Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Sweet Fruits of Fall

 Throughout our house, you'll see the colorful evidence of cooler weather-- squashes, gourds, pumpkins, sweet potatoes, eggplant, all clustered as decoration on the buffet, tables and hearth, while they await their turn in the oven.

 I love the sweet smoky flavor of October, when I make our first fireplace fires, bake our first pumpkins for pies and muffins and pancakes, make chili with leftover chunks of whatever roasted peppers and squash I bought the week before. And I'm sad that our local farmer's market will be ended for the year. I stock up on the few vegetables that have held out, knowing they will be sweeter and perkier in taste, precisely because of the cold temps we've had here.

 As of this writing, I've made butternut soup once already, baked some yams, and eaten my way through half an orchard full of apples in the form of salads, on sandwiches, in stews and breads. I'm still on the lookout for perfect grapes to press into flatbread, and more dark greens like kale and chard, that are always at their best around this time of year. I'm ready to mess around with some cranberries, now, too, throwing them into anything I make, like this fruity chutney, full of peppers, craisins and slivered almonds for crunch:

 We've had a fondue dinner, and a giant baked apple pancake for a weekend breakfast. I've got red pears for a tart, maybe, and peach juice blend waiting to be used in Peach Oats Brulee.

 Eating these dishes a few times per year, at the moment when the foods they're based on are at their peak, is one way I can always connect to the world under my feet. It feels good, it feels right, it keeps me earthy and productive. And a meal you prepare by grabbing just what you can chop and throw into the oven, is a boon to any writer.

 It's also a great way to make sauce, chili, or ratatouille-- put the appropriate chopped veg on a towel to absorb liquid for a minute, set in a large pan and coat lightly with olive oil, sprinkle with oregano and rosemary or the other seasonings that make sense, and let your oven do most of the work. You might have to stir after 25 minutes or so. Oh my, what a task. It's done when it hits the texture you like. For sauce, there's no more to be done but to toss with your cooked hot pasta, or ladle over polenta. If the sauce is too thin, add and stir in a Tbsp. or so of tomato paste, and let bubble away a bit longer.

 Or you can drizzle a bit of vinegar onto the roasted veg for a salad, and top with chopped nuts; maybe serving it over fresh, raw spinach leaves, or a bed of shredded apples or pita.

 Easy, warming, tasty, perfect for now.

  Eat well; October is almost gone!



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