Fall

ImageParsnips. Parsnips parsnips parsnips.

Just saying the world really fast makes and in repetition makes me laugh. I don’t know why.  And yet as cute and funny looking as they are (think albino carrots), I realized I don’t include root vegetables in my life nearly enough. And why is that? It’s not as if I don’t like them. I just never seem to think about them. Perhaps because they are our seasonal winter-loving friends, hiding underground until someone comes along and plucks them from the earth. Maybe it’s because they are starchy, somewhat tough and require some finesse and trickery to enjoy.

(I’m going to exclude radishes from the above, as they are just fine sprinkled with a little sea salt, perhaps a dab of butter, and popped into my mouth like there’s no tomorrow.)

Parsnips are delicious when pureed or roasted with other root vegetables, but I’m digging this recipe I found while on a work assignment. It screams winter, and pairs perfectly with a tender, slow-cooked pork roast. Comfort food at its best.

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appletartjeApple pie, apple crisp, apple turnovers, apple tart, apple sauce, apple cider—it's the season for apples. I can't think of a better way of enjoying it other than by baking with apples. Who doesn't love a classic apple pie this time of year?

They're worth making from scratch—the dough, the subtly spiced apple filling, warm out of the oven. But when you want to quickly put together an apple dessert, a pie just takes too much attention. That's when this simple tart comes in to play.

Based on a French apple tart, which is made with a pastry dough bottom, this recipe uses store-bought puff pastry instead. It's a shortcut that's worth making. The crisp puff pastry, soft apples, and sweet almond filling all come together to make one amazing dessert that's impressive enough to fool anyone into thinking it took all of your time.

Typically the classic recipe would use applesauce as a base under the apple slices, but that would make this puff pastry tart incredibly soggy. So, instead this recipe uses almonds, sort of like a frangipane tart.

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leavessidewalk.jpgYears ago, when “Color Me Beautiful” was all the rage, I “had my colors done.” I turned out to be an “Autumn,” which didn’t surprise me in the least - in every possible way, from my reddish hair to the deepest reaches of my soul, I am a fall girl. This morning as I walked the dogs I felt that first snap of cold in the air, and saw leaves on the sidewalk, rendered terrestrial by two days of heavy rains. They were an indescribable scarlet, surrendering their lives in a blaze of color that jumped up from the dull, gray concrete and made me smile. It’s coming.

I know that there are people who adore summer, and who bitterly mourn the end of heat, light, blooming flowers and lazy days by the pool. I try to understand that, but my own yearning is for the end of that indolence and warmth. As the air grows cooler, the days shorten, and the leaves turn from endless green to an assortment of reds and golds, I feel a surge of energy and possibility. School starts, sweaters come out of storage, and there is a pencil-scented air of fresh starts. I will no longer feel vaguely sticky and frizzy all the time, and I can put away the light, bright clothes that seemed so fresh at the end of May, and now seem limp and exhausted. It is time for cashmere and long sleeves, flannel and layers in the richest browns, deepest greens and bravest shots of orange.

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persimmondatebreadIt is a little known fact that I can speak Japanese. True, I only know two words, but I say them well.

1. Hachiya. No, it is not a greeting. It’s a persimmon.

2. Fuyu. No, not the clothing line (that’s FUBU). They are also persimmons. Not to be confused with Russell Simmons (who incidentally created Phat Farm, not FUBU).

There are about a dozen varieties of persimmons grown throughout the world; only two are generally found in the States: Hachiya and Fuyu (Fuyugaki). Both are Japanese.

Though Hachiya and Fuyu persimmons are both fun to say and have similarly pumpkin colored skin, they are different in shape, texture, and culinary use. It’s important to know the difference between them; otherwise, your persimmon eating experience will be memorable for all the wrong reasons.

Hachiya persimmons are acorn shaped and have deeper orange skin with black streaks on it. They are astringent, which means they can be eaten only when fully ripened. A ripe Hachiya is extremely soft and should be squishy in your hand. Removing the thin skin reveals coral colored flesh so thick and glossy it looks like marmalade, and tastes like it too -- it's pleasingly sweet with hints of mango and apricot. Though they can be enjoyed raw, Hachiyas are really prized for baking.

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poms_lg.jpg My mother had a way of inventing traditions.  “It’s Lizzie’s birthday!” she’d proclaim periodically and everyone in the family would don a party hat and dog.jpgsing happy birthday to one of our English Springer Spaniels.  The announcement of the dog’s birth and subsequent celebration of it could occur at any time – on April 5, say, or December 12.  It could happen twice a year or once every few years.  But however haphazard, it became a tradition. 

Every so often, we’d gather in the living room; my father on the bongo drums someone had given him for a birthday present, my sister on her recorder, me banging the big copper-bottomed soup pot with a wooden spoon, and my mother on piano, playing from our “American Folk Songs For Piano” songbook.  “Love oh love oh careless love,” she’d sing, entirely off-key, “Love oh love oh careless love, love oh love oh careless love, see what love has done to me.”

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