23 October 2010

The Scene from the Kitchen Window

After a spate of golden days with that lightness in the air that only comes in fall, our weekend has begun, cold and dreary. No matter: For the past three weeks, we have awakened to the sound of gunshots from the marshland to the west and fallen asleep to the honking of geese along the river to the north.

It is time to turn away from the glories of Indian Summer to the gray and gold days that make up November.

Since Labor Day, we have eaten our share of caramel apples, sharing them after the hearty dishes we prefer in the fall. There are pumpkins on the red bench near the side door, and a display of fall flowers and gourds in the garden. I look out at the horse barn and see a riot of color.

Every season brings its small moments of delight: Mine came on a quick trip to a resort, when the managers treated me to a sunset pontoon boat ride up and down a meandering river. The islands were reflected in clear water, looking as though they were suspended in liquid and air.

Then there were the simple, seasonal delights that have sustained me for more autumns than I care to reveal  online.

I have driven down country roads on sunny days, past fields of haystacks and farmyard pumpkin stands. I have left work to the chatter of starlings in the ancient oak and maple trees in the park behind my office. I have returned home at dusk, walking up my little hill and breathing in the aroma of woodsmoke from my neighbor's fire.

My home has been a silent witness to 115 autumns now, and if I close my eyes and I can imagine the sounds and aromas of all the years that have passed: The clip clop of horses' hooves, the tinny horns of Model Ts, the rattle of souped up jalopies. The wine-rich smell of dying leaves, the crisp nose-tickling feeling on fall mornings as the season wanes - all these are a satisfying part and parcel of this lavish season.

The sun is angled now, and it washes the old buildings in our town with a coppery light. I love this time of year and hope that my work load lightens up so I can spend some time in the kitchen.

21 October 2010

Bacon-Wrapped Baked Pears with Chevre and Walnuts for Two

When my husband and I moved back to our home town 17 years ago, we found it difficult to dine out in the manner to which we had become accustomed living in larger cities.

Everything was fried! There were two restaurants in the traditional supper club style, both along the shore, and these we patronized. We'd sit at the bar sipping cocktails before dinner, and generally order steak or seafood. At one point, the restaurants switched owners, which turned out to be rather fun. The smaller of the two was purchased several times over, and finally closed about eight years ago.

In the interim, a casual French restaurant opened in an old mansion, followed by a French bistro, and a cafe near the harbor that served healthy fare. A supper club in a neighboring town modified its menu, and another shoreside family place became a bit more inventive with its fare. In the boom of the late 90s, several Chinese restaurants opened. More recently, we gained a genuine Mexican restaurant.

Today our community now has two "taste of" events, one in winter and one in spring. The choices are so broad that someone with a mild wheat allergy like me can eat quite well at these fundraisers.

The most recent entree to our eclectic assortment of restaurants is an Italian place downtown. We made reservations for my husband's birthday recently and ordered as an appetizer bacon wrapped pears stuffed with goat cheese. Wow!

Here is my version:
  • 1 Asian pear
  • Dash lemon juice
  • 1 Tablespoon butter
  • 2 Tablespoons chevre
  • 1 Tablespoon cream cheese
  • 1 slices bacon, cooked
  • 1/8 cup chopped walnuts, roasted
  • 1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon fleur de sel

Slice the pear down the middle to create two halves. Scoop out the inside to create a place for the cheese mixture. Drizzle with melted butter and lemon juice and stuff with cheese. Bake for about 20-30 minutes in 325 oven (check frequently; pear must be soft, not mushy).

Prepare the bacon as you usually do. I bake mine in the oven, but you could certainly prepare it in a frying pan. You may want to drain it on a paper towel.

Wrap the pear in bacon and sprinkle with roasted walnuts. Add a quick dash of fleur de sel and a larger dash of brown sugar.

It's great to have choices again. I still miss the days when it was possible to stumble upon a small eatery in an out-of-the way place. Quirky places are really my favorites.