As summer fades — where did it go? — there is a tantalizing display of fetching fall produce appearing at the market, just as the green beans depart.
The change of seasons is exciting. The air is different; there’s a cooler breeze. Our appetites change, too, as tomato salads give way to other possibilities.
Remember fennel? Beets? These cool weather vegetables have a certain sweetness and play well together — especially in a lovely salad. Choose fresh, shiny fennel bulbs, and look for beets sold in bunches in various colors: red, pink, ivory, gold. I often go for the gold, which are as pretty as they are tasty. Tossed with a tart vinaigrette, the combination is completely appealing. For added interest, little toasts spread with softened herbed goat cheese, served warm, accompany.
You’ll, of course, want to cook the beets. Doing so isn’t difficult, but it does take time and some attention to detail. Roasted or boiled, they’ll take a good hour at least, so consider cooking the beets one day and making the salad the next. Then, dress them well. Beets are notorious for needing a lot of seasoning. A little more vinegar and salt are always welcome, as is a sit so they absorb the flavors.
I love soup for dinner, especially when the sun begins to set earlier. This one, filling and full of beans, is a hearty, satisfying main course. I would call it a potage. It’s a French term, from potager, meaning vegetable plot (or soup garden), referring to a hearty soup, often featuring beans or other legumes. I used cannellini, which I prefer to cook from dry because you get so much lovely bean broth, but of course a timesaving can is OK. As are a mixture of beans or all chickpeas for a Spanish feel.
Squash can lend substantial starch and body. I chose delicata, but acorn or butternut would be just as good. Then, add some leeks, some onions, some greens — kale or collards, but you can also put those beet greens to use here too — a little chorizo or kielbasa, or neither.
This is the kind of soup that benefits from sitting. In other words, don’t serve it straight from the pot the moment it is done. If you can wait even an hour, you’ll taste deeper flavors. For that matter, make the soup a day or two in advance, as it reheats perfectly. You may have to add a touch of broth if it thickens too much. Adjust it to the consistency you like, not too thin. You will want crusty bread to accompany, and may I suggest a friendly bottle of pinot noir?
I prepare dessert only when guests are coming to dinner; it makes the dinner special. So if I’m craving dessert, I have a little dinner party.
I do like to make this light walnut sponge cake. It keeps for days, and it is endlessly versatile. You can increase or delete the spices to taste, or you could use a different nut, perhaps pecan. Serve it with softly whipped cream or barely sweetened crème fraîche, and seasonal fruit, like a few late raspberries perhaps, or some slices of pear.
But to celebrate the season, I chose two returning favorites: the pomegranate and the persimmon. Squatty Fuyu persimmons can be eaten raw like an apple (the pointy Hachiya type must be fully ripe and soft to eat). I like them best peeled and cut into wedges. As for the pomegranates, look for ones that have begun to burst, indicating the arils inside are red and juicy. Mix the two fruits together to adorn the cake.
Of course you could always sit around the table with a bowl of new crop walnuts and a nutcracker, eating persimmons and pomegranates out of hand.
That could celebrate the season, too.