Autumnal Excesses

Pears2

I adore fall. It truly is my favourite season. Spring sometimes tries for a play at the top season, but it can never really add up. Fall is a time for reinvention, way more than the new year. It something to do with the beginning of school, with a new fall wardrobe. Getting out your cute sweaters and boots that you’ve started to miss. The nip in the air and the pumpkin-flavoured lattes that pop up everywhere. I adore all the spicy colours everywhere, from the leaves to my shoes. I love having to get bundled up once again, especially when it’s not in the dead of winter where you will actually die if you don’t. Fall is everything I would like winter to be.

October is especially great. You have the potent combination of Thanksgiving and Halloween, which basically combines the light and dark side of the season. Thanksgiving – a feast of comfort foods to be shared with family, my absolute favourite holiday because it involves no further expectations beyond eating and drinking with people you love. And Halloween touches on the creepier side of things. As the weather turns and nature around us puts on one last final show before her cyclical death, we’re reminded of our own mortality and with that comes a desire to be scared a little bit. I always think deep thoughts at this time of year, in a way you can’t in brilliant sunshine on the beach.

I have some favourite music and movies at this time of year. One of the best albums of all time is Loreena McKennitt’s The Visit, which is gorgeous and evocative. Especially her haunting All Souls Night (click on the link if you want to hear it). There’s something about it that makes me feel more pagan than normal, like we should all go jump through bonfires and frolic in the newly-harvested hay. I play this album on repeat pretty much all day, so my rule is I can only listen to it for the month of October. That way it doesn’t get old (for me. Z might have a different opinion).

Also a fave are children’s Halloween movies. The best? Hocus Pocus. Bette Midler is so campy and awesome in this. I watch it every year around this time. It works for me because it would only be scary for someone under three, the right amount of scary for me. I am a total scaredy cat when it comes to horror movies, something that I have come to accept and embrace in the wisdom of my elder years. Any kind of ghost story is going to freak me out and keep me up all night, especially when Z is out of town, so why even go there? Especially when you can watch cute movies about funny witches.

But the best, the absolute best part of fall is the amazing food. Harvest food. I was recently given a seasonal cook book, which of course I am obsessed with because seasonal cooking is not only amazing, but necessary in Switzerland because that’s the only produce available. I was giddy reading about all the delicious meals I would make this fall. I will be equally excited to go through the winter section, and the spring … but we’re not there yet.

There’s been some hits and misses, but I wanted to share my faves from the book so far. The mushroom tortellini is fantastic, and incredibly easy. Whip it up mid-week for a tasty, belly-warming treat. It also has bacon, and you all know that bacon equals my happy place. And the poached pears are me pretending to be vaguely healthy, but it’s really all about the syrupy sweet wine sauce and the chocolate sprinkles. Yum. Both of these recipes are from The Best of Bridge presents A Year of The Best.

MushroomRavioli

Mushroom Tortellini

Ingredients

4 slices bacon, chopped

1 tbsp olive oil

1 onion, chopped

2 cups sliced mushrooms, stems removed

1 garlic clove, minced

2 cups whipping cream (I used 1 cup whipping cream, 1 cup whole milk)

1 cup chicken stock

1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

24 oz meat tortellini (obviously this can be cheese if you are veg, but the meat adds a nice counterpoint to the creamy carbonera sauce. Not in a healthy way, in a tasty way)

2 tbsp chopped parsley

ground pepper

Fry bacon. Add oil to bacon in pan and heat. Lightly saute onion, mushrooms and garlic.

Add cream and stock to vegetables and simmer for 15 minutes. Add Parmesan.

Cook tortellini according to package directions. Drain and add to sauce.

Sprinkle with parsley and pepper.

Pears1

Poached Pears in Red Wine Sauce

Ingredients

8 pears (I halved this recipe, as only Z and I would be eating them, but here’s the original recipe which serves 8)

2 cups red wine

zest of one lemon

2 tbsp fresh lemon juice

1 cup sugar

1 stick cinnamon

1 tsp vanilla (I had to use my vanilla powder, which made for an unappealing brown dusting over the pears, as you can see, so extract would definitely be preferable)

Garnish (optional):

soft whipped cream

chocolate curls

mint leaves

Peel pears, keeping stems intact. Trim bottoms so they can stand and place in deep saucepan.

In another saucepan, pour in red wine, lemon zest, lemon juice, sugar, cinnamon and vanilla. Bring to a boil. Pour over pears and add enough boiling water to cover. Simmer very slowly, until just tender. Test by inserting a skewer. Remove pears carefully to a dish. Rapidly boil liquid and reduce until one cup remains. Pour over pears and cool.

Spoon some syrup on a plate and place a pear on each plate. Garnish with a dollop of whipped cream, chocolate curl and mint leaf.

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