Fall

roastedsquashNever mind the name, these sweet, nutty squash are harvested in the fall. They are called "winter" because their hard shells allow them to be stored for extended periods, and in the days before refrigeration, that was a quality more worth honoring than mere harvest seasonality. The earliest winter squash are just beginning to trickle into the market -- kabocha, butternut and acorn, mostly.

When they’re first picked, they can be a little short on flavor. But after a week or two that changes, particularly for squash such as butternut and kabocha. These benefit from a couple of weeks of "curing" after being harvested, which allows time for enzymes to convert some of their starch into sugar.  Acorns are from another family and do not require curing. They're better bets this early in the season.

How to choose: Look for squash with deep, saturated colors and no soft spots or cracks. The stem should be hard and corky too.

How to store: Keep winter squash in a cool, dark place. You don't need to refrigerate them.

How to prepare: Here's a recipe for happiness during the coming rainy season: Hack off a chunk of winter squash and remove the seeds; place it cut-side down in a pan with just a little water, and roast it at 400 degrees until the whole thing collapses into a sweet, fragrant, slightly caramelized puree.

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porkpearsPork, pears and cider are a very natural combination, one I love.  This recipe uses "hard" cider (with alcohol) because of its crispness and acidity.  Never had hard cider?  Look for it wherever beer is sold, it might be your new favorite adult beverage. 

It's very, very good and can be purchased year round.  Non-alcoholic apple cider works great too (not the Treetop or Mott's brand...real, fresh apple cider, which is easily found this time of year).

Anyway, this meal is pretty tasty.  The pork tenderloin stays juicy and the pears are pretty incredible too.  Paired with the easy to make wild rice, this meal is always well received at my home with thumbs up from the husband and my oldest son.  My youngest had spaghetti, he will come around one day.

This meal is also company worthy, it's very satisfying and looks and smells incredible while cooking.

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slabpie-apple-slice_sm1.jpgRaise your hand if you have an over abundance of apples right now. I thought so! There are many things I want to do with my apples; make apple challah, apple sauce, apple cake, and an apple slab pie. Well, 1 out of 4 isn’t so bad now, is it?

This past summer I made a cherry slab pie and it was so good. I shared it with my friends and, without tooting my own horn, we are still talking about it. So, why not an apple slab pie? The pastry from the cherry slab pie was near perfect. I made another batch of the dough and then simply switched out the fruit. Apples cook differently than cherries, so I adapted the filling from a recipe from The Cook’s Country Cookbook.

Slab pies are great for a crowd. And this pie fed a huge crowd. It was demolished in about 15 minutes. I had one teeny tiny bite. That teeny tiny bite was really good. ;I am going to make this many times over throughout out the next few months. Next time I will pair my apples with some fresh pomegranate seeds!

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donut ball bread pudding 015The applesauce doughnuts I made the other day didn’t stick around in the kitchen very long. Off they went to the guys at the gas station, to the owner of the tea shop in town, along with one of her customers who happened to be in for a cup of tea, and a few to my friends at the food co-op.

Fourteen little doughnut balls remained on a plate on my kitchen counter. My two-year-old doughnut-ball-loving grandson lives hours away from me, so this time, I couldn’t share with him.

I decided to surprise my bread-pudding-loving husband. I mixed up a liquid mixture, rich with egg and butter, sweet with white and brown sugars and spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg. Broken doughnut balls (there were only 12 little balls on the plate by this time. Apparently, there is a doughnut-ball-loving person right in my own house.) took a long bath in that liquid before I stirred in some chopped apples.

There was just enough to fill two ramekins. Breakfast in bed on a chilly autumn Saturday morning? Dessert by the fire after dinner? If you decide to serve this for dessert, it can be baking while you’re eating dinner. If you decide to serve it for breakfast, it can be chilling while you’re sleeping.

Fragrance of fall. Warm. Delicious. Comfort. Just for two.

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leek-potato-soup.jpgIf I told you that I had a fabulous soup recipe with only three ingredients in it, would you believe me? Leeks, potatoes and water or chicken broth. Oh and a little butter to saute the leeks in, that's it.

It seems to be a mantra these days that by using the best ingredients one really doesn't need to do much to turn out a great meal. Leek and potato soup epitomizes this thinking. You can add milk or cream or top it off with a dollop of sour cream if you want to fancy it up, but it's really not necessary. Based on my own research (which is corroborated by the reviews of other cooks who have reacted to the multitude of leek & potato soup recipes posted on epicurious.com) complicated preparations with more ingredients tend to distract rather than enhance.

There is something so comforting about leek and potato soup. Its pale matte green color is comforting. Its smell is comforting. And of course the taste, mellow oniony leeks and potatoes combined together in a thick pottage is, well, comforting. Either smooth or chunky its soft texture and mild flavors are as soothing as flannel sheets. It's a great soup to go with a sandwich or just on its own. And it's the best antidote to a day of gustatory indulgence where you want something just short of another meal. Does this happen to you on the weekend sometimes? If so, you're not alone.

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