Wednesday, November 6, 2013
temps they are a chaaaaanging
There is a certain DNA phenomenon that kicks in during season changes, deliberately and with purpose in our bodies as weather and shadows change. Autumn brings a sweet little chill with it, longed for after months of dry skies and high mercury. Familiar longings, temporarily pushed aside for sweet flowers, intoxicating stone fruits and luscious tomatoes resurface with nagging intensity almost overnight begging to be quelled with roasted butternut squash and crunchy sweet grapes tossed into end of summer arugula with torn fresh basil. Soups start to sound really good while beef stew craving comes roaring out of left field totally unannounced. Fall is here. We saw it coming, we do every year and while summer gives up the fight we yearn to cook just a bit more than usual satiating powerful culinary wants and needs in the process. Gardens are waning and if you have not done it yet, get the winter garden in now. Broccoli, cauliflower, cabbages, onions, garlic, lettuce, carrots beets, arugula, winter peas, the list could go on for awhile because we live in Northern California and it is easy. We can coax an astounding amount of food out of the earth year round pretty easily just by planting it now and pretty much not a whole lot else for the rest of the winter. Imperative for success is to get the seeds, seedlings or smaller plants into the ground while it is still above 55 degrees at night giving them plenty of resources to build up a hearty system acrawl with roots. You may not see a lot happening above ground but it is moving along hypnotically like long a slow rock ballad achieving breathless satisfaction in completion and harvest of your own sweet songs of nature. Weeding and watering factor in but nowhere near the attention seizers as the summer garden diva can be. Sweet peas, snapdragons, hollyhocks, poppies and lupine seeds like to be planted now as well. Buried and forgotten until they start to come up in early spring bringing immense joy in the discovery of new life after winters chill. We do have seasons here in the Bay Area; they just as a little blurred between the lines as a slightly crooked juror sometimes may. Pomegranates and persimmons gracefully hang jewel like from leaf barren trees peevishly preening, waiting for thirsty fingers to grab and mouths to savor autumn delights. All greens from kale and Swiss chard to lettuces of all kinds have resurrected lush and salient now that solar rays are finished blazing for the season. Apples are everywhere. As out of hand and sliced up eating get old try making applesauce or apple crisp to brighten up ever shortening evenings. Pears are mostly cold storage at this point but the Alhambra Pear People at the farmers markets have incredible Bartlett’s and if you are lucky a French Butter pear or two still left for you to snag and slurp. Farmers’ markets are gearing down as crops dwindle out but are still there offering amazing choices weekly to be procured and prepared in any assortment of delightful means. A visit to Matt and Nate or Connie and Lupe at the Pleasant Hill market will be most gratifying with seasonal goods as well. The long and patiently awaited meat market next door is soon to be a reality for all the carnivores’ out there so be on the lookout. Hiking and outdoor walking in Briones and all the ridges is never better than this time of year in my opinion with mists crawling all over and animals scurrying here and there in preparation for the supposed long winter. This side of our beloved Mount Diablo is good for hiking but heartbreakingly enough we will be staying off the east side for many moons to come. Our prayers and thoughts go out to all the families affected by that dang fire. It will be a long time in the healing but we can hope for rain and join a tree planting party to help it along. Apple Sauce This will make about 4 to 5 cups depending on your apple choice. Also if you use a sweet variety you may want to use water instead of juice and adjust the lemon juice. The lemon juice has the added effect of keeping everything a nice color as well. You can store unused sauce in a jar with a tight fitting lid in the reefer and use within the week. 6 large apples, peeled, cored, rough chop ¼ cup white grape juice or apple juice Juice and rind from a big lemon Cinnamon to taste Vanilla to taste Place apples, juices and lemon peel in a large saucepan and bring to a simmer on medium heat. Cover and cook until apple are soft enough to mash. Add vanilla with a sprinkle of cinnamon. Serve warm. Fresh Fruit Crisp 6 cups fruit 1 cup wheat flour 1 cup brown sugar or turbinado sugar ½ cup butter, melted (1 cube) 1 T vanilla 1 T cinnamon ½ c oats 1 t salt Preheat oven 375*. Spray 8x8 baking dish. Place fruit in dish. Mix flour, sugar, butter, vanilla, cinnamon, oats and salt in bowl. Crumble onto fruit. Bake 1 hour until fruit bubbles and top is crunchy and lightly browned. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream or cold the next day for a very decadent but sensuous and utterly fulfilling breakfast. Serves 6.