red pepper flakes
salt & pepper to taste
juice of 1/2 lemon

Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a heavy soup pot over medium heat. Add the vegetables and garlic and cook them over medium heat for about 10 – 15 minutes, or until they are soft and fragrant. Season with salt and pepper and add the red pepper flakes. Add the can of tomatoes (with the juice) and the broth and bring to a simmer, cover. Simmer for 15 minutes or so, taste and adjust seasoning, and serve with a squeeze of lemon juice stirred in at the very end.