Fall

pasta lentilbologneseFall has finally arrived in sunny Los Angeles and it’s that slight chill in the air that makes me yearn for warm soups, one pot stews, and hearty pasta dishes. One night a week pasta is on the menu and it was this dish that my eldest son chose for his week night pick. All three of my boys are “required” to pick a meal each week and it is their job to help me prep and cook the entire thing(those that don’t cook are on clean up duty). Eli, being 15, is pretty darn good with the knife and watching him dice the vegetables was a proud moment.

What I love most about this dish is that it has all the elements of a traditional bolognese without the addition of any form of meat. The lentils become the heart of the dish, coupled with spinach for your greens, and Parmesan for your milk, it’s one of those one pot dishes that’s covered all of our four basic food groups. Served with a crusty baguette, a glass of wine (for the adults) and a little something special for dessert, no one walks away from the table hungry or complaining.

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butternut-squash-soup-web1As each new season arrives I begin to think that it's my favorite. The colors, the scents, and the flavors of fall are just beginning to tantalize my senses. For sure it's the rich and eye-catching colors that grab me first; the pumpkins, pomegranates, pears and apples are so beautiful they almost beg to be put on display.

Of course anything that is associated with Thanksgiving is also a hallmark of fall. Pumpkin, pecans, cranberries, even brussels sprouts. Just the words alone make my mouth water in anticipation. It seems in preparation for the winter, flavors intensify. Not that the flavors of summer aren't intense, but they have a different fresh delicate succulent quality about them that disappears in the fall.

All sorts of winter squash are turning up at the market right now. Hardy vegetables that have some staying power. They wait until you are ready for them, unlike summery tomatoes and basil that say "use me or lose me!"

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brusselslemonsFall produce isn't just about pumpkins and squash, which is what most people assume. Other vegetables, too, reach their prime in the fall. Right now you'll find a host of cabbages in season, including the entire family—cauliflower, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts, which are my personal favorite. These mini cabbages are so adorable—I just wish more people liked them.

When it comes down to it, you either know how to cook Brussels sprouts or you don't. Those that don't know how to cook them ruin it for everyone else. A pot of over-boiled sprouts never could make anyone like the vegetable (kids liken the smell to stinky feet). The correct cooking method is key to coaxing out the natural sweet flavor of sprouts. No other method can do that better than roasting.

The simplest way to prepare sprouts for roasting is to toss them with oil, salt, and pepper. Then just roast until tender, about 25 minutes. You can customize the basic recipe to suit your own tastes, e.g. add some herbs or vinegar or even lemon juice. For this recipe I utilize preserved lemons I made earlier in the year. Thin slices of the lemon rind along with some of the briny juice give this dish a noteworthy zip. You will love sprouts prepared this way.

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porkapplesYeah... The name say it all. Those flavors all melded together in one pot no less is divine. Give me flavor complements like sweet and salty or sweet and tart or sweet and savory and I'm in love! This dish bodes well for such culinary complements!

Braising is probably next to roasting as my favorite cooking method for many things. Taking a meat and braising - not boiling it - is a delicate method to delicious cuts of meat! Gently infusing a gorgeous pork chop with apple cider is nothing short of divine. And this dish is easy and relativity quick! Wilt some kale in it and you've a one dish wonder!

I start with a Dutch oven and begin browning the pork chops on either side to form a slight crust. Salt and peppering the pork and high heat allows this. Searing them may be technically more apropos in culinary diction but y'all get me! Once the chops or even tenderloin are seared and crusted, I remove them from the pan onto a plate to rest.

Next, in the onion or two go to brown in the Dutch oven...No shock there folks! I use Mimi's adage, "butter for flavor, oil for temperature!" I really like to use red onions for this dish because they're color is so lovely - plus they caramelize fantastically! Brown the onions in some butter and oil and salt and pepper handsomely. This is the base of your meal y'all and adding salt at the end to me doesn't do salt and pepper their true justice of bringing out their companions' natural flavor.

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Image No, this is not a picture of a sea anemone. It's spaghetti squash. And though my mom doesn't like it, she makes it all the time for my dad since it's his favorite type of squash. Her favorite, by the way, is buttercup. I know this because the three of us have the same conversation every year as if it's a revelation:

Dad: "What did you buy at the farmers' market this week?"

Me: "Some butternut squash."

Mom: "Ooh, yeah? I love butternut squash. But you know what's even better? Buttercup. You should try it."

Me: "Yeah, Mom, I have tried it, but I don't like it as much as butternut."

Mom: "How could you not like buttercup squash?!"

Dad: "You know what the best squash is? Spaghetti squash. Your mother makes it with tomato sauce and cheese. Oh, I love it like that. You should try it."

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