Fall

figtartFor a long time, the closest I had ever come to what I thought was a real fig was the dried kind or Fig Newtons. It wasn't until a family friend gave us a fig tree that I learned figs are actually fresh before they are dried. Not only that, but I discovered that fresh figs were worlds apart from the dried ones. We weren't the only family with a fig tree in the neighborhood. Italian and Portuguese neighbors had them too. That's because figs are native to the Mediterranean region, where they have been revered since ancient and biblical times. You can't not find mention of it in ancient Greek and Roman texts and of course the Bible's creation story. What would we have done without fig leaves?

For a number of years we were lucky to have our own Garden of Eden with a flourishing fig tree in the backyard. With much ingenuity we were able to keep it protected through many winters until one year it finally didn't survive the cold. But I can never forget how anxious I was all summer long as I waited for the figs to ripen. It seemed to me they always took so long. But fig season is late September, so I had to learn to be patient because there was nothing I could do to speed up mother nature.

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pumpkingnocchiIn our house, "Gnocchi" means "I love you".

The time invovled in making the pillowy mixture is minimal, but it is the act of cutting each strip to just the right width...chopping bite sized dumplings and then rolling each one delicately across the ridges of a fork - those repetative moves of delicious intent translates so purely to my husband as he savours one gnocchi at a time.

I have made several verisons of Gnocchi, using potatoes and even squash. Though in keeping with the season of pumpkins and fall delight, I am pleased with this version. The sage and shallots carry a certain melody throughout the dish that can only be thought of as fall.

For a vegetarian, this is the perfect Thanksgiving meal.

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cranberries.jpgWhen I was a kid and my parents took us out for breakfast, I always ordered a glass of cranberry juice. I loved the way it sparkled like rubies in a glass. But most of all, I loved its mouth-puckering tartness that sent shivers down my jaws when I drank it. (Even typing that sentence caused the same reaction.)

Now that I'm all grown up, I no longer drink cranberry juice. Maybe my taste preferences have changed, or maybe I've just become a wimp.

Fresh cranberries, however, I adore. And since cranberry season peaks between October and December, now is the perfect time to buy them.

In the fall, cranberries are used most commonly for cranberry sauce on Thanksgiving Day, yet they have so much more potential. They balance the sweetness of baked goods such as pumpkin muffins and banana bread. They add a jolt of flavor to homemade sweet apple sauce. And they perk up fall vegetables, such as butternut squash and sweet potatoes.

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From the LA Times

cranberrysauceMy mom has a recipe on Epicurious. At first I found that amusing. Epicurious, after all, is the holy grail of recipe websites, the collected works of some of the best food writers in the country. And, to put it most kindly, my mom was not a gifted cook. At least not by the definition we most usually apply today.

Oh, it's a good recipe. Maybe a great recipe. We printed it in the Los Angeles Times for the first time in 1992 and most recently in 2000, and I still get calls and emails every Thanksgiving asking for Mom Parsons' Cranberries.

It has just the right balance of sweet and tart, with the spice of cloves, cinnamon and allspice coming up from the background. I can — and sometimes do — drink the syrup straight. The texture is like a loose jelly, but the cranberries are cooked briefly, so they still have pop. It's so good that I know my mom couldn't have thought it up herself.

When I say something like that, people sometimes gasp. It sounds cruel, particularly these days when culinary ability is regarded as being next to godliness.

But even if my mom had had the inclination to be a good creative cook, she probably wouldn't have had either the time or the resources. She was too busy raising four kids on my dad's Air Force salary — for most of his career a modest paycheck that still required us to pack up and move almost every year.

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pumpkinccmuffinsI love this time of year.  Temperatures are falling and the leaves are turning golden and orange.  It had been a tough year agriculture wise.  As harvest approaches next week, we are looking forward to making wine and enjoying the bounty of the season with so many of you who continue to make it all possible.

And who doesn't love the pumpkin recipes this time of year.  I know I do.  They are comforting to eat on these very cold days.

This one is particularly yummy and simple to make.  My husband and oldest son loved these.  Loved them.  Pumpkin and chocolate go remarkably well together.

Make these for your October and November get-togethers. They are a sure hit.

I love these baking cups, they are so much nicer and fancier looking than regular cupcake holders.  They are in the baking aisle at Walmart.

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