Fall

sausage-soup.jpgThis soup, along with a green salad and some nice bread, is a great dinner for a chilly night.  This soup is loaded with sausage, beans and ditalini pasta.  It's really a pretty traditional "Pasta e Fagioli" soup, but with sausage. I've made the soup with turkey sausage, but you can use any sausage you like.  

I've used dried beans to make the soup.  You can certainly use canned, but if you've never cooked with dried beans, you should try it.  Some people are confused about dried beans and don't know how to soak them and cook them.  But there really is no mystery to it at all – it's very easy.  Soaking simply softens the beans so that they have a shorter cooking time. That's all.

And you don't really even have to soak them.  If you forget to soak them, simply cook them longer. I just throw the beans in a pot and cover them with water and let them soak all day. I drain them, add fresh water and then cook them until they are tender. That's it.

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applecrispDespite the warm weather we’ve been enjoying in Southern California, a recent trip to my local grocery store reminded me that fall is here – pyramid-like mounds of pumpkins filled the entrance, flanked by bins of apples of every variety.

Although apples are available all year, they are particularly sweet and delicious this time of year. I generally mark apple picking season with a home-baked double crust pie, but some people still find it a daunting task. If you’re one of them, make apple crisp your signature fall dish.

This is one of my favorite recipes because it produces a thicker layer of “crisp” – which frankly is the best part. The chewy, buttery, caramel flavored brown sugar oatmeal laced layer compliments the apples perfectly. Choose a variety of apples from your local growers – and try to choose organic.

The average conventionally grown apple has more pesticide residue on it than any other fruit or vegetable. According to the Environmental Working Group‘s analysis of USDA data, “pesticides showed up on 98 percent of the more than 700 apple samples tested (yes, they were washed).”

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celeraicsoupOft unknown and underutilized, celeriac or celery root is a vegetable with white flesh and knobby light-brown skin. Its texture is not far from parsnips. Its flavor is like celery: fresh, bright, and almost citrusy. In fact they are related. The celery root grows green stems and leaves above the soil surface that look much like celery and can be used just like celery. The greens have a more pronounced celery flavor but the stems are woody and hollow like bamboo. The herb lovage, another celery cousin, is like this too. The stems can be used as straws in mixed drinks like the Bloody Mary or my take on the Tom Collins.

One of the most common recipes for celeriac, especially in French cuisine is céleri rémoulade, which is a slaw of mandolined or julienned celeriac dressed in rémoulade, a mayonnaise-type sauce. You will also find celeriac prepared as creamy soups or puréed side dishes that resemble mashed potatoes. Though I love céleri rémoulade, since it is now fall, I chose to prepare a classic rendition of cream of celeriac soup. The accompanying recipe for herbed crostini makes a nice complement. Serve the soup as a start to an elegant holiday dinner. The celery flavor awakens the palate in preparation for more food to come.

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PorkPersimmonFirm Fuyus can be eaten like an apple; they taste like one too -- mildly sweet but with hints of cinnamon. Fuyu persimmons are ideal for savory dishes, such as salads and salsas, where they add color, flavor, and texture.

The first time I made this salsa, I used just persimmons and no onion, and I thought it needed a bit more splash. This time I added some savory scallions and tart pomegranate seeds.

It was pleasingly splashier in both taste and presentation. This refreshing salsa pairs especially well with pork, though it would be good with roasted turkey, grilled lamb, or a mild white fish, such as mako shark (which Jeff had and loved last night).

Persimmons aren't just pretty, they're nutritional powerhouses too--especially high in potassium, lutein (for ocular health), and lycopene (a cancer fighting antioxidant).

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poachedpearsWe make a lot of fuss over heirloom peach varieties that date back to the 1960s and tomatoes that go back as far as the 1930s. But did you know that the Bartlett pear, that standard grocery store fruit, actually dates back to the 1770s? The Bartlett, called the Williams pear in England where it was first found, gets its name from Enoch Bartlett, who was the first person to sell the trees in the U.S. in the early 1800s.

"Barts" are the predominate pear grown in California, and there are two growing sites with very different fruit. The earliest pears were harvested in August around the Sacramento delta area. They are fine, but the ones being picked about now from the hilly orchards of Lake and Mendocino counties are much better.

How to choose: The best perfectly ripened Bartlett pears will be golden and fragrant and will have a slight softness at the neck. Don't worry if the fruit shows some russeting -- that's only skin-deep and doesn't affect the flavor.

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