Posted by: carolyn / through a widow's eyes | October 20, 2015

soul food

Something about the first frost brings out the cozy bunny in me. Don’t laugh.
This has been a summer of rewarding hard physical work and walking in beauty <—days
and heading for the nearest sunset at swimming beach +/or with friends on the bar patio <—nights.
But the last few days have been much cooler than before. The afternoon sky is turquoise with purple clouds over impossibly yellow birches and blazing red maples: if it was a painting you would never believe it. My yard is full of fallen acorns and abandoned lawn chairs, and that two cords of firewood heaped in my driveway is calling me home.
This summer has seen some great home-cooked feasts, exceptional restaurant meals, and creative picnics, but also far too many messy cheeseburgers gobbled in the car, grilled cheese tipsily prepared at midnight, or cold cereal shoveled in while watching late night tv. Bad ideas, all. Not to say they won’t all happen again, because we know they will.
But that firewood won’t stack itself, and the earlier sunsets make a pink backdrop for a chore that I always enjoy anyway.
Last night I stayed home, for a change, and was it ever sweet! I lit a fire in the wood stove, cleaned all obvious surfaces, opened a bottle of my favorite wine, and after darkness fell, cooked a week’s worth of meals from the bounty that farmer’s market provides. At this best time of year, it is even sweeter for being finite.
From the last of a leftover crock-pot pork shoulder I made two casseroles of green chili, sweet potato & shredded pork enchiladas to freeze for colder, darker days ahead. The sweet potatoes and the green chilies are from Snell’s, my farm of choice, melded with soft slow-cooked onion and broth. With some spicy red or green salsa and grated cheese on top, baked til bubbly, welcome indeed these will be on some colder night than this.
My grown girl and I both got cauliflower and it was taking up way too much room in the fridge. I made a big cauliflower gratin for tonight. It used a whole head of cauliflower, gifted by Carolyn: she dangled it temptingly from her hand and wondered if I could find a home for it. Yes, ma’am, I sure can! Rich and thick with sauteed onion, browned nutritional yeast in with the flour, and whole milk, it tastes much cheesier than it is. I usually do make this with lots of grated whatever’s-about-to-go-moldy, but after tasting, decided this stood well enough alone without any cheese, just a bit of nutmeg, lots of pepper, and some smoked paprika and sea salt. This makes a fine vegetarian dinner, but I like it with a broiled piece of fish, or the best deal in town: the “fish medley” from Free Range Fish & Lobster: chunks and end cuts of all the best meaty fish: salmon, halibut, sword, monkfish. I like to broil this medley with capers and tomato.
And maybe toss some bright, bitter greens with Mom’s favorite blueberry vinaigrette to round out the meal.
With the other head I made a sweet and hot cauliflower potato curry. Been hankering after this for weeks. As I prepped, my girl drifted through the kitchen and grabbed a handful of chopped raw veg from the colander, just like she did when she was little. To coconut oil fragrant in the big skillet I threw in scallions, shishito peppers, long red Italian peppers, and the cauliflower with fresh young ginger and garlic (all from market). I sauteed whole mustard seed, cumin seed, coriander, yellow curry, then added diced red potato, bright fresh green beans, chopped pears, and apple cider, also chick peas for protein and texture, then set on low flame to simmer. The house still smells like curry this morning. Froze some for another day and the rest I’ll eat all week. Plain in bowl, over basmati rice, and maybe the last bit will get made into samosas wrapped in flaky dough. These also freeze well and bake up crisp and savory in twenty minutes.
The rest of the chickpeas I made into a little salad for today’s lunch: chopped peppers, tomatoes, olives, avocado, and some olive oil and vinegar transform a sad bowl of knobby tan beans into a tasty, crunchy, protein-rich snack.
When I turn on the oven to bake the gratin, I’ll put together a fast dessert/snack/breakfast, my best apple crisp. What? It’s got lots of fruit, whole grain, a bit of fat for absorption of all the goodness in the apples and oats. Plus it might be my favorite thing on earth, and the world right now is full of apples.
Apparently I really needed to nourish myself, for a change, because I went to bed happy and soul-satisfied. Even the dishes are done, dry, and put away. That never happens!
What are YOU making for supper? Or to feed your soul? Which is the same thing, really.
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