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"They" say that on a sweltering day you should eat or drink something hot. Something about it leveling off your body temperature so the surrounding air temperature isn't such a drastic difference to your own and therefore you won't be as sweaty-cranky-miserably-uncomfortable. I don't know if that's true. I guess it makes sense. Even if the thought of anything other than ice water, a cool glass of lemonade or ice cream doesn't sound very appealing while watching waves of heat rise from the asphalt. More notably so if it involves turning on the stove.

However, I know not everyone in the world is suffering in the languid heat wave that seemingly befalls LA every September. For a good part of the US, in fact, September does indeed see the beginnings of the leaves changing and the marked arrival of fall. I lived in Boston for six years and every one of those years felt just a little bit sad about the departure of summer when I saw those first signs of autumn. Now I am back in Southern California and I would welcome those chilly nights and gusty gales that bring the first brisk air sweeping across the city. Invariably, the grass is always greener on the other side.

So, whether you are morphing into fall mode, and gearing up for the comfort food that accompanies it or simply desperate to try anything to beat the heat, up to and including feeling brave enough to crank up your stove, this recipe should warm the cockles of your heart (and belly). I like it served with a slice of old fashioned Johnny Cake made with Jiffy corn muffin mix. You know, those dusty little blue boxes that hang out on the top shelf in the baking section of the grocery store. Or if you're feeling like a real fancy pants you can serve it in a bread bowl. Simply get some of the small round french bread loaves from the bakery, slice off the top and scoop out the inside, leaving about a half inch shell. Nothing like being able to eat your dish when you're done.....and best of all, nothing to wash but the spoons!

Chunky Potato Soup

makes 8-10 servings

Ingredients

Directions

  • Peel potatoes and cut into 1 in. cubes.
  • Bring water to a boil in large saucepan. Add potatoes and boil till tender. Drain, reserving liquid. Set aside potatoes. Measure 1 cup cooking liquid, adding extra water if necessary. Set aside.
  • Peel and finely chop onion. Melt butter in saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring frequently till onion is translucent and tender, but not brown.
  • Add flour to saucepan, season with pepper flakes and ground pepper to taste and cook 3-4 minutes.
  • Gradually add potatoes, reserved liquid, milk and sugar to onion mixture, stirring constantly. Add cheese and ham.
  • Simmer over low heat for 30 minutes stirring frequently.

**leftovers can be refrigerated and will taste even better the second or third day as the soup sits and stews in its own juices, so to speak.

Johnny Cake

  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Prepare cornbread as directed on back of Jiffy corn muffin mix box, which is really simple and consists of stirring together 1/3 cup of milk, one egg and the contents of the box.
  • Add 1 small can sweet corn, drained, to mix.
  • pour into a greased cast iron skillet and bake 15-20 mins. or until golden brown. You can also bake in a regular loaf pan or 9x9 pan or even a muffin tin, but with the skillet you get an awesome crusty edge all over.

**Serve with plenty of butter and honey.

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