These past couple of weeks have been a gift from the gods of autumn. It appears we have been spared a hurricane this year. The leaves have been brilliant, and without strong winds, they drop at a reasonable rate. In the years of Hurricanes Sandy and Irene, they are gone overnight. And I mean gone, probably swirled away to Ohio.
I have been doing a garden clean up with my daughter. The leaves above our terraced hillside are a blaze of cadmium yellow. They make us stop in our tracks.
There is a hilly road by my house that I try to walk every day. That translates into a few times per week. I love this walk in all seasons, when I walk, my mind is filled with only good thoughts, I don’t know why, probably endorphins, but it has been especially beautiful this past week. I broke my no-touching-the-cel-phone-for-instagram-email-or-step-counting rule and took a photo. It was just too breathtaking.
As the leaves start to fall, we get serious about the yard clean up. Every fall, we take a day and rent a leaf blower. Chris blows the leaves into heaps, and then he shreds them with the lawn mower. I cart them over to the garden. According to Mike McGrath (the former editor of Organic Gardening magazine, and now host of a podcast on organic gardening) shredded, composted leaves are all the added nutrients a garden needs. I’m into this rather grueling day for the sake of the garden. Chris is into it because we are also obliterating a habitat for ticks. He enjoys that.
It is the end of the season for our CSA farm shares. It has been a bountiful year. I’m going to be sorry to rely on supermarket produce, flown in from Mexico, Florida, and Venezuela. I so enjoy focusing our meals on seasonal produce. But there are a bunch of winter farmer’s markets in the Hudson Valley to get us through. Last weekend we visited the outdoor market in Rhinebeck, and I look forward to getting to know the vendors.
For a start we bought bunches of beautiful fresh scallions, and big chowder clams, potatoes, celery. My daughter spotted the colorful, twisted carrots. I made scallion kimchi from David Tanis’s One Good Dish. The recipe in the book is game-changer and will become a staple condiment in our house. (Here is a variation of the recipe, if you don’t have the book.)
At least once a month I make lentil soup. It’s so easy, and full of iron & protein. I make it a little bit differently every time, and don’t use a recipe anymore. My favorite these days is an Indian-spiced red lentil variation. I would share the recipe, but I made it up as I went. Suffice to say, this was the best one I have ever made, and I just added a bunch of fried mustard seeds, cumin seeds, fresh ginger, and a generous amount of fresh tumeric – about 3 grated root nodules.
Finally, these last beautiful days of warm autumn weather have inspired us to cook outside. If you can call it cooking. A food-writer friend we invited called it a “weenie roast” and I’m not just a little bit proud to say that we hosted the very first one he had ever attended. And this is someone who knows food. He had spent the previous night out on the town eating and drinking with Anthony Bourdain. How does this happen? How does someone grow up in America, develop a full fledged career as a food writer, and yet never roast hot dogs over a bonfire? “I’m from California,” he said. “We don’t have a lot of fires in California.”
Of course, he loved it. Because, let’s face it, hot dogs around an open fire in the Catskills is the perfect day-after antidote to boozing with Bourdain in Manhattan.
We ate the hot dogs with pickled green tomatoes I made from a NYTimes recipe. A few weeks ago my daughter and I had gathered the last of the green cherry tomatoes from the garden. We got to them just before the first frost. It’s a great recipe, and paired well with hot dogs. Although next time I would make them with my new best friend, fresh tumeric.
And today, the warmth of this fall is still here. The days are sunny. It’s downright warm. The shredded leaves wait for me in piles around the yard. I will move them into the garden over the next week. And I’ll keep cleaning up the garden with my eye looking all the way across winter, to spring. Not that any season could be better than this one, right now.