It’s finally here! The day that I can say, “It’s fall,” and no one can tell me it’s not fall yet. I get a little snarky about the whole issue.
Fall is a frame of mind for me. It has to be.
We now live in place that stays pretty well hot until nearly the end of October. Fall is my favorite season. If I don’t celebrate fall despite the heat, well, I just might go a little crazy flipping through all those pictures of leaves, apples, pumpkins, sweaters, and boots in my social media feed.
So I make a mental commitment that fall starts on September 1.
That being said, wow, have we been having real deal fall weather this week! I woke to 55 F yesterday and rain! We’ll be back up in the 90s next week so I’ve been enjoying every second of it.
Running mid-morning, reading outside, and…turning on the oven!
I feel like every time I get my hands on some figs, I want to stuff something with them. The fig and lavender cookies I made last year are a good example. There is just something that about that sweet, jammy interior that is so good when it’s warmed up and discovered inside something unexpected.
Well, it’s fresh fig season in California once again, and I was lucky enough to have several leftover from a photo shoot to afford me the opportunity to experiment with them.
I had my very first Hatch chile last week.
Every year I see the social posts, watch all the roastings that take place around the Southwest, and keep my eye out for them with no luck in getting my hands on any.
But this year, a box arrived at my door and I opened it to find a big beautiful bag of these peppers. If you are unfamiliar, the peppers are grown in the valley around Hatch, New Mexico. Only peppers grown there are true Hatch chiles, and as was reported to me, they have an earthy, fresh flavor that sets them apart from other varieties. And they are in season as we speak, just a few weeks every year.
For a long time, heirloom tomatoes were my absolute favorite thing about summer. Lately, though they have fallen ever so slightly in their ranking to make it closer to a tie with something else.
That probably seems a lot less exciting, but I think it’s because the older I’ve gotten, and the less I’ve had corn from our own garden growing up, the more I appreciate a really good ear.
I can still remember going to friend’s houses in the summer and my hosts joyfully proclaiming that we were having sweet corn for dinner. One bite into those chewy, tough kernels and it was all I could do not to set the ear down and leave it be for the rest of the meal.
That was not sweet corn. If you’ve ever had an ear at its peak ripeness, you know the difference. Good corn is crisp with kernels that literally explode with flavor in your mouth. There is nothing quite like it.
Fortunately, I haven’t had a difficult time finding good corn here. There is a farm nearby that grows corn in the summer and pumpkins in the fall and winter. I usually try to buy from them, but even the ears I pick up at the grocery store from time to time tend to be really great.
I was digging through the long, purple Japanese eggplant at the farmers market on a recent Saturday morning. Suddenly I spotted a much smaller, baby eggplant. As I started to pull away the larger variety, I found more and began piling as many as I could into my hands the crook of my arm.
Seeing my determination, the vendor came over and pulled away the larger eggplants so I could find more. Clearly, he understood my mission.
Eggplant is one of those vegetables that I always have to research after I buy it to learn the exact name. These were Indian eggplant, which are often simply called baby eggplant. At about 2 inches long, it’s no surprise why they got the latter name.
At that point, I had no idea what I was going to do with them. That sums up most of my farmers market strategy – buy now, think later.
I’d seen these eggplants stuffed and baked before, but we had plans to fire up the grill that night so I took a different approach.
When I was in Italy attending Meeta’s food photography workshop back in May, we were given the opportunity to pick from loads of gorgeous produce to take outside and photograph. And as I just mentioned – Italy. So you know everything was perfectly ripe, heirloom, and stunning. The tomatoes were the most coveted item, beautiful varieties I hadn’t seen before.
When it came time to gather our things and head outside, my Cut Throat Kitchen style grabbing skills failed me, though. The tomatoes were the first to go.
After coming in second place for those, I started to eye the olives on the table. My first thought was – these would look great with those tomatoes – but those beauties weren’t coming back any time soon. I had to get more creative.
There are two things I love about summer – sweet corn and white nectarines.
Normally, I wouldn’t think of putting the two together, but lately I’ve had this thing for mixing fruits into savory foods. I’m a huge fan of the of sweet and savory and combining fruits and veggies feels like a better habit to me than, say, eating too much salted caramel.
So blueberries sometimes find their way into chicken salad and cherries often appear in my bean salads.
Given this new habit I found myself wanting to try nectarines with my corn. My first thought was a corn fruit salsa, but then I decided to skip the chips and eat this as a summer side dish.
We got a new kitchen.
If you’ve been following me on social media, it’s been a huge spoiler alert, I know. I’ve been showing the process for the past seven weeks or so.
As of the first week of June, we were back to a fully functional kitchen (YAY!). But as these things go, there are some odds and ends that need to be finished up. So I’m not ready for an official reveal.
And I’ll also share some about the process of outsourcing this type of thing. I’ve had a lot of people ask if we did the work ourselves and the answer is a satisfying no.
I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve abruptly slammed on my brakes at the sight of fruit for sale since moving to California. Don’t worry, I’m careful. But at least one of every 10 drives involves a brake and swerve.
In this case, it was local cherries.
I’d lost track of the timing since last year, and I wasn’t quite sure what week to expect seeing trucks with them for sale parked at intersections. I was less than a mile from the house last week, when a truck came into view.
No. It couldn’t be. Is it that time already?
I was coming from behind the display so the truck was blocking my view. But just as I got close enough to see those round, glossy cherries piled high in cups lining a folding table – brake, swerve, park.
Peas and carrots have never been all that appealing to me. Carrots by themselves, good. Peas by themselves, or maybe in a pasta dish, good. Together? It’s lost on me. I’m simply not a fan.
So what do I do when I’m not a fan of something? I make my own version. Sub green peas with chickpeas and magically I find one of my favorite side dishes.