Fall

pumpkincookiesWhen you grow up in Rhode Island, you just can't comprehend 90 degree temperatures in October. While San Diego enjoys nearly perfect 70 degree weather year round, its hottest days are often in October, when dry desert air blows westward and bakes us like cookies in a convection oven.

No, no, no. October should be pumpkins, apples, and 60 degree days with a crisp breeze and clear blue skies set against brilliant orange, yellow, and red trees.

I decided to take the weather into my own hands. I cranked up the AC to 61 degrees, turned on the oven, and made Pumpkin Spice Cookies. Once the smell of pumpkins hit my frigidly cold condo, it was instant New England here in SoCal.

That is, until I went to shoot the pics on my deck and searing hot, dry air hit me in the face (thankfully I was wearing a tank top under my fleece). When I finished, I came back inside my frosty air-conditioned room, lit a Macintosh Apple scented Yankee Candle, and enjoyed a cookie with a cup of Chai tea.

No matter what your weather is, I'd suggest baking a batch of these big, soft, cakey cookies. Each bite is laced with ginger, cinnamon, and nutmeg and studded with cranberries, raisins, and pecans, which is exactly what October should taste like.

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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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porkapplefennelApples are officially in season and I'm excited to get cooking and baking with them. Fall is one of the best seasons for food, just because there's finally an opportunity to make hearty meals that all appeal to our comfort zone. Apples, more than any other fruit, best represent the season. They're combination of sweet and tart flavors, contradictory as well as complementary traits, seem to fit the unpredictability of autumn just perfectly.

Apples also have the trait of being able to go well in sweet and savory recipes. The pairing of apples and pork were almost made to go together. (Just think of how many times as a kid you've had pork chops with apple sauce.) So for a recipe that's perfect for fall, here's a dish of roasted pork tenderloin with sweet apples and aromatic fennel. This recipe is quick for dinner any night and it's even elegant enough for a dinner party.

The secret to a good roast loin is getting it seared as brown as you can get it—the darker, the better it looks and tastes. So to help that along, I spread the loin with an herb butter, which serves two purposes: First, it helps brown the meat and second, it imparts wonderful flavor. Just make sure not to overcook the pork—a bit of blushing pink while cutting in is just what you're looking for.

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figrisottoOne night last week Jeff came home from work and handed me a bag from his clinic. I thought, "Yes! More free anti-wrinkle cream!" (Having a dermatologist as a husband does have its advantages). When I peeked inside the bag, however, I discovered something even better than antioxidant cream: a dozen plump, brilliant green figs that were beginning to split from ripeness. "Wow! Where did you get the fresh figs?" I asked. "Adel gave them to me from the tree in her yard," he said.

Adel, who works with Jeff, told him, "Last year my tree produced three figs. One for me, one for my husband, and one for the birds." Fortunately she's having a bumper crop this season, and we're two of the lucky beneficiaries.

To celebrate fall's arrival, I'm sharing a recipe for Dessert Risotto with Wine Poached Figs. Arborio rice, which is used to make risotto, makes the most luxurious rice pudding imaginable: it's plump, tender, and creamy. Topping it with perfumed, wine-poached figs adds elegance and sweetness, resulting in a remarkably velvety, rich pudding.

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Image What cooking method can be more primal than roasting? When humans discovered fire, it was by roasting over an open pit. Today we simulate this method of indirect cooking in the oven, achieving the best taste by concentrating flavors, retaining interior moisture, and creating a beautiful brown exterior. In gastronomy-speak, this caramelization is known as the Maillard reaction, which is the basic chemical reaction all food undergoes when cooked. But the cavepeople didn't care how sugars reacted with amino acids, all they knew was that fire made things taste good.

I often roast almost anything during the autumn months. Once October comes, roasting is my favorite activity. Meats are of course among the favorite items to roast. Just think of a luscious roast chicken or roast beef. But many seem to forget that pork and vegetables also make wonderful roasts.

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