Autumn is really here. Time to rip up the tomato plants, dig out the garlic bed, and kick off the fall cooking repertoire. I haven’t been posting much of what we’ve been eating lately, not because I don’t have time but because we’re just making the same old stuff that I’ve already posted about in years past. Sometimes I do think, though, that it’s worth seeing what our regular repertoire morphs into with each new season. Some things we make once and never come back to, other dishes get made over and over again, with or without variations, depending on what needs using up. So here’s what’s gone into our eating this week:
Last weekend we were invited to a fabulous party featuring nine fat freshly killed chickens, brined, rubbed with za’atar and slow-cooked over a wood fire. We brought home half of a bird, and the next day turned it into one of the better chicken pot pies I’ve ever made. I mixed the smoky meat with a hot pepper from my garden and lots of peas and carrots, and made a gravy with stock left over from a Moroccan seven-spice chicken, giving it a sweet-spicy edge. With buttermilk biscuits on top, it was amazingly good.
On Monday I had to drive down to Mountlake Terrace in the late afternoon to pick up my artwork, so I made a soup earlier in the day that we could just heat up at dinnertime. I had a container of spiced lamb broth that I knew I wanted to make into a chickpea soup, but otherwise didn’t have much of a concept. I cooked a batch of chickpeas first (for the first time in ten or fifteen years – I had a bad experience with home-cooked chickpeas long ago and took some time to get over it, so I’ve been using canned for quite a while), and mixed the beans and their broth with the lamb broth, plus carrots, garlic, fresh spinach, tomato and orzo. The resulting soup wasn’t mind-blowing, but it was tasty. And good for us, too.
The day after that we did plain pan-seared pork chops with a side of sauteed apples and a pan of this incredible cabbage gratin with Delice de Bourgogne cheese. Oh my god, this stuff is addictive. We had bought a huge head of Savoy cabbage out at Dunbar Gardens a week before, and ate nearly the whole thing in one sitting. Yum.
And last night I made a tagine, which for some reason I’d been craving. We had a bag of dried apricots that desperately needed using, so I made this lamb-apricot tagine from Claudia Roden’s Book of Middle Eastern Food, which has remained one of our favorites. The combination of apricots, cinnamon and fresh ginger is just fantastic with lamb and couscous, and I made a fresh butter lettuce salad to play off of the rich flavors.
So all in all, not a bad food week so far, just not very original. But part of what I like about the change of seasons is the chance to make old favorites – some of these things I’ve been waiting all summer to do, and I sense there are more of our standby braises in our very near future. What recipes do you make to kick off the autumn cooking season?