Fall is officially upon us. Toward the end of this week, despite the fact that I still have a few summer holdouts in my CSA box, signs of Fall have been cropping up left and right. Tonight we're supposed to get our first Fall storm--the first rain we've had since Spring. Certain previously unremarkable trees along my daily routes are now laden with orange fruit that reveals the trees' secret identities as persimmon trees. Leaves are beginning to drop in earnest from the sycamores that line my street.
It also just smells like Fall. Not in the sense that we say something smells like a chocolate chip cookie, or freshly baked bread (although frankly, I wouldn't mind if Fall smelled like either of those things); rather, it smells like settling into a new school year, and like school volleyball games. This is only the second Fall I've spent back in this area since high school, so the memories that are evoked by the smell of Fall air here are overwhelmingly those of a life nearly ten years in the past. It's at once comfortingly familiar and unsettlingly dissonant in the context of the day-to-day of my life now.
But dissonant or not, as I mentioned in my last post, I am eager for the change of season. It seems a little odd that a girl who grew up drenched in California sun should be so fond of cool, overcast, preferably rainy days, and that someone with so much fresh-from-the-farm produce at her disposal should be so attached to her cast iron cookware and the hearty, satisfying meals that come from melding flavors over long, slow heat. Tonight's dinner was a proper Fall meal: hearty farro, sausage, and mushroom soup with pain au levain and a glass of wine. This week's box contents did not go untapped: about half of the carrots and the two small heads of lettuce went into the soup.
And how about the rest of the box? This week there were carrots and lettuce, of course; rainbow chard; two small white onions; red sweet peppers; red potatoes; striped zucchini; a bag of tomatoes; an heirloom tomato; two 2-pound bags of apples (Fuji, I think); a bag of concord grapes (which I plan to juice tomorrow morning); and a bag of pears.
The pears are a bit ridiculous, really--come to think of it, the apples, too, although not as much. I came home from Big Sur last weekend with several pounds of pears and a few pounds of apples--doing my part to help Mama S., who is up to her ears in them, keep them from going to waste. I've already made a pot of pear compote with the Big Sur pears; it's sitting in the fridge waiting to be warmed up and served next to my French toast tomorrow morning. This evening I made a cake with the CSA pears, as they're a bit riper than the Big Sur pears. It's delicious, and I'll share the recipe in the next day or so. I have grand plans for a pear and hazelnut frangipane tart as soon as the Big Sur pears ripen up a bit more. I'm also toying with the idea of making "pearsauce" (like applesauce) and canning it, or poaching pear halves or slices and canning them as well. The Big Sur apples are Galas, so they're decent for cooking, if not ideal. I think there will be pie--perhaps the apple and blackberry pie that Bee mentioned recently. And of course, applesauce is always an option. My mom canned applesauce when we were growing up so that we'd still have the best stuff for the 49-50 weeks of the year when Gravensteins weren't in season.
But all of that can wait. For now I'm going to relax with a slice of pear cake... and try not to be too obsessive about checking the radar in anticipation of this lovely rain.