The sun is shining. I have a tall glass of iced coffee. It’s Friday.
It also, and all of a sudden, feels like fall. Well, just a little bit. (And maybe not all of a sudden, given this ridiculous summer.) Not ready! I tell myself, but in truth am I ever ready? Probably not. At any rate, I’m still wishing for a few canoe rides down the Russian River, sun burning down hot onto my head and turning my arms ever browner (this may yet be possible due to the mysterious and wonderful phenomenon that is Indian Summer in Northern California). Yet despite my wee reluctance to bid summer adieu there is a something something about fall that makes me want to cook — things like carrot-fennel soup, yeasted sugar cake with caramelized apples (a la Deborah Madison), roasted vegetables with toasted barley, big pots of spicy sauce made from late-season tomatoes — and sit in front of a fire, and drink red wine.
These are all wonderful things to do.
So to that end I have been cooking a bit more lately than usual, and going afield to new-to-me farmers’ markets to take advantage of September’s bounty (San Franciscans: my recent favorite is the one on Stanyan just on the edge of the park on Wednesdays from 4-8p. Last week I bought an ear of blue corn which I’ve never seen anywhere else. And lots of stone fruit. And beautiful, beautiful chard.). Last weekend I cooked myself a pasta feed to carbo-load the night before an enormous run (19 miles before noon on a Sunday and damn, I think/hope I can do this marathon after all), which involved whole wheat penne and lots of soy meat products (delicious, truly), heirloom tomatoes, summer squash, and red onion.
Last night I had a friend over for dinner and cooked very simply; we had: broccoli-chard soup (with a few tiny potatoes thrown in for heft, and leeks), a carrot-beet salad with sesame seeds, hummus and bread. Easy stuff, but deeply soul-satisfying on a chilly September eve. And the night before that I was seized by the idea of a brown rice ‘risotto’ whilst at work and so came home to make just that, with lots of veggies including leeks, red onion, mushrooms, carrot, chard, spinach, peas, faux sausage, and cheddar cheese (recipe soon). Tonight I will have the leftovers and roast a cauliflower on which to sup alongside.
The risotto night I also — looking for an excuse to turn on the oven, dontch’a know, and heeding my stomach’s rumblings after an early 8-miler — cut up a few peaches and an apple into my slightly cracked but still serviceable red bowl, threw in a handful of blueberries and dried cranberries, a few bits of flaked coconut, and some chopped walnuts, and laced the whole mess with cinnamon and ginger and a good drizzle of maple syrup. Crisps seem to be just what I want these late summer days.
Running makes me hungry. I mean, I’m always hungry most of the time, but running makes me particularly famished and because of this GD marathon training I’m even more particularly famished than is the norm. I crave vegetables — raw or roasted; it makes no difference — salty things like potato chips (always my downfall), chocolate milk for the post-run sensitive stomach, lots of cheese. Sometimes I eat two lunches — one early (a bowl of quinoa soup, for example) and one a few hours later (a tangle of whole wheat spaghetti with pesto, say), with a hearty dinner to follow later on. I can’t seem to get enough protein. I can’t ever say no to snacks.
And I want sweets. Now, I am as appreciative of a good dessert as nearly everyone out there, but my usual habit is to refrain except for special occasions or, you know, Thursdays. But man does ice cream taste good on Sunday nights after a long run; I go back for seconds and sometimes thirds. I sneak bits of chocolate in between my first and second lunches. And I’ve been making fruit crisps at least once a week, heavy with stone fruit and topped with good oats and a smidge of butter to turn gooey and soft in the oven. Decadence.
It’s all golden light here lately, even if the nights come earlier and the air is cooler than I might like. But I’m going to savor these days as much as I possibly can. If you need me, you can find me out on the trail — or in the kitchen.
Maple-Oatmeal Fruit Crisp
This is the kind of recipe that’s impossible to write because I never pay attention to measurements when I’m making crisps — I just make them. So I encourage you to play around with this — i.e., you can double if you want more topping, or use only oats, or etc. — though I’ll put down the approximations as I best remember them.
To fill one 8-inch square baking dish.
2 peaches or other stone fruit, pitted and chopped
1 small apple, peeled and sliced
1 cup blueberries, raspberries or blackberries, or a combination
1/4 cup dried cranberries
4 tablespoons chopped walnuts or almonds
1/4 cup unsweetened flaked coconut
4 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 tablespoon flour
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/4 cup sugar
4 tablespoons butter
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Mix the flour, oats, and sugar together. Cut in the butter, working the mixture until it resembles coarse meal. Drizzle in a bit of maple syrup.
In a large bowl, mix the fruit, nuts, coconut, sugar, cinnamon, ginger, and flour together and stir well to combine. Drizzle with a few tablespoons of maple syrup to taste.
Spread the fruit in the baking dish and cover with the topping. Bake for about 30-40 minutes until fruit is bubbling and topping is … crisp.